7 Science-Proven Reasons Moms Should Chill Out About Time Spent With Their Kids

7 Science-Proven Reasons Moms Should Chill Out About Time Spent With Their Kids

Science says it’s not how many hours you spend with your kids, it’s how you spend them.


By Kelly Bryant

Before I had children, I would always chuckle at silly childhood stories about my husband as told by my in-laws. We’d all give a hearty guffaw when my mother-in-law would inevitably quip her favorite one-liner, “Well, I tried to be a good mother…” As she would tell it, no matter what happens, it’s always the mother’s fault. It was all in good fun, but then, when I became a parent, I learned the cold, hard truth – Mommy Guilt is a thing, and the struggle is real.

Mommy Guilt can be about anything – from buying non-organic fruit at the grocery to letting your kid have candy in the morning just to make him stop whining to not scheduling the perfect family vacation each year. But it appears that the no. 1 reason for Mommy Guilt these days is the nagging feeling that we’re not spending enough time with our kids. We’re working, we’re running errands, we’re trying to manage a household, and there’s simply not enough time to check off every item on the Star Parent Bucket List.

But there’s good news for busy moms on the go. Scientific studies are here to relieve our guilt. Just take a look at these seven findings that should make you feel better about the amount of time you’re spending with your kids.

1. According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, the average number of hours parents spend with their children each week has risen from 8.5 in 1985 to almost 14 in 2010. See? We’re totally not slacking.

2. The periodical’s first major study of parent time, which was released this month, found that there was essentially no connection between the way kids ages 3 to 11 develop emotionally, behaviorally, and academically and the amount of time parents spend with them.

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3. We may not think we are giving our children enough of ourselves, but an American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 62 percent of parents rate child care experiences as their most meaningful daily activity, followed by housework (43 percent) and paid work-related obligations (36 percent). So while you may worry you’re not getting enough kid time, it’s certainly the time you enjoy the most, and that’s important, right?

4. Lack of “free play” (self-directed by kids, without you hovering) may actually be harmful. According to an article published in the American Journal of Play, it can lead to increased “anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self-control.”

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5. Want to raise an independent kid? You can do it by offering your child guidance to find appropriate activities while allowing the freedom to experience life fully and learn its many important lessons, notes parenting psychologist Jim Taylor, PhD in Psychology Today. I choose to believe this means I shouldn’t feel guilty that I’m cooking dinner while my boys play soccer in the backyard … on their own.

6. Want another reason to stop worrying or feeling bad about parts of your day that don’t include family time? The JMF study found that the single instance when parent-child togetherness can be harmful to kids is when moms specifically are “stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty, and anxious.” Did you just say, “Check, check, check, and check,” out loud or was that just me?

7. Teens can benefit most from family time, according to the JMF researchers, but they concluded that an average of six hours a week was associated with a positive upshot. So, the findings certainly aren’t excessive. An activity as simple as sharing family meals can result in fewer instances of reckless behavior.

How do you make family time quality in your home?


Kelly Bryant is a freelance writer and pop culture junkie. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons. Follow her on Twitter @MsKellyBryant.

Image ©iStock.com/andresrimaging


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I've seen this in my family. My kids need to figure out for themselves ways to entertain themselves (within limits). They seem most interested in talking with me at night when I'm exhausted, but when I can settle in and show by my body language that I'm in no rush, they'll open up. Driving is also a good time, especially to talk with my son. So while DOING things together is usually what they ask for, what they really want is shared experiences of any kind and a listening interested ear.

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