Tag Archives: time

Can you spend too much time with your kids?

Real Simple magazine recently reported that as of 2010, mothers (working and SAHMs) spend an average of fourteen hours a week on childcare—up from ten hours a week in 1965.

To which I say, um, what?

I realize I might be in the most time-intensive phase of parenting right now, where I still have young children at home, but I spend nearly fourteen hours a day with my children. And even if I my children were older and I were working, I would still have at least four hours a day in their presence on weekdays, and at least that on weekends.

I’m guessing (slash hoping) “child care” here means more than just “spending time with your child,” since I also have a hard time imagining mothers in 1965 shunting their children off for all but 85 minutes a day. I’m not “caring” for my children every single second of the day, but I’m still mothering them, whether the TV is on, whether they’re playing in the backyard, whether I’m on the computer—I’m on the clock, doling out food and punishments and advice. (So how is that not child care?)

But according to the Real Simple article, even two hours a day of caring for your own children is too much:

One study suggested that children who are the center of their parents’ universes may grow up to become more neurotic adolescents. The Free Range Kids movement, started by author Lenore Skenazy, has gained traction by advocating for unstructured and less-supervised play. Elisabeth Badinter, author of The Conflict, suggests that motherhood need not be a full-time profession. “Some parents believe that a good mother puts her child’s needs before everything else—and that’s not healthy,” says Badinter. Nor does it make us the best role models. After all, if our ultimate goal is to have our kids find personal fulfillment, perhaps we should lead by example: By putting ourselves at the top of our own to-do lists.

Wait, seriously? Somehow we’re saying that spending more than an hour and a half a day caring for your child is not only making them the center of your universe and putting yourself last, but also creating neuroses and makes us bad role models?

I think we’re conflating several very different things: taking care of our children, spending time with them and not making ourselves a priority. A very young child will not be able to tell the difference, but I would hope that an adult could. The difference isn’t something you measure in minutes: it’s measured in a mother’s mindset.

Yes, my children are my top priority and the biggest segment of my day right now. Honestly, whether you’re working or staying at home—heck, whether your children are infants or adults—if your child really needed you, would you say, “Oh, honey, I’m having my me time. I’ll help you with that impending peril/broken arm/unplanned pregnancy during your allotted two hours”? Is that really the way to be a good example of personal fulfillment?

Yes, we want our children to find personal fulfillment, and (obviously, I hope) we all want to find that ourselves. HOWEVER, I personally feel that exemplifying personal nirvana isn’t the main goal of full-time parenting. I have taken charge of my children’s formative years because I want to teach them the most important things in life—how to treat other people, the way to find true happiness (hint: it’s not by focusing only on yourself!), and the things we believe that will take them there—and that’s important enough to me to be willing to put in the time necessary to accomplish it.

A mother finding fulfillment in motherhood—in life—can put herself neither first nor last. Her children’s needs will come before hers quite regularly because she recognizes the level of commitment motherhood warrants, but she’s not going to forgo all meals until her children are independent, successful and grown.

She does model someone who sets personal goals, always learning, and devotes personal time to her own sanity and development. But she manages to do that in a very careful balance, managing her priorities and most of all her children and their physical and emotional needs. And importantly (to me), she looks for that personal fulfillment in the time she spends with (and caring for) her children, too. It is never easy, but it is worth it.

What do you think? What’s the difference between spending time with your children and “child care”? Can you spend too much time with your children?

Photo credits: watching timer—me!; multitasking dad—Henrik Betnér

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The uncomfortable wait of living in the future

Time is tricky in motherhood. Hours and days crawl by, while weeks and months fly. We focus on the things we’re looking forward to—kindergarten, babysitting age, the last one to kindergarten—so much that it’s sometimes hard to appreciate the now. We start to get dissatisfied with our lives now until we aches.

And sometimes, that’s not a bad thing. I came across an article called “The tension of the already, but the not yet” that points out that this longing is good when it prompts us for growth:

Maybe this tension is a perfect place? Not because we love being there, but because it’s the beginning of the end of our striving? Maybe this is when we realize that it’s not about us? That ultimately, we’re just part of a greater story that takes time to be written and revealed and at the point of these questions, we don’t know the full story yet.

This reminds me of something I’ve heard about writing. (Sorry, this is so generic that I’m blanking on who said this. Someone who knew what he was talking about.) An experienced writer argues that when we begin writing, we get very discouraged, and consider our writing terrible. And it probably is—and it’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing that we can see the difference between where we are now and where we want to be. We’re comparing our writing to published authors’—people in another stage of their journey, who have more experience and help than we probably do—and we naturally come up short.

But, this writer cautions, don’t let that stop you from writing. Push through this uncomfortable phase, writing and practicing more and more—learning more about and actually becoming what you want to be—until that feeling of being terrible passes. Change your circumstances, and change your attitude—and improve. That feeling keeps us working to get better.

We can’t make time go faster so we can enjoy the next phase sooner (and let’s be honest, we’ll probably still be looking forward to the next stage then), but we can channel this tension, this cognitive dissonance into looking at our lives now to see how we can enjoy them more—and what we may need to change to value and enjoy the present more now.

What do you think? How can you value and enjoy the present more now?

Photo by Joe Philipson

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Slipping away

My sister had a baby one week ago today! This is pretty special for me, too: this is the first time any of my sisters has ever had a baby. My first niece or nephew on my side of the family. The first grandbaby for my parents that wasn’t provided by me. Welcome to the world, Preslee! I wish I could be there to snuggle you up, too!

Hayden was a week old when I first felt the time slipping away. Suddenly we weren’t counting his age in days anymore. He hadn’t changed a whole lot since birth (I suppose he was a little more aware and awake, maybe), and yet somehow that change in words made him infinitely older. It presaged the change to months, then years. It was the first time I was losing my baby.

(I had been very sick all week; maybe I was a little melodramatic 😉 . But, then, maybe I do this for every child. New mommy hormones?)

Time does seem to slip away from us mothers faster than we can even grasp at it. My baby—my third baby—is one. My sister is a mother. Time marches on and life goes with it.

I want to try not to mourn the recent past instead of enjoying the present. If I obsess over what’s passed, I’ll miss what’s going on now. I have a hard time remembering what Hayden was like at Rebecca’s age or Rachel’s age, but luckily we have photos and videos and blog entries to remind us of that time in our life.

In the mean time, let’s enjoy the present while we have it. (Blah blah blah it’sagiftgagme.)

What are you doing to enjoy the present?

Photo by Kat

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Making time (for real)

I didn’t have a ton of friends in high school, but I had some pretty awesome ones. My best friend from high school, in fact, is also pretty tight with my mom—and her mom loves me. (I love her, too, of course.) My friend’s mom regularly inquires after my wellbeing (awww).

Saturday night at a church activity after one such inquiry, my friend, her mom and my mom were talking about . . . well, me. My friend told my mother, “I don’t know how she does all that she does!”

My mother was like “… Really?” (Remember, these lovely women live 2000 miles away.)

When my mother related the story to me, I told my mom, “Oh, she sees how much I write. She doesn’t see what my house looks like!”

(A side note: according to a survey of 7000 moms by AOL’s Platform-A and OMD, the average mom fits the equivalent of 27 hours of activities into a 16-hour day. Only 1.4 of those hours are “personal time,” of course. The one thing I question about this study: who gets eight hours of sleep?!)

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