I work full-time – sometimes more than full-time because I can occasionally be caught writing articles on the weekends like this one, while my children wander through the homes and kitchens of kindly neighbours and I hope they aren’t outstaying their welcome.
I try to be with my kids when they’re home though. I endeavour to close down my computer and spend time really being present with each of my three kids – both individually and as a group.
It’s not easy, of course, but that’s my goal each and every week.
When you add up group time and individual time with three kids, there’s not much time left over for sleeping, working or socialising. It’s a work in progress.
Sometimes I long for those days past when mums were there when the kids came home from school, fresh scones just out of the oven, keen to sit at the kitchen table and chat about their days.
It all just seems so leisurely and pleasant. I’d wear a floral apron and listen intently to all their problems. They’d come to me for advice on friends and schoolwork. We’d all have a laugh and a scone and probably a group hug at the end.
But am I looking at the past through rose-coloured glasses? A study recently published in The Economist found we’re actually spending more time with our kids than at any time over the past 50 years.
The article found American mums of the 1960s spent an average of 50 minutes a day caring for their kids, while in 2012 that number increased to 100-125 minutes a day. Australian mums aren’t included in the study but we’d be pretty similar. Danish mums really have their work cut out for them, with 225 minutes per day caring for their child.
How is that possible when we’re working so much more than we did back then? Well, remember back when you were a kid how you’d eat breakfast then hop on your BMX and disappear until it was starting to get dark? Yeah, that.
Our kids are spending more time at home than ever before. That means we get to see them more.
What’s great for the kids, though, is that it’s not just mum-kid time that has increased – it’s also dad-kid time. Dads have gone from about 25 minutes in the ‘60s to about 75 minutes in 2012.
So who had it right, the mums of the 60s or us? I’m not sure but I’m wondering what those mums were doing with all their spare time if their kids weren’t home and they weren’t working. I wouldn’t mind having a crack at that lifestyle.
But in the meantime, I’ll stop feeling guilty every time I have to leave my kids to their own devices to find something to do with themselves while I write an article or two. I might even take some time out to do something non-work related. It seems the kids will be just fine.