April 6, 2010 · Posted in Fatherhood, Mental Health, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink
Tara Parker Pope’s recent piece Surprisingly, Family Time Has Grown in her New York Times Blog Well, takes a closer look at the amount of ‘family time’ in the modern working-parent household. Citing research from the University of California and the Pew Research Center, she writes that time spent with children has actually increased for both mothers and fathers since the mid 1990’s (with mothers still doing the bulk of parenting). The post goes on to say that working parents still suffer from guilt, constantly worrying about spending enough time with their children. The main point of this article is to relieve this distress, and show that parents are doing a better job than they think.
Pope leaves us with important food for thought in the last paragraph of her article, and it is this finding that really caught our eye. She refers to Ellen Galinsky, President of The Families and Work Institute:
Dr. Galinsky notes that although working parents typically feel guilty for not spending more time at home, children often have a different reaction. In a landmark study published as “Ask the Children” (Harper, 2000), she asked more than 1,000 children about their “one wish” for their parents. Although parents expected their children would wish for more family time, the children wanted something different.
“Kids were more likely to wish that their parents were less tired and less stressed,” Dr. Galinsky said.
This excerpt indicates that the quality of the parents mood, not the amount, and nor the exact activity or “quality time” that parents strive for is most important to children. This should not be a big surprise, of course. Whether one had a stay-at-home mother, a working mother, a dad who was home at six, or a dad that spent most time at work, it is the emotional state of that parent that stands out over time.
The “Ask The Children” study is a road map for parents about what children really want. Children wish parents were more rested and calmer, less stressed. They need us to take care of ourselves as best we can, so that time spent together is not time for them to worry about us.