Do parents, especially entrepreneur parents, really spend enough time with their kids?
It’s become this kind of scorecard and we justify how good we are at parenting by the amount of time we spend with our kids.
But quantity does not equal quality. A child would rather spend 20-minutes with you playing a board game if you are ‘all in’ versus an ad hoc afternoon of wandering while you scroll your iPhone every ten minutes.
Think about your own childhood memories. Do you remember the days that your parents/caregivers starred aimlessly at their newspapers ho-humming every time you tried to speak with them, or do you remember the micro-moments like playing Barbies or collecting stickers with your mom?
Stickers and Barbies always win.
So why then are we getting ourselves so stressed about putting in the hours as though clocking our time will earn us a bigger parenting payout?
Surely there is a correlation between the time spent with our kids and how they develop as world-peace-loving human beings, but let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s not *just* about time.
The sheer amount of time American parents spend with their kids between the ripe ages of 3 and 11 has almost no correlation to how children turn out. This is according to the Journal of Marriage and Family.
The study actually found one key instance that spending time with your kids is actually harmful to your children, that’s when you are tired, stressed, guilty, and feeling anxious. So when you are in that state, it’s actually best to step aside from your parenting duties (call a friend, your mom, your husband, or a sitter to come in) and get time for yourself.
Self-care as a primary caregiver is more important than scheduling all-the-things in your day. Stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) get slack for ‘just’ staying home but they are on 24/7 with little to no relief. And when they are tired/sick or just flat out need a break, they deserve that f******* break, or else everyone will get a little cray cray. Your 10 hrs/week of ‘family time’ shouldn’t ever be pegged against your mom friend who homeschools her genius kids and lives a seemingly perfect life. She has her own challenges too, and likely some you don’t even want to hear (like she gets no sleep because of her newborn baby.)
In a survey of a thousand families, Ellen Galinsky, the head of the Families and Work Institute and the author of Mind in the Making, asked children, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” Most parents predicted their kids would say spending more time with them. They were wrong. The kids’ number one wish was that their parents were less tired and less stressed.
Ahh, see how this is all coming together?
So then, how much time do we really need to spend with our kids? The answer: it all depends.
I asked this question on Facebook and most parents came back with how 2-4 hours each day feels good for them during the week. Too much more and they feel overwhelmed, much less and they miss their kids. As they get older, and their kids start to lead their own lives, this obviously changes, but the quality of that time still matters.
We all raise our kids according to different values, cultures, beliefs, religions, neighborhoods, cities, countries, and so there is no one size fits all. Some parents barely see their young kids, while others spend 24/7 with them. So the argument isn’t what should you do based on the researched shared in this post. The argument is FOR rest, recovery, mental health and staying sane. How do you throttle full on running your business with parenting? How do you find the quality time with your family that actually fills up your love tank? That’s what we are looking for.
So let’s start breaking this down.
The quantity versus quality myth
It’s not to say that our time with our kids is not important, it is! There are several studies that suggest that the amount of quality time we spend with our kids - like reading books, playing sports, sitting down to dinner together, meditating together - have incredible life-long outcomes for them. Also, how a parent consistently interacts with their children - warmth, care, empathy - even in passing plays a huge role in their character development.
A deep connection can be built during the most non-obvious times. A 2007 UCLA study that found "the quiet, in-between moments of family life did as much of the real work of family bonding as any fabricated family time." MacLellan goes on to quote the researchers: "Everyday activities (like household chores or running errands) may afford families quality moments, unplanned, unstructured instances of social interaction that serve the important relationship-building functions that parents seek from 'quality time'." STUDY.
Don’t force the time, just make use of the time you are already spending with them. This morning, for example, I (finally) took a few extra moments to teach my 5-year-old how to do laundry. We loaded the washer together, poured soap together, and pressed the buttons together. As I would normally just rush through this process in order to get it done, I saw it as an opportunity to connect with him. We giggled and made a mess in emptying the dryer lint, but it was so worth it. It lifted our moods for the rest of the morning. Now, not only is the laundry done and Noah knows how to do it, we shared an intimate five minutes together without sprinting through a task.
Income and education level have the biggest influence
A mother’s income and education level are most strongly associated with her child’s future success. So when we look at female entrepreneur’s who are also mothers, the best support we can give them is in helping them achieve their business success. That could mean watching their kids for them, lending them so much needed business advice, referring them new clients or even helping them understand the value of their time better (ahhhm, teaching them to hire outside help.)
If there is a course you are circling around finally taking, knowing it will advance your skill set and help your business grow, then now’s the time to take it. When you get yourself and your business to a comfortable (if not thriving) income position, it will help you be a better mom. Who knew?
Mom’s mental health is a dealbreaker
A study by Melissa Milkie, a sociologist at the University of Toronto found that a mother’s mental health has the biggest impact on the future success of her kids. I already mentioned this above, but let me restate this: YOUR mental health - getting a good nights sleep, not being stressed, being more relaxed and less anxious - is the #1 way in which you can be the best damn mom ever. Stop thinking that you have to do it all. Whoever said you did is lying (to themselves and to you).
Ask yourself, what are the things I can delay, delegate or delete? And everyday chip away at systematizing your day. It doesn't sound pretty now, but the time you take to put into creating your daily routine and system will pay off in spades later on.
Too much is too much
We can’t force being present, well we can but over time it becomes evident you aren’t really ‘present’. And if we force our hand at just being with our kids, for time’s sake, we actually lose the reason for that quality time altogether.
Plus, ‘distance makes the great grow fonder.” If your gut is telling you you need a little break, to step away from parenting even but for a moment, do it. Call on a friend or family member to fill in your place for a bit. There is absolutely no shame in taking a break. I once overheard a friend saying that she hadn’t had a day off of mommy duty since her 9-year-old was born. She mentioned it with a sense of pride however seeing her updates on social media, those indirect “I NEED A BREAK!” jokes about wine-o'clock and how hard it is, tells me another story. She was conditioned to think she shouldn't’ take a break or else she would be a bad mom.
No, no hunny.
A bad mom is one who doesn't allow herself time to rest and relax. A bad mom is someone who constantly ignores her own needs for months if not years at a time in order to take care of everyone else.
Today, for instance, I packed my boys a Lunchable for lunch! Ha ha, yup! Us clean-eating-veggie-slugging family sometimes fall off the wagon because we’ve learned that too much is too much. I missed a grocery run yesterday because I was laying in the sun reading my book as I watched the boys play in the distance. Didn’t feel like leaving the house so I didn’t. Guilt? Hell no. Everyone is happy today because mommy took some time for herself.
Here is the thing, it’s never about the quantity. Quality is key. So if you’re having an off day, or your head is spinning with work stuff, or you need alone time, then take advantage of it. As my friend Ryan Robinson says “Because to me, when they are 20, 30 or 40, they're not gonna say "dad only spent 7 minutes playing with us on a Thursday. What they will remember is what we did in those 7 minutes and how much fun they had. To me, that matters more.”
It’s the micro-moments that matter. So don’t think you have to put in all the hours to up your parenting points.
It’s in the tiny, consistent moments that great memories are made.