One-to-One Bonding in the Land of the Working Parents

The following is by one of our new contributors, NJ Renie. Welcome to Simple Kids, NJ!

Most of the best workers are also deft managers of their schedules. Employers love those of us capable of staying on task and committed to the priorities of the company. Of course, often those same work habits start to rob us of that family bond which constitutes the reason why most of us are working in the first place.

Sure we make it a point to eat, worship, and play together as a family, but what about the really good stuff –that one-on-one personal bond –how can we get that and still remain employed?

Well, rather than fighting you and your partner’s busy work schedules, why not start penciling your bonding time into them?

Daily Bonding

When we work we develop a daily routine. We start the coffee, take a shower, and hit the door at roughly the same time each day. Even when you are tired and grumpy you do not think of leaving the house without a shower –okay maybe you do, but just go with me here –think of your daily bonding time the same way as bathing, essentially non-negotiable.

Try to make sure that each working parent has dominion over at least one relatively pleasant part of the daily routine. In our house, morning start times are up in the air, but my wife’s arrival time is, thanks to her scheduling habit, quite reliable. After dinner, my wife handles the bedtime routine and I do the dishes, by an hour after dinner we are both ready for down time.

Photo by Shutterstock

Bonding on Your Days Off

Consider making a part of your day off one-on-one bonding time with each of your children. Take a class or schedule a weekly outing; with older children, take turns planning or plan the activities together. You could have your kid draw from on an old deck of cards with 52 activities written on the faces, have fun with it.

This time would also be great for sharing your hobbies and interests with your children: teach them to fish or swim, take them bird watching, rebuild a car together, attend a play or reading, teach them the secrets of your wicked cross-over; whatever you love, get in the habit of scheduling the time to share it with your child.

Not only will both of you look forward to it, you will be teaching your child how to relate to others via the vanishing art of recreation.

Don’t Forget About Each Other!

Make a date: mornings or evenings, monthly or weekly, meet for lunch –whenever you can and the more often the better. Try to skip the movies and do something active: search for your area’s best burrito, enroll in a night class, take a hike, or whatever else gets you out and playing together.

Of course…

None of this is perfect, things will come up, and families where both parents work and/or big families may find once-per-month a better fit than once-per-week, etc., but as long as you respect the need for scheduled bonding time just as you would your work schedule, your family will have the time to learn from and about each other.

How do you make time?

Online Knitting Class
Delightful kids' crafts delivered to your door!  See sample crates>>


  1. Thanks for this post, NJ! Chris and I are both pretty good about scheduling time with the kids and making sure we each get some one on one time with each child on a regular basis. But, making sure we get one on one with each other? A regular “date night” ? Well …. not so much.

    Thank you for the reminder that this should be an important regular part of our schedules, too.

    Love the idea about skipping the movie and getting out and about, doing something active. Hmmmmm, I wonder who does make our area’s best burrito? 🙂

    • I will admit that we are pretty lucky in that we have just the three of us. In your situation it has to be really tough to get date time/ amass enough babysitting $. That much one-on-one is so awesome though.

      That the active date thing is so overlooked. Even if it is just taking a long walk after the movie.

  2. NJ, this post is so important – however I have one quibble. While you still need to schedule bonding time, you also have to recognize that family and family bonds don’t fit neatly into blackberries and calendars like work does. You can’t set a 15 minute time limit to discussing a point of frustration in the relationship. You also have to be prepared for the unplanned and unexpected moments that demands of you to put everything else aside that’s been planned, a focus on what’s happening in your family now.
    That being said – planning some good bonding time makes these spontaneous moments that much richer. And certainly minimizes the spontaneous releases of pent-up frustrations, etc. You can nip many unexpected flare-ups by taking care of your relationships proactively.

    My husband and I bond over the family fitness activities. Taking a bike ride or cross-country ski – even a short walk together – brings us back to our early romance as well as brings a new energy to our relationship. I’ve written more on this in my post–think-couple-time.

    Thank you for bringing up this important strategy
    Sarah Clachar´s latest post: Frugal Family Fitness

    • I should clarify:

      When I say “bonding time” I mean regularly spending time together at play, not the time we spend working out family difficulties. The idea of scheduling bonding time is that you at least have that minimum of scheduled fun time no matter how crazy things get anywhere else in your life. Of course if something serious is going on it must be dealt with.

      Hopefully, playing with each other regularly will strengthen those one-to-one bonds over time so that when those other tough conversations come along working them out will be that much easier.

      Outdoor activities and walks are a perfect examples of active bonding time.

  3. Honestly, I had to give up cleaning in order to make time for my family. You will find dog hair on the floors, dust on the tables and cobwebs in the corners most of the time if you visit my house.

    However, I do not regret the decision.

    • That’s tough for the neatniks out there, but you do what you’ve got to do.

    • Lauren, family should come first, in my not so humble opinion 🙂

      I’ll be the first to admit that my house isn’t spotless right now. If I have a choice between, say, doing a puzzle with one of my kids or mopping, well, mopping isn’t going to be the winner 😉

      As my kids get older, I do find we can get cleaning done together. Not perfectly, but a good healthy attempt.

      Best Wishes!
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: One-to-One Bonding in the Land of the Working Parents

  4. I know this won’t work for most, but prior to having kids I was a teacher. I stayed home for 4 years. Then my children’s preschool needed a teacher. I currently teach my youngest’s class and I’ve never felt closer to my children. I see them during the morning (my little one the entire time). I know what they are learning, who their friends are, and all the staff that interacts with them. It has worked really well for me.
    Another friend of mine transfered her children to a school closer to her work than her home. Now she has the commute to talk to her kids.

  5. Even if you think you can’t fit bonding time into your busy schedule or you can’t let your housekeeping slide because you are a neat freak like me, you can still bond over everyday activities. I try to make our daily responsibilities into fun, bonding experiences for my 5 year old twins. We turn laundry folding into a game and pretend the girls are sales people at a clothing store, sorting the clothes by type and selling me each item before I fold it. We make meals and clean up after them in our “restaurant” where we all take turns pretending to be customer, wait staff, and busing tables. We play “beat the clock” and set a timer to see how fast we can put the toys away between activities. We have carved out some daily time for just the girls and their dad as well. Each night after dinner, my husband spends 30 min. playing a board game or participating in some other activity that they choose while I finish cleaning up the kitchen and run their bath. On weekends, we’ll split up any errands we have and each take one child with us and get in a little one on one time that way. If we are lucky enough to have an errand free weekend, we’ll schedule a “date day” with the girls and choose a special activity for one on one time or find a fun family activity.

    • “We turn laundry folding into a game and pretend the girls are sales people at a clothing store, sorting the clothes by type and selling me each item before I fold it.” <— these are some great ideas, Rhonda! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      I think housework is more fun w/ someone to share it with. But that could be a whole other post altogether!

      Best wishes!
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: One-to-One Bonding in the Land of the Working Parents

      • Chores work very well as long as you can still talk with each other while you work. Thanks for all of the creative suggestions!

  6. Great post! This is something that you need to actively think about or it doesn’t happen. You need to make time for the kids and for each other.
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Moms need a timeout too

  7. Great reminders. As a working mom to a one-year old, I have a tough time balancing my work obligations and quality time with my husband and son. And, I often feel the weekends are all about catch-up. Where what I would prefer to do is find a good balance during the work-week as well.

    Thanks again.
    The Actor’s Wife