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The Amount of Time Parents Spend with Their Kids Has Literally Doubled in the Last 50 Years

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The great debate of “who had it easier” — moms of previous decades vs. today’s moms — rages on. Today, moms have technology to help them make friends, organize their family schedules, and cook quick meals more easily. Yet, compared to moms of the ’60s who could basically tell their kids to go outside and play for five hours, modern moms likely don’t go more than 30 minutes without seeing their kids or at least communicating with them via text. There’s no break. There’s no Betty Draper life, gossiping with friends, drinking coffee, and smoking Virginia Slims with no kids around. Instead, our kids are pretty much tethered to us — and we wonder why we feel overwhelmed and often lose a sense of our own identities.

Think I’m exaggerating? Check out this study published in The Economist that actually charts how much time parents spend with their kids in the 21st century compared to 50 years ago. In every developed country studied, the minutes-per-day of mothers caring for their kids has drastically increased. (Except in France, where the amount of time decreased. Not sure what those moms are doing, but I might book a vacay there in the near future so I can be a French mom for a day.)

According to this article, American moms of the 1960s spent an average of 50 minutes per day caring for their kids. In 2012, that number had increased to 100-125 minutes. And Denmark’s moms are up to 225 minutes! Man, those Danish moms must be tired. They need to hop on over to France for a quick tutorial on how to cut the cord. I’ll meet you there, ladies!

The good news, however, is that although mom-kid time has drastically increased, so has father-kid time! Dads of the ’60s spent far less time with their kids than dads today. This article charts the average ’60s dad in the U.S. spending 25 minutes per day with his kids and the average 2012 dad at around 75 minutes.

As a mom whose kids seem to be stuck to her side every waking (and sleeping) moment, I can attest to these charts being accurate. Am I envious of the freedom ’60s moms had in sending their kids outside and not worrying that a nosy and judgy neighbor might call CPS? Sure. Would I have it any other way though? No. I do like knowing my kids are safe and being by their side as they navigate the choppy waters of childhood. I do let them play alone, without me, and as they grow older, the glue that holds us together seems to be loosening its grip. And sometimes that makes me sad.

Did ’60s parents have it right? Or are kids better off today? Who knows. All I know is that most 21st century parents are doing their best to raise good humans. And if that means a bit more time with Mom and Dad, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

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