The Nineteen-Minute Parent
While doing some reading online, I came across a startling article about working parents. The first sentence read, “A typical working parent spends just nineteen minutes a day looking after their children, official figures revealed yesterday.”
The purpose of the piece was that research pointed to the devastating impact that working full-time has on children who hardly see their parents.
It got me thinking. Could this be true? I took a look at my own life. Typically, I leave the house around 7–7:30 a.m. depending on the day. Occasionally, my children are still sleeping when I leave for work so I don’t see them until the evening when I return home around 6 p.m. We eat dinner and prepare for bed. That’s our day.
The article went on to say, “With less than twenty minutes spent with their parents every day, this is only enough time to eat a quick breakfast together or have a couple of bedtime stories.”
Yup, that’s pretty much the story of my life. To be fair, I calculated that I am averaging about two hours of quality time with my kids, but I can see how some people may spend less.
In 2007, a U.S. government report showed 61 percent of preschool children ages zero to six (about 12 million children) were in some type of childcare on a regular basis from persons other than their parents. From what I could tell, there will be another report published in 2011. I am curious to see if the numbers have increased, or perhaps gone down in light on the unemployment rate of recent years.
Beyond the nineteen minutes discussed in the article I read, it further noted that an additional sixteen minutes is spent looking after children as a “secondary activity,” but this means that the parent is caring for their child while doing something else—such as the weekly supermarket shop—at the same time.
That totals a whopping thirty-five minutes of parent-child time.
To be clear, I enjoy working. I also think that children of working mothers enjoy certain benefits and can learn from their childhood experiences as much as those from stay-at-home mothers. That’s not to say one is right or wrong—just different.
However, it made me stop and think about the proportion of time I devote to my family versus my career. There’s no denying that my family would have a different standard of living if I didn’t work. We probably wouldn’t even have the same house. We definitely wouldn’t have the college funds or savings accounts that we have been able to establish for our children’s future. If our situation was different, our kids’ participation in certain extracurricular activities would need to be evaluated.
Record numbers of women are working as huge mortgages and soaring household bills force them to earn a living. It’s a very different picture than that which was in the 1980s. Movies and television shows portrayed females who thought they could have it all—breaking through glass ceilings and raising happy families. Probably most of them can. But there are some sacrifices.
For example, the study found a typical working woman gets nearly forty minutes less sleep every night than a full-time mother who gets more than nine hours sleep every night.
This is because she gets up earlier to travel into work every day, or spends time every night doing a long list of domestic chores before going to bed.
At the end of the day, it is not about how much sleep you get how much money you make or what kind of clothes your children wear. It doesn’t matter if your kids are homeschooled or if they go away to boarding school. A working mom is not better than a stay-at-home-mom and vice versa. It is about you as the mother accepting the choice you have made and being the best mother that you can be—even if it is only for nineteen minutes a day.
Recently, I have been making conscious decisions for myself and my family that create a better balance. Avoiding burnout at work or at home is important for any parent.
In life, there are always choices to make. Most importantly, there are always ways to compromise so that you can ensure the time you do spend with your family is filled with quality and love they deserve.