How much time is enough?


Did you read that report a couple of weeks ago about how modern parents (you know it’s going to be bad when a report starts with THAT phrase) “only” spend 49 minutes a day with their children?

Apparently, modern parents are too busy worrying about money to spend quality time with their offspring, and the NSPCC is quoted in one report as saying that the most important childhood memories are all about being with your parents.

Oh dear.

I counted up and I think I spent 25 minutes with Flea yesterday. And that's including the five minutes I spent telling her all the things she wouldn't get to do this weekend if she didn't stop talking to her teddies and go to sleep at 9pm last night. Does it still count as quality time if you're making threats?

I'm sure I should feel horribly guilty about this wildly neglectful parenting, but frankly, I'm too busy. And also I'm not sure it's a good idea to spend too much time with your children. And I don't think they’re off weeping into their pillows and sobbing, “Why don’t Mummy and Daddy love me?”

And at the grand old age of four, Flea is mortified by the idea of spending time with me where other people might see her. “I do not need you watching me while I am in the bath,” she declares, so there’s 20 minutes of quality time down the plughole.

At school, I am instructed to walk her into school and all the way to her classroom door, but it is an unspoken agreement that once we have entered the school grounds, Flea will not acknowledge or speak to me in any way. I may not hold her hand, but I can carry her PE kit. However, if Flea sees one of her classmates, this entire arrangement is immediately null and void, and I must return to the car immediately, while she walks to the classroom with her friend.

In fact my life is one long round of, “Don't look, Mummy” or “I can do it myself, Mummy,” interspersed with the occasional, “Come and see what I did Mummy, it’s SO cool.”

I could feel bad about it, I suppose. But since reading Tom Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent, I’ve resolved not to feel guilty about not spending so-called quality time with Flea. Hodgkinson argues that where most modern parents go wrong is actually spending too much time with their kids, hovering over their every activity and decision, always with one eye on the future. He recommends staying in bed, or turfing the kids outdoors, and letting them get on with it, as much as possible. 

I think he's right, and not just because it encourages my idle parenting tendencies. I also think Flea is so enjoying her new capabilities and independence at this age that I want to give her as many opportunities as I can to try them out, to see what she can do when she puts her mind to it. Also, while she's off exploring independent play, I get to watch Come Dine With Me, and imagine that the man who does the voiceover is going to be my second husband.

What do you reckon? How much time do you spend with your kids each day, and do you think it’s enough?

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