Quality time

The stereotype tells us that moms spend more time with their kids. Whether it’s because many of us stay home or take control of the household on the weekends, dads sometimes get relegated to the sidelines.

With ever-expanding options in flex time and more moms entering the workforce, some dads are finding themselves the recipient of more time with the kids. Other dads find themselves the victims of globalization by working longer hours and traveling more often, leaving them less time with the kids.

Either way, consider these tips from local dads. You might just find another opportunity for some quality time.

Combine chores with fun. Terry Foster of Frankfort takes his son, Brendan, 2, to the grocery store every Saturday morning. It’s a task almost everyone hates, especially with children along. But Foster has turned it into something fun.

Brendan practices his numbers in line at the deli counter, learns the names of his fruits and veggies and trades his sweet smile for stickers and food samples. Instead of fighting through the store, Terry and Brendan enjoy each other’s company.

“I have to admit I’m pretty lucky, since I see other (well, most) shoppers with obstreperous children and pained looks,” Foster says.

Bedtime. John Irvine, an advertising account manager, puts his daughter to bed every night without fail. Ashlynn, 2, knows it’s her special time with daddy. They unwind together with a story before Ashlynn is tucked in for the night.

Coach a team. It may be a stereotypical way to spend time with your kids, but it really does work. Last year my husband, Tim, coached our daughter Tessa’s soccer team. Not only did they get to spend more time together, but they were able to share an experience in which I had no interest. It brought them closer without any intrusion from me.

Take a class. Before moving from Michigan to Oak Park, Irvine’s wife, Krystyn, took Ashlynn to music class. But now John takes Ashlynn to her Saturday morning class, allowing them to have more special time together.

Share your interests. Steve Wallach, of LaGrange Park, loves music and plays his guitar for his son, Declan, 1, every day in hopes Declan will learn to love music, too. It’s a special time for dad and son.

Mom’s night out. Wallach also encourages his wife, Christy, to go out one evening every week while he takes care of Declan. Staying home playing with Declan’s cool toys constitutes a fun evening for these boys.

dHelp with homework. Instead of sending your child off to a tutor, consider sitting down with him and helping, especially if it is a subject that pertains in some way to your occupation. Not only will it bring you closer, but it can help your child learn more about your life outside of home.

Work from home. Wallach works from home as a graphic artist. While he admits there are some days when he leaves his home office to help with Declan and doesn’t get back to work for an hour or two, Wallach feels working at home has been the best decision for his family.

“I have friends that make more money, but at this point, I wouldn’t trade this extra time with my family for all the money in the world,” Wallach says.

Get closer to your daughters. It may be easier for dads to find activities and time for their sons since their interests may easily parallel. But it’s important for dads to spend quality time with their daughters, too. My husband hates playing with dolls, but he will do it with Tessa because he enjoys watching her create wild stories for the dolls. It brings them closer as she sees that her opinions and interests matter to her daddy.

Make the most of the weekends. With our busy lives, sometimes it’s hard to schedule time on the weekends solely reserved for family. But try to schedule at least one weekend per month dedicated to family time. Spend time with each child individually doing something they like to do, even if it is something you don’t enjoy. The point is to bond with your kids on their level, which will lay a firm foundation for your future relationship. And who knows, you may rediscover the joys of childhood.

Michelle Sussman is a mom, wife and writer in Bolingbrook. You can contact her at michelle@michellesussman.com or visit her Web site at www.michellesussman.com.

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