WHY do parents feel they don’t have enough time with their children?

Our studies find that 75% of parents feel they do not have enough time with their children, up from 66% in 1992. Are these feelings accurate? Our studies—and other studies—show that mothers are spending as much time with their children as they did in the 1970s. And fathers—especially Gen X fathers and Millennial fathers—are spending a lot more time with their children than fathers did in the 1970s.

WHY do children feel less deprived of time with their parents than the parents feel?

Our studies find that 67% of children 8 through 18 years old say they have ENOUGH time with their mothers and 60% say they have ENOUGH time with their fathers. One might think that children, especially older children, don’t want to be with their parents as much as parents want to be with them. But our studies show that it is older children—more so than younger children—who want more time with their parents. In fact, among children 13 through 18, 49% say they do NOT have enough time with their mothers and 64% say they do NOT have enough time with their fathers. Children 8 through 12 are also more likely to want more time with their fathers.

These are WHYS the Families and Work Institute seeks to try to answer through research.

MAYBE it’s that we tend to think about the amount of time we spend with children as separate from what happens during that time—quality time versus quantity time.

Children don’t tend to see the amount of time and what happens during that time as separate. In one study, if given one wish to change the way a parent’s work affects their lives, the largest proportion of children did not wish for more time together—as the majority of parents thought they would. Children wished their parents would be less tired and stressed.

As well, our studies find that children would replace the concepts of “quality time” and “quantity time” with “focused time” and “hang-around time.”

MAYBE our concepts of time haven’t evolved from industrial era concepts to information era concepts.

We feel pressured to keep that factory line moving--to keep running that marathon, especially when so many of us have electronic tethers to work. However, our studies show that as parents, we feel less conflict between work and family lives when we feel we can really focus on our children AND on ourselves.

WHY NOT reinvent our concepts of time so that we are not always chopping time up into packed little intervals? Instead, try to create some time when we are hanging out and some when we are focusing on each other. It’s about time we do!