Relax, Moms and Dads: You're Spending Enough Time With Your Kids

Turns out, parents today are finding more time for family than ever.

working mom smiling at toddler
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Apparently today's parents really can do it all. Because even with more of us than ever now working outside the home, it turns out we're spending more time with our kids than parents did in previous generations, according to a new study.


Researchers at the University of California, Irvine studied 122,271 parents (68,532 moms and 53,739 dads) in Canada, the U.K, the U.S., Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Slovenia between the ages of 18 and 65 with at least one child younger than 13.

Here's what they found: According to journals kept by the subjects between 1965 and 2012 of their daily activities—things like preparing kids' meals, feeding and bathing, changing diapers and clothes, putting kids to bed, getting up in the middle of the night, providing medical care, reading and playing—all but one of 11 Western nations (the exception was France) showed an increase in the amount of time both parents spent with their children.

Here's how it all breaks down: In 1965, moms spent an average of 54 minutes a day caring for their kiddos, while moms in 2012 spent twice that amount at 104 minutes per day. And while dads in 1965 spent an average of just 16 minutes a day with their kids, today's dads have quadrupled that time, averaging 59 minutes a day.

Pretty impressive!

And get this: When the researchers broke the 2012 data down into two categories—parents with a college education versus parents without—they found a pretty interesting difference: The college-educated mamas spent an estimated 123 minutes daily caring for their kids, compared with 94 minutes spent by mom who didn't go to college. And dads with a college degree spent about 74 minutes a day with their kids, versus 50 minutes for the less-educated dads.

Study co-author Judith Treas said in a statement that she found this finding particularly surprising. "According to economic theory, higher wages should discourage well-educated parents from foregoing work to spend extra time with youngsters," she explained. "Also, they have the money to pay others to care for their children."

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So why, then, the big uptick? According to Treas it may be a result of the "intensive parenting" trend. "The time parents spend with children is regarded as critical for positive cognitive, behavioral and academic outcomes," she said. "Contemporary fathers want to be more involved in their children's lives than their own dads were. These beliefs have taken hold among the best-educated residents of Western countries and are also diffusing to their counterparts who have less schooling."

No matter what the reason, this new research should help take the pressure off all us guilt-ridden working parents when it comes to worrying about spending enough time with our kids. Hallelujah!

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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