articles / Family life

How much time do you spend with your kids?

When I was working at the newspaper, the amount of time I did or did not spend with Josiah bothered me.

I was dropping him off at preschool at about 8:30 a.m. and picking him up around 5 p.m. Depending on whether or not I cooked dinner we would be finished eating by around 6 or 6:30. There would be nights that we would play games together or read together or watch movies, but pretty much by around 8 p.m. Josiah was taking a bath and getting ready for bed. Sometimes he’d get to watch a movie in our room after his bath before he went to his room.

So pretty much we spent time interacting together between 5 and 8 p.m. — three hours total.  With three different sets of grandparents, Josiah typically spent one night of the weekend at a grandparents house. This made me feel awful about half the time. My thought was that on one of the two days that I could spend a significant amount of time with Josiah, I was shipping him off to his grandparents so I could have some time to myself.

Ironically enough, even with staying at home full-time, I’m still fighting this battle. I’m at home with him 24 hours a day, but how much time should I spend with him? Doing things with him?

Josiah gets up at around 9 a.m. and goes to sleep at 9 p.m. How much of that 12 hours should I be actively doing things?

Since we all know Google is the most reliable source out there, I searched it to see what other people thought. Here’s what other people think:

  • One stay-at-home mom (SAHM) spends 20-30 minutes of one-on-one time with her kids and then spends 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the evening doing things with her kids and sometimes does spontaneous interaction in between. Of course, she’s always available for questions or needs throughout the day because she’s at home with them.
  • One SAHM says that when children are a lot younger they get more interaction, but as children get older they start to do things on there own more and the mom backs off.
  • A work outside the home mom said since she doesn’t get home until 6 p.m. at night, meal-time together is a must. She said since housework has to fall in there somewhere they tend to do the cleaning as a family. Bath time is also a time for interaction and reading before bed.
  • Another SAHM says that she schedules two outings a week (library, swimming lessons, whatever…) and then day to day she does about 30-45 minutes of interaction. After that the child plays outside or on his own. He’s only four so when he starts Kindergarten she will also be homeschooling him.
  • One SAHM says she spends about 2-3 hours a day interacting with her kids but it varies. She said she looks for cues from her kids such as constantly interrupting what she’s doing or pulling on her arm to do things, etc…
  • One mom (doesn’t specify SAHM or not) says it is not her job to entertain her kids. Of course she believes that parents should spend time with their kids, but she says that it is also vital for kids to play independently and with their siblings. She says parents are too worried about whether or not they’re spending enough time with their kids. After all, in the old days, parents didn’t have time to play with their kids because they were too busy working (her words…seriously). She says she’s fine reading a book with them or playing a game or cuddling with them, but as far as getting on the floor and playing with them she doesn’t do it.
  • One dad (in response to the article written by the mom above) says parents should play with their kids as often as they like. And if they feel guilty about the lack of time spent with them, then they’re probably not spending enough time with them.
  • One mom (in response to the same article as the dad’s comment above) said she doesn’t understand why people make it seem so bad to play with their kids. What’s the point in having kids if parents aren’t going to play with them? Parents don’t spend enough time with their kids.

Wow…these are just a few opinions that I found. When talking about time spent with kids, the common issue that the parents above were discussing was quality and quantity. Some of the moms wanted to make sure that they got in X amount of minutes or hours a day of time with their kids. Other moms were specific in that they scheduled activities or played games or read with their kids.

With all the varying opinions what’s a person to do? Well, for most parents, we look to our parents and remember back to our childhoods and compare. How did our parents handle these things? How did we feel about how our parents handled it?

So I thought back. When I was under 10 years old, I remember riding bikes around town with my parents. I also remember going to yard sales or the local outdoor flea market on the weekends. After my parents got divorced, I still remember riding bikes with my Dad and also watching movies or going to the park with my him. I also remember spending Saturday’s cleaning with my Dad (I still can’t clean my house without listening to Jewel and Heart…thanks Dad) When I went to my Mom’s on the weekend we’d do different things. In the spring and summer we’d go fishing, go out on the boat at the lake or play Monopoly together. We always ate dinner together too. Many times we spent the evenings watching movies together.

The tent I made for Josiah that has replaced my dining room...

The tent I made for Josiah that has replaced my dining room…

Do you know what I did the rest of the time? I played with my siblings or by myself.

What I don’t remember is sitting around moping because I was playing by myself or wishing my parents would spend more time with me. I don’t remember my parents sitting around and playing with me for X amount of minutes or hours a day. I remember the memories we made together.

I don’t count the minutes or hours I spend interacting with Josiah throughout the day. We do his schoolwork together and we watch movies together pretty much daily. We also try to go to the library once a week (unless he doesn’t want to and then I go while he spends time with his Dad). Yesterday and today I spent time building a tent for him in the house (I wouldn’t play with him in it though because my pregnant body wasn’t climbing down there). Last night we baked cookies together. A few nights ago we played three or four rounds of CandyLand together.

Something I’ve learned is that I yearn to spend time with Josiah more than he begs to spend time with me. There’s been several times that I’ve asked Josiah about coming and watching a movie with me and he tells me no because he wants to watch a movie on his own or play. Sometimes I’ll ask him what he wants to do after dinner and he’ll say something about playing with his toys or watching a movie and sometimes he’ll ask to play a game. As a matter of fact, in the middle of writing this Josiah asked me about playing hide and seek with him. So when I’m done typing this up, that’s what I’ll be doing.

Me watching Josiah playing with sidewalk chalk while I read a book...slightly interactive, but still independent.

Me watching Josiah playing with sidewalk chalk while I read a book…slightly interactive, but still independent.

Another example: Last week I apologized to Josiah for being so tired because I’d been taking 1-2 1/2 hour naps daily during his “break-time/nap-time”. His response was, “Why are you sorry for being tired?” I felt guilty for sleeping instead of spending time with him (when the truth is I needed the sleep) and he saw nothing wrong with it. He thought it was odd that I was sorry for it.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that no matter what you do, the Devil will always whisper in your ear (or find other people to say) that you’re not doing good enough. If you spent five hours a day with your kid, someone would say or you would feel like it wasn’t enough. The Devil wants us to believe that we’re not good enough and that we’re not doing enough.

I’m sure there will still be times when I feel like I’m not interacting with Josiah (and Samuel) enough. I know that I will spend plenty of time with them while they’re still at home (after all I’m homeschooling). I also know that when Josiah and Samuel grow up, they won’t be sitting around thinking, “Man, why didn’t my mom spend every waking moment playing Power Rangers with me?”

What do you think? Whether you’re working from home or outside the home, how do you handle how much time (quantity or quality) time you spend with your kids?

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One thought on “How much time do you spend with your kids?

  1. Pingback: How much time do you spend with your spouse? | Be Organic and Healthy

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