Parents Spend More Time With Their Kids Now Than They Ever Have

by Sarah Hosseini

Parents spend more time with their children now than they did 50 years ago

You can stop telling us to put our phones down, universe. Moms and dads – you can stop feeling guilty about working so much, too. Turns out we’re spending more time with our kids than our parents and grandparents ever did with us. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) found in a recent study, that between 1965 and 2012 both mothers and fathers showed an increase in time spent with children. The study was done across almost all Western nations. The only place that didn’t see an increase was France.

When you think of parenting in the mid-60’s, you think of moms staying home with their children. But the study found that moms then only actually spent 54 minutes on child care activities. Moms in 2012 almost doubled that. They reported spending 104 minutes per day. No wonder we’re so damn exhausted. And father’s time with kids almost quadrupled. They went from spending a reported 16 minutes with children in 1965, to 59 minutes per day in 2012. Now that’s progress people. Equality in parenting is always a good sign and we’ll take it.

Parents in the study were asked to clock how much time they spent preparing meals and snacks for kids, feeding them, bathing, changing diapers and clothes, putting kids to bed, getting up in the middle of the night, supervising them, reading and playing with them and helping with homework.

The study included 122,271 parents in Canada, the UK, the US, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Slovenia ages 18 to 65 who have at least one child younger than 13. The 68,532 mothers and 53,739 fathers kept a journal of their daily activities.

Researchers think the uptick in time spent with kids is due to the “intensive parenting” trend. It’s the cultural child-rearing fad of making your children the center of your universe, basically. Modern parents, or rather, mostly mothers are encouraged to engage and stimulate their children constantly by signing them up for a thousand athletic activities, taking them to museums, teaching them five different languages, signing them up for girl scouts or boy scouts, and tutoring them in calculus. It’s so extra. We’re tired just thinking about it.

“The time parents spend with children is regarded as critical for positive cognitive, behavioral, and academic outcomes,” Judith Treas, UCI Chancellor’s Professor of sociology and co-author of the study said in a statement. She added, “Contemporary fathers- having more egalitarian gender views – want to be more involved in their children’s lives than their own dads were.”

Researchers found parents with a college education spend a lot more time with children, compared to parents without a college degree. Treas says she was shocked by the findings.

“According to economic theory, higher wages should discourage well-educated parents from foregoing work to spend extra time with youngsters,” she said. “Also, they have the money to pay others to care for their children.”

Treas attributes that as well to intensive parenting.

No one’s quite sure why France didn’t see an increase, but experts have speculated that the French might just believe that kids will be fine without parents making huge life changes to their lifestyles.