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 was lucky if I were able to spend a a half of quality with my children before they went to sleep.
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.
The article goes on to give parents some advice on how to best use these 12 minutes:
By using clever tactics such as a little preparation alongside use of open ended questions – such as Tell me what the best bit about your day was? – parents can reduce the time worrying about chores and work and spend more time learning about their children’s day.
The final part of the article gives parents ten questions to help you find out the most about your child’s day. Some of the questions are:
- Tell me about the best game you played today
- How many times have you smiled today – what made you laugh
- I’ve got a great story for you but I want one in return… you first!
The more of the article I read, the more I tended to agree with it’s premise. It’s not really about the amount of time you spend with your children. Building a strong relationship with them is more about having authentic conversations and sharing things with one another. It’s about being silly, playing, and laughing. If I can make a genuine emotional connection with my kids in only 12 minutes, I count it 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.