Juggling is a reality when it comes to modern-day parenting. With most mums and dads overwhelmed by the demands of their jobs, you can hardly blame them for failing to spend quality time with their children as they juggle work and family.
So how does one tackle kids and a demanding job while giving both equal attention? It is like juggling, reckons Dubai-raised mum Muby Astruc who lives here with her French husband Romain and their two sons. “Do anything repeatedly and soon you are able to do it (with ease). It kind of gets into your system and there comes a time when you can’t do without it,” says Muby.
Long hours, deadlines, meeting targets are a given in today’s job scenario, add to that time spent on the roads commuting (escalating cost of living is driving some families to seek homes in Sharjah or Ajman).
Sharjah-based Indian couple Charles and Genelia ‘Genny’ D’gama who have a boy and girl, eight and three years, are finding it a struggle to make time for their kids. “By the time I reach home, my kids are ready to go to bed. It’s only on my day-off that I get to be with them,” says Charles, a sales and marketing professional. The couple used to commute to Jebel Ali daily for work. Genny, who used to be a marketing assistant in a corporate firm, would leave home at 6am. She would leave her son and daughter with a babysitter and return by 7.30pm, after picking up the kids from the babysitter. Then she would get busy with household chores, cooking and helping her son with his studies. Charles would reach home only by 8.30-9pm. A bath, dinner and some TV time was routine before retiring for the night and waking up at 5am. “I am exhausted by the time I’m home,” says Charles. “So where’s the time for family? There’s only so much I can do in 24 hours.”
Genny would stay home to nurse her daughter whenever she fell sick. Her son too would struggle with his school work and it prompted Genny to give up her job. “It was a tough decision for me. I loved my job, but I decided to quit it and the extra income for the sake of my children,” said Genny.
Experts say that it’s imperative that parents find the time to bond with their kids as people get ever more pre-occupied with their careers. “There’s no one better to care for kids and to teach them, than their parents. Bringing up my kids matters more to me than money or anything else, especially when they are young. How will your kids bond with you if you are never there for them?” says Genny.
Being a dad or mum is not the easiest job in the world, but, the Astrucs seem to have found a formula that works for them. “Everyone thinks our life must be hard. Though juggling is not so easy in the initial stages, things fall into place over time. With a two-year-old and a nearly four-year-old, our alarm clocks have been literally replaced with two energetic boys bouncing on our tummies to wake us up in the morning. We don’t need alarm clocks at home anymore!” said Muby, an entrepreneur.
“After breakfast, my kids are off to school and nursery. Then both of us get busy with our respective jobs. While Romain, a lawyer, works all day, until 7.30pm, I run my own businesses, so I get to choose my hours,” says Muby. “By 3pm, I bring the children home from school. Once home, I spend some time playing with them, blissfully unaware that it’s nearly 4.30pm and time for the boys to be with their grandparents, godmother or friends,” she says. It’s a great relief to have some sort of a support system in Dubai, feels Muby. It gives her time to focus on work. “Once the kids are taken care of, I get to work, until 7pm. Following that, life becomes a blur – dinner, papa-time (for the kids), bath and finally, bed,” adds Muby.
But even with their packed daily schedule, the Astrucs manage to find some ‘me time’ for themselves. “Once the kids are put to bed, my husband and I have a few hours for ourselves. I also try to squeeze in another hour or two to finish any work to make up for those fun afternoons I have with the kids,” she said. You have to make compromises if your job keeps you busy. Working parents lead dual lives and balancing both can sometimes get difficult. “We often have to miss out on going to the park, dinners or parties due to our work commitments. Your heart is torn in two between the need to satisfy one’s own creative urges, and being at home for the kids,” said Muby.
But this young French couple is not daunted by circumstances or situations that life throws at them. They have an optimistic outlook to family life. “As hard as it is being a working parent, I find it better than being a full-time parent. Early morning wake-ups are much easier because the kids are there to wake you up. Time is a luxury for us, so this encourages me to be the best mother I can be for my little boys,” she adds.
And educationists believe working parents do not have any negative impact on a child’s performance in school. Patricia Johnston, Principal, Al Diyafah High School, Dubai, says, “It doesn’t really matter if both parents are working. As long as all care and welfare matters for the child are in place. On the contrary, working parents are excellent role models. Students learn how managing home-life and a career can be done without any detriment to the children.”
Dubai-based teacher Sheila Nair shares similar feelings. “Leaving children on their own teaches them to figure things for themselves. They become more responsible and confident.” Gone are the traditional family days when it was assumed that the man would be the bread earner and the woman homemaker. Unfortunately, these days, there’s no easy way out of parenting and just providing sustenance won’t suffice. Tender loving care is vital to healthy relationships between parents and children, the experts say. However, it’s up to each individual to figure out how to go about it and strike the right balance.
Listen up, parents! You need to do this
1. Applaud the kid often. Praise him and be proud of his/her achievements, however small the accomplishments are.
2. Teach them to be responsible and independent. Let them get involved in simple and easy tasks at home. It gives them a sense of achievement and boosts their confidence.
3. Speak to your child about his day. Good conversations help them feel that you care for them and that you are there for them.
4. Encourage them to read. It helps them broaden their imagination and become more creative.
5. Take them outdoors. Take them to a park or indulge in some other outdoor game. It is important for them to be physically active.
6. Hug them. It helps build their self-worth.
7. Mix their study and play time. Don’t keep them occupied throughout the day. Allow free time to explore and learn new things.
8. Don’t pressure them to participate in activities, it can exhaust them and they will lose interest.
9. Avoid negative statements. Give clear instructions in simple terms and keep the tone positive.
10. Don’t be a helicopter parent. Being overprotective will not allow them to grow. Stop hovering. You don’t want your kids to have low self-esteem, do you?