This is part of the DadQuotes series, where I roundup the best quotes from famous figures, insightful authors, and my quickly growing kids, and apply them to the job of parenting.
“It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”
At some point, we all ask the question: “Where does the time go?”
And with every year, it seems that—wherever time goes—it goes faster and faster.
But that doesn’t mean that life flies by and that’s that. We all have the time we have. What matters is how we use it.
There’s nowhere this matters more than the limited time we have with our kids.
Kids grow up fast. One day you’re rocking them to sleep, the next day you’re waving goodbye as you drop them off at school. So how do we make sure that instead of wasting that time, we’re living time well spent?
Here are a few reminders:
1. Come back to now
Your mind is a time machine, constantly traveling into to your past to ruminating on what you’ve done, or launching into the future things you need to do. As a parent, it’s easy to get swept away in thoughts and worries of day-to-day life. And this can be useful. But when you’re with your kids, remember to return to now.
To start: put your phone away when you’re with your kids. Notice when you’re lost in thought. Take a deep breath. Listen attentively when your child is talking. Developing a regular mindfulness practice can help.
2. Prioritize quality time
A 30-minute family dinner spent complaining about work, or arguing over who left the mess in the bathroom, isn’t a half-an-hour of “family time” worth clocking. It’s not about the number of minutes you spend together. What matters is that you make those moments count.
There’s no magic number of minutes, or perfect quality-time activity. But every night when you get into bed, reflect on the quality moments you had with your kids that day. Can you name one? Were there moments you could have been more present? Don’t beat yourself up over the answers. Reflect, and remember tomorrow is another day.
2. Practice conscious time management
Where does your time go? Do you know? So much of our day gets lost on tasks that aren’t really worth our time. Clicking down a YouTube rabbit hole is an obvious example. Organizing your socks drawer might be another.
It’s up to every person to decide what tasks are worth their while. But knowing where your time goes can reveal daily habit patterns that could be made more meaningful. If you’re into tools, maybe a time-tracking app like Toggl can help.
4. Focus on what really matters
Work is important. Making time for physical fitness pays off. Relationships are the drivers of happiness. And on top of all that, you’ve got a child to raise. It can be overwhelming.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stresses of parenting, but it’s important to remember what really matters. Step back. Define your values and big-picture goals. Picture where you want yourself, your family, and your child to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now. Don’t get bogged down with the small stuff.
None of these things are easy. They take practice, reflection, and persistence. But long or short, life does go fast.
So make the most of the time you have with your kids. Connect through meaningful activities, so when your mind does travel to the past, you find time well spent.
*This quote is attributed to Seneca the Younger, and it first appeared in his essay “On the Shortness of Life,” written around the year 49 AD.
In this essay, Seneca argues that most people waste their lives on trivial matters and fail to appreciate the value of time. He encourages us to live each day as if it were their last, and to make the most of the time we have.
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