How Much Time Do You Spend With Your Kids?

An interesting article in the Daily Mail talks about how much time, or should I say how little,  parents in the United Kingdom spend with their children.  It's fascinating reading and shows the steep price families in UK pay in having both parents work full-time in order to handle large mortgages and expensive housing.  It's the UK Office for National Statistics who has made the survey to better understand adult habits.  The results are worse than I could ever have imagined.  Parents who work full-time spend just 19 minutes every day "caring for [their] own children", according to the survey.  A further 16 minutes is spent looking after their children as a "secondary activity", like when parents do grocery shopping or  cook.

19 minutes a day? That is absolutely nothing.  You barely have time to have a basic conversation with your children in this time.   I must really question the point of having children when you see them this little.  Parents see their pets more than that. The English don't only have to deal with expensive housing, they also work long hours, and many have to deal with horrible commutes.  Almost like the situations some families face in California and NYC.  UK is not known for being a family friendly country, far from, and I think this clearly shows where the priorities are.  Basically most things seem more important than the children.  Not surprisingly, "Just six per cent wanted to work full-time", and "half wanted to combine bringing up their children with a part-time job, while more than a quarter wanted to be a full-time mother."

I've personally never had the desire to be a "weekend dad" who barely see the kids during the week. I would not make decisions that forced me into such situation.  But it can be difficult to combine family and work  in many occupations and countries.  I've had lots of luck to have a prestigious job with short hours, obscene amounts of vacations, and  almost unlimited parental leave (send hate mail to But I could also make twice or three times what I do now and see my family less but that doesn't interest me at all.   There is a day here and there when I don't see my son during the evening because of some work event or dinner with friends but it's not often.  I spend enough time with Daniel to never feel guilty when I can't be home and spend time with him. And that feels great. The survey talks about how much mothers work, much less than the men, but if the 19 minutes is an average I can just imagine how little the UK men see their children.  I'm generalizing a bit but the UK men are  known for not being very interested in helping out at home or interacting with their children.  I know this from personal experience.  It's not manly in UK to stay home and change diapers or burp your child.  Better to go down to the pub or watch some football.

Families here in Sweden often have both parents working in order to make ends meet.  It's an extremely small percentage that can afford to have one parent home longer than the regular 18 months parental leave.  We are privileged and have chosen to have Sandra stay at home without working.  But of course she takes care of many household duties  and cared for Daniel during his first 18 months.  With the help of me during 9 of those months.  Most families here have their children at day care for long hours.  At least I think so.  It's common to have the kids at day care from 8 or 9 am until 4 or 5 pm.  We have Daniel at day care from 9 to 3 pm. a couple of days, 9-1 pm. a couple of days, and he usually spends one full day at home every week.  That has worked out very well for us and gives us a chance to get some things done during the day but also exposes Daniel to other kids and teaches him important social skills.  But regardless how long people have their children at daycare in Sweden, I can assure you that they are spending many times more than 19 minutes a day with their kids.  I really can't get over how little that is.

The article mentions that "A further 16 minutes is spent looking after their children as a "secondary activity", but this means that they are doing something else – such as the weekly supermarket shop – at the same time."  It seems like they are  discounting this time and making it  worth less than one on one time.  I'm not sure I agree with this.  I think it's very important to include children in everyday practical activities and I really enjoy spending time with my son while doing something else.  And so does he.  We go shopping together, wash the car, clean up the basement, mop the floor, vacuum, clean the bikes or the car, or take out the trash together.  I love spending time together in this way since I'm doing something with my son.  We're not just sitting around talking, we are doing some useful activity as a team.  But it takes lots of patience since my son's "helping" many times means an activity takes twice as long.

Some other interesting things from the article is that the normal UK person seem to sleep an awful lot.  Average seems to be just over eight hours a night which seems high to me.  I never sleep eight hours. Not even when I'm on vacation.   It's not because my son is awake or I'm too busy, I'm well rested if I get 7 hours and rather do other things than sleep.  Like wild sex:-))  Another observation from the article is that parents spend an average of almost three hours a day watching TV or DVD and read very little.  "A woman will spend 8.3 hours asleep, 2.4 hours watching television, DVDs or videos and 2.2 hours working.  A man will spend eight hours asleep, 2.8 hours watching television, DVDs or videos and 3.5 hours working.   Just 24 minutes in 24 hours is spent reading, a figure which drops to just 10 minutes for younger people."  Three hours of TV seems like a lot.  Can that have something to do with not spending time with the children?  How about turning of the TV and do a little reading with the children instead?

Most UK parents  want to spend more time with their children and work less. And who doesn't? It may sound silly but it's a question about priorities. I was positively surprised today when I read about Drummond Hall, CEO of one of Britain's biggest companies, and his decision to step down from his job.  Why? He wants to spend more time with his 14-month old daughter. He says, "My daughter was born just 14 months ago and I want to watch her growing up and not miss that. I have been on the board for a long stint of time now".  This solution is of course not possible for everyone but it's  about priorities. Most people can't have it all and have to make compromises.  Unfortunately, it seems like the UK children  place rather low on the priority list. 

How much time do you spend with your children?  Do you feel like it's enough? 

Give your children a big hug tonight and let them know how much you love them.  Who knows how long you or they will be around?!

Have a nice weekend!! 

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8 Responses to “How Much Time Do You Spend With Your Kids?”

  1. I think it is important for a father and mother to make time for both hobby and child, if the parent can make time for other things and not their child than there is something seriously wrong. My husband is like a part-time dad and it is not fair to either me or our son. I have tried everything I can think of except telling him to leave. What do I do??

  2. [...] Whilst I think this is very positive, there must be something to be said for letting children learn to occupy themselves and not rely on interaction from parents/tv. In addition, there is definitely a popular perception that parents spend more time working and less time with their kids. This may be due to the fact that there are more working mothers but it is a hard perception to shake off. It won’t help that previous findings, like those by the Office National Statistics, reported by Paul and Adventure Dad in July, suggest parents only spend 19 minutes a day caring for their kids. Which data is correct? [...]

  3. [...] A few months ago I wrote a post about how much time parents spend with their children.  It was based on a UK study and the results showed that parents who work full-time spend an average of 19 minutes a day caring for their children.  Pretty pathetic.  New York Times has an interesting article out today about a similar study in the US.  It's titled "Single And Married Parents Spending More Time With Their Children" (free registration required).  It looks at differences in parental behavior during the past 40 years with a special focus on how parents divide their time between children, work, and housework.  The results are surprising to me and shows that mothers are spending more time today with their children than 40 years ago despite having a much more prominent role in the work force. [...]

  4. [...] It’s crucial that we do learn to find the balance. According to a study in the UK, parents who work full time spend 19 minutes a day caring for their children. Adventuredad has a great commentary on that article: 19 minutes a day? That is absolutely nothing. You barely have time to have a basic conversation with your children in this time. I must really question the point of having children when you see them this little. Parents see their pets more than that. [...]

  5. [...] Posted on Tuesday 31 October 2006 This week is national work-life balance week in Denmark.  For Scandinavian countries, combining work and life in a successful way is almost an obsession.  They have long ago realized that it's possible to combine career with family and children.  Alex over at Positive Sharing is posting stuff all week with a special focus on combining work and life.  If you haven't checked out his site before you should browse through his many articles.  His got tons on useful tips of how to make life and work more effective, fun, and meaningful. It's not wonder he calls himself CHO, "Chief Happiness Officer". His site reminds me a bit of the bright Steve Pavlina and his blog about "personal development for smart people". The question of a quality life is constantly attracting more attention. Having children is the easy part, the tough part is to make time to see them and the spouse while still enjoying work and getting paid well.  My multicultural life has  given me a good look at how enormously difficult it is to fit all the pieces of the puzzle.  Children, health, friends, and hobbies are rarely the main worries.  Money and time are in my opinion the main concerns for every family.  But in the end it's all about how you integrate the different pieces and what's high priority.  How many of you feel like you have an employer who is supportive of family,  a satisfying job which gives you a paycheck enough for all your needs, plenty of vacation (at least 5 weeks), and enough time for everyday life with spouse and children?  I'm willing to bet there is  plenty of room for improvement.   It's almost impossible to combine work and life successfully unless your employer and country makes it a priority.  Before I had children I never thought about this kind of stuff.  I thought it was stupid.  But now I realize that being able to combine it all is not only difficult but it's a also a must if you want to live a happy life.  In most, but not all, countries the man unfortunately works more and this means that fathers get to spend far less time with their children.  I blogged earlier about the UK where a parent spends an average of 19 minutes a day with their children.  I would call that a horrible integration of work and family.  Parents in U.S. spend more time with their children now than earlier which I discussed here.  It's mostly the women who do less housework and instead do more paid work but also spend more time with the children.  But I still think the integration of work and life is incredibly poor.  Living in Sweden for almost four years have given me a wake-up call over how well the work-life balance can be combined.  Paid parental leave is the main ingredient but the other benefits are also  incredible.  Most countries could duplicate parts of the system, it's all a question about priorities.   I think most employers misunderstand  the debate regarding family and work.  They seem to feel/believe that it's only a downside for the workplace.  I couldn't disagree more.  It's all about keeping the employees happy and motivated at work. Happier employees often equals better employees. It's very difficult to be happy at work if the family suffers greatly. If that means giving them an extra week of vacation, free lunch,  or shortening the workday is irrelevant. I believe the payback will be substantial. Alex brings up an excellent example on his site of someone who did great things with  the work-life balance.  In this case less work equaled getting more stuff done. I began working at my organization about a month ago. During my first ‘get to know my staff’ meeting i informed everyone that i would prefer they work no more than 40 hours per week and that everyone take a full hour lunch. My staff was so used to working long hours that they would not leave on time. [...]

  6. [...] help that previous findings, like those by the Office National Statistics, reported by Paul and Adventure Dad in July, suggest parents only spend 19 minutes a day caring for their kids. Which data is [...]

  7. Links…

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  8. [...] help that previous findings, like those by the Office National Statistics, reported by Paul and Adventure Dad in July, suggest parents only spend 19 minutes a day caring for their kids. Which data is correct? [...]

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