Why You Should Spend Less Time With Your Kids

Last week’s blog about whether stay-at-home moms or working moms have it better generated such a healthy and much needed discussion that it deserved a follow up.

Be sure not to confuse the title for an April Fools’ joke though. Truth is, I’m not that clever—or that cruel.

Some of us actually need to spend less time with our kids.

Last Sunday our babysitter graciously offered to watch our kiddos—for free—so Christi and I could spend the afternoon going to a movie and having dinner together. Yes, I said FREE BABYSITTER!


Some parents would easily say, “Peace out little ones, Mom and Dad are free!

Not me. I hesitated. My first thought was that Sunday afternoons are sacred time with the kids.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I removed my filter, audibly declaring to our babysitter my allegiance to my kids over my wife,

No, I don’t think I’m going to take you up on your offer for a much-needed afternoon alone with my wife. I’m afraid if I don’t spend it with my kids they may get the idea I don’t want to be with them.”

Sounds as crazy as the title, right?

Poor Christi.

The disturbing reality is that I think this is true for many of us. We begrudgingly leave our kids behind for a date, for work, or maybe even a weekend away, and our time isn’t as fulfilling as it could be because we secretly feel guilty for, or worry about, not being with them instead.

It’s a trend I’m seeing among today’s parents I think we need to talk about.

I’ll call it the “ought to” syndrome.

“Because I work all day and send my kids to daycare, I ought to spend every hour I’m not at work with them.”

You want the reality? According to research, if you’re a working mom today, you’re likely spending as much time with your children as at-home moms did in the early 1970s.  [1]

Or take my excuse as a dad,

“I’m so busy through the week that I ought to be there all weekend for the kids.” 

Here’s the great news about this trend: fathers’ time with their kids has tripled since 1965.

“But as an at-home mom I’m so busy trying to keep up with the responsibilities of the house and demands of others that I ought to spend more time with the kids so I truly connect with them.”

Even mothers’ time with their kids has increased by more than three hours a week since the early 70s.

I can’t express how much I love that spending time with our kids is becoming such a strong value of today’s parents.

So what’s my problem?

Quality trumps quantity.

Research released this week shows that quality time with our kids is more important than the amount of time we spend with them.

To be fair, spending time with our kids is extremely important. Research shows positive outcomes for activities such as reading books with our kids, eating meals together, roughhousing, and one-on-one time.

But when we’re stressed, sleep-deprived, anxious, or yes, feeling guilty, we actually do our kids more harm than good.

To me, this research is freeing for guilt-prone parents for one primary reason:

         It rids us of our “ought to”

Instead of ought to-ing ourselves into spending too much time with our kids overindulging or overprotecting them, perhaps we should be ought to-ing ourselves into taking more care of our own emotional well-being, nurturing our marriages, and taking some of the pressure off.

Besides, how many times have you begrudgingly left the kids like I did last Sunday only to arrive home to everyone doing just fine? Then, you proceed to beat yourself up for not actually enjoying and being in the moment earlier with your spouse.

Our ought to’s are killing our quality of life as parents—and our loved ones are feeling it.

Why should you spend less time with your kids?

Because your kids need you. All of you. An emotionally healthy and guilt-free you.

Because the time we do spend with them, matters.  

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. As a family and relationships coach, he loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh specializes in combining the scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and living a full life. He is the author of the upcoming release Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (October 2015, Waterbrook Multnomah), and along with his wife Christi, is coauthor and producer of the video series and workbook, The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st Century. He wakes up each day striving to love others better, starting with his wife Christi and their two children, Landon and Kennedy.

For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.

[1] The research mentioned in this post is found in an upcoming study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. You can read more about it here: Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity. (30 March, 2015). The Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://english.astroawani.com/lifestyle/making-time-kids-study-says-quality-trumps-quantity-56705.