Shayna Harris works incredibly long hours at her startup, which leaves very little time to play with her 2 ½-year-old daughter, whose bedtime is 7 p.m., just 1 ½ hours after Harris gets home from work.
Harris, a COO for a Chicago-based startup that stocks healthy food in vending machines, realized very quickly that she’d need to be creative, or her memories with her toddler would consist of a frantic dinner, a hurried bath and an angry bedtime story.
“We cook together when I get home from work,” Harris says. “I bought her cooking utensils for kids, and I let her make a mess — salt is her favorite).”
Thirty minutes later, they sit down to a home-cooked meal that was made from scratch.
Mothers spend an average of 104 minutes a day with their children, while fathers spend 59 minutes, compared with the 54 minutes and 16 minutes mothers and fathers, respectively, spent with them in 1965, according to a 2016 University of California, Irvine study.
But those parents didn’t hang out in front of electronics (a 2016 report finds that parents of tweens and teens spend about nine hours daily using screens), and it’s doubtful that they used their parental minutes trying to squeeze in a day’s worth of errands. So while 104 minutes may sound like a lot of time, it may not feel like it to parents, especially when they’re being bombarded with Pinterest craft ideas they should be doing with their kids.
Still, there are ways to spend true quality time with your children — even if you’re a working parent who feels you can’t squeeze another minute from your day.
“You don’t have to spend money, plan elaborate activities or do anything special to have quality time with your children,” said Nicole Beurkens, a licensed psychologist in Grand Rapids, Mich.
In fact, you can simply transform your chores into fun games — and encourage your kids to join you, just as Harris did, Beurkens said.
“You’re spending time doing things like cooking, taking the dog for a walk and doing laundry, so why not include your child?” Beurkens asked. “This not only allows for valuable one-to-one time to talk and to connect, but it also teaches them important life skills.”
That’s why Macaire Douglas, owner of Half Pint Shop, a children’s store in Chicago, always turns grocery shopping into a fun adventure.
Her 6-year-old plans one meal per week, and they do the shopping together, talking about ingredients and different foods — and when they get home, they cook together.
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