Do you know how much time you actually spend with your children? Recently, I was directed to a short article in The Economist, claiming that parents these days ‘spend a lot more time with their offspring,’ than they did fifty years ago. (Or at least middle-class parents do.) One analysis of 11 rich countries estimates that ‘the average mother spent 54 minutes a day caring for children in 1965 but 104 minutes a day in 2012.’
50 minutes more a day. This got me thinking. How much time do I really spend with my two children, excluding vacations and long weekends? It also got me thinking about what spending time with your children means these days. Does ‘spending time’ include forcing your child to get into bed and the ensuing tantrums? Does it include the time spent sitting side-by-side in the same room, but with everyone on their own technical devices? Or does spending time mean taking them to the art gallery or going for long walks together? Am I really spending time with my children if we’re all at the kitchen table, each on our own tablets and phones?
I became curious, so wanted to dig into exactly how much time I spend with my children. I am going to include driving to school and activities and bedtime as ‘time spent’ with my kiddos, so I’m including both quantity and quality time. I was shocked speechless, after this experiment, at how little time I actually spend with my children, even though it feels like I spend a lot of time with them.
First, my daughter. Five days a week, I drive her to and from school. Each way takes three minutes. So, right there, is 30 minutes a week, but it’s not exactly quality time. It’s always rush, rush, rush.
Once she gets home, on the days she doesn’t have activities, she usually plops down at the kitchen table for a snack and to watch YouTube videos. I may sit with her, for that half hour, but I’m usually on my computer. We are technically spending time in the same room, but we are definitely doing our own thing.
On Tuesdays, she has a tutor for an hour-and-a-half, finishing at 7 p.m. She eats dinner in front of her laptop afterwards.
On Wednesdays, she has swim practice and doesn’t arrive home until 5:30 p.m., exhausted, before doing homework and face-timing with friends.
On Thursdays, I drive her and her friend to their dance class, a 15 minute drive. Her friend’s mother picks them up and she doesn’t get home until 9 p.m., when she takes a shower and goes straight to bed. Three nights a week, we do spend 22 minutes watching an episode of a show together, like The Big Bang Theory or Family Guy or Stranger Things.
On weekends, she sleeps in until I have to drive her to hockey practices on Saturdays and hockey games on Sundays. That’s about a forty minute drive, both ways, two days a week. I sit watching her practice for an hour, and then her game, also an hour. Again, aside from the 120 minutes I spend with her in the car each weekend and then the two hours I watch her on the ice, and I’m just watching, that’s another 120 minutes I’m ‘sort of’’ spending with my daughter. After her hockey games, we always go to brunch, adding another hour – this time quality over quantity.
Rebecca Eckler was shocked to find out how much time she actually spends with her children.
All this approximately means I spend 550 minutes per week with her, which means I spend about only seven hours with her during weekdays, which is about 105 minutes a day, exactly like the study showed. On the weekends, it seems I only spend between 4 and 7 hours with her, over 48 hours.
Take away the weekends she spends with her father, and am I really only spending 7 hours a week with my daughter, the truest love in my life? Even if the study does prove true, it still seems to me like such a short amount of time.
I may spend even LESS time with my five year-old son. As he eats breakfast on weekdays, I am rushing getting ready, in and out of the kitchen, for about 30 minutes. So let’s go with including that in the ‘spending time’ department, for 15 minutes each morning.
Our nanny takes him to and from school and to his activities. If I get home from work by six, and he goes to bed at 8, then I’m spending less than three hours a day with him, even less if my nanny feeds him dinner and bathes him. And then he spends most of the evening with his father, playing the game Madden on the X-Box. We do spend 20 minutes before bed reading on weeknights. And on Tuesdays, I watch him in his tae kwon do class, for 30 minutes. So, during the week, on average, I spend an entire 207 minutes with my son which means I spend just over FIVE hours with him during the week? Oh. My. God!
So, I may indeed be spending more time with them than parents used to, but it’s still such a shockingly little amount, for a parent who thought she did spend a lot of time with her children. But I suppose it does come down to your definition of ‘spending time.’
This is why I like sleeping with my kids. I like to think that, while we’re cuddling sleeping together, we’re spending an extra 8 hours with them. Sure we may be asleep, but we are spending time together, right? We’re just unconscious.
‘The exception is France, where the stereotype of a bourgeois couple sipping wine and ignoring their remarkably well-behaved progeny appears to be accurate,’ the article states. (You can check out the economist chart here.)
Unless your moving to France to raise your children, I wouldn’t suggest that you work out how many hours a week you actually spend with your school-aged children, because it’s fucking depressing.
Now, after figuring out just how LITTLE time I actually spend with them, I may have to re-think my time. Or try and be best friends with my children’s teachers, who spend almost 8 hours a day with them, which is 40 hours a week, which is about 540 minutes a day with them, compared to my 105 minutes a day! And I’m their mother.
Maybe it comes down to not how much time you actually ‘spend’ with your children, but also how much time you spend doing things for your children.
In any case, how much time do you think you really spend with your children?