The 19-Minute Parent

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While doing some reading online, I came across a startling article about working parents. The first sentence read: “A typical working parent spends just 19 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 7:00-7:30 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 6:00 p.m. We eat dinner and prepare for bed. That’s our day.

The article went on to say, “With less than 20 minutes spent with their parents every day, this is only enough time to eat a quick breakfast together or have a couple of bed-time stories.”

Yup, that’s pretty much the story of my life. To be fair, I calculated that I am averaging about 2 hours of quality time with my kids, but I can see how some people may spend less.

In 2007, the U.S. Government report showed 61 percent of pre-school children ages 0–6 (about 12 million children) were in some type of child care 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 19 minutes discussed in the article I read, it further noted that an additional 16 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 35 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 40 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 home schooled 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 19 minutes a day.

Recently, I have been making conscious decisions for myself and my family that create a better balance. Avoiding burn out 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.

About bizemom

I am a busy working mom (get it... "Biz e-Mom"?) of three kids under the age of four. I have a white-collar day job, I have a night job as a mom, and an "in between" job as a freelance writer and blogger. What can I say, I am a glutton for punishment and I don't go to bed until 1 a.m. No matter how much I complain, I like being busy. That must be the Sagitarius in me--we get bored easily. Now on to the next adventure (I mean... venture!)
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3 Responses to The 19-Minute Parent

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The 19-Minute Parent | Biz --

  2. Posky says:

    While there are an infinite number of wrong ways to raise a family, there is no right way that I can think of. My mother stayed home with me while my father spent a lot of time working. After quite a few years he finally decided that it wasn’t worth being away all the time and cut down his hours while my mother started teaching again.

    There’s no ideal solution to this problem but I think (both as a child and adult) that the amount of time is substantially less important than the quality of that time spent and the efforts made for a extra time to be made once in a while.

    • bizemom says:

      My mother stayed home as well. Looking back, I can remember thinking as a child what a drag it was that she was home all the time. I guess the grass is always greener…

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