Edgy Mama: finding (more) time for your kids

Every now and again, I ask my kids what they think I should write about. Recently, my 10-year-old replied, “You should write about how parents should spend more time with their kids.”

Uh-oh, I thought.

“Do you feel like you don’t get to spend enough time with your parents?” I asked.

“Sometimes. Some of my friends complain that their parents work too much or are on the computer too much, or are doing other things when they could just be hanging out with their kids,” he said.

Uh-oh, I thought, again.

Clearly, there’s an issue here. And one I’m verklempt about, because I realize that all too soon, he’s going to rather spend time with his friends than with me. Plus he has been dealt the one-two punch over the past year of only getting to spend half his time with me (though the other half is with his other parent), and I’ve been working more, even when he’s with me. Oh, the parental guilt trip.

Luckily, the interwebs have once again come to my rescue.

“…it turns out that parents are spending a lot more time interacting with their kids now than they did in, say, 1965. In 1965, according to data from the 1965-66 Americans’ Use of Time Study, mothers spent 10 hours weekly on childcare as a primary activity. Fathers spent three hours,” writes Laura Vanderkam, in an article for the Free Range Kids blog.

In fact, after decades of decline, the amount of time parents spend with their kids began to rise significantly in the 1990s, according to a recent study by economists at the University of California at San Diego.

It seems that, even though more moms are working now than in 1965, we’re spending a lot less time cooking and cleaning, and more time interacting with our kids instead of locking them out of the house for hours at a time to wander the woods while we scrub the floors.

If you visit my house, you’ll learn that scrubbing floors isn’t much of a priority for me. Even so, I’m not against the idea of telling the kids to go play outside for an hour or two while I hide in the bathroom with a novel.

The economists also note that the increase in parent/child interaction is most evident in parents who are college-educated, which they theorize may be because these parents want their offspring also to become college-educated and are spending more time with them to support that.

Various other studies, including one recently cited in Education Week, say that parental involvement does influence kids’ success in school. That’s one of those happy cause and effect lessons — more parental interaction equals higher academic success equals college for kid equals learning how to use a beer bong properly.

So I pulled out a tried but true parental tactic on my son — the “you have no idea how great you have it” counter-attack.

“I just did some research, and boy, are you lucky!” I told him. “I spend a lot more time with you and your sister than moms used to spend with their kids. In the old days, there were no restaurants, so moms had to cook all the time and raise chickens and make clothes and dust stuff, and if the kids wanted to be with mom, they had to help. There wasn’t much going out to dinner or taking bike rides or watching movies together.”

So there, I thought.

He said, “I don’t think I want to talk about this any more. I’m going outside.”

It was one of those Pyrrhic victories.


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