For nearly 20 years, I worked 10 hour days and spent another 2 hours commuting. By the time I made it home each night, it was nearly 6:30pm. Although my kids were excited to see me when I entered the house, I needed a few minutes to decompress. Switching off from work mode wasn’t always easy.
When I emerged from my cave to reconnect with my family, the clock started ticking. We had to eat dinner, finish homework, and try to have a little fun before bedtime. Each night, I rushed to cram in as much daddy time as possible. I often felt guilty that I wasn’t spending more time with them. I knew how much they needed me, but my hectic work schedule prevented me from being more engaged (I also traveled 2 weeks out of each month). I carried this guilt for a while until I read an article in The Daily Mail, “Our endless working guilt: Parents confess they neglect children from Monday to Friday.”
According to the article, 12 minutes is enough time for parents to fully reconnect with their children. When I read this claim, I was skeptical. Certainly this type of microwave parenting could not reap real and lasting benefits. I was surprised to discover that this claim was validated by a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The study says the amount of time moms and dads spend with their kids between ages 3 to 11 have a small effect on them. When it comes to quality, however, doing things like reading to children, eating dinner, or talking one-on-one to them have positive outcomes. The study goes further to state that spending time with your kids when you are stressed or tired can actually be harmful.
Final note: Building a strong relationship with your children is about being present, having authentic conversations, and sharing experiences. It’s about being silly, playing, and laughing. If I can make a genuine emotional connection with my kids in a few minutes then it counts as time well spent. I’m not advocating parenting in 12 minute increments, but I am encouraging parents to stop feeling guilty and fully enjoy the precious moments with your children because they go by too fast.