The other day I heard from a new mother who was anxious to get back to work. She reached out to me to see if she could use my name as a reference in her job search and, of course, I said, “yes.” Her baby is only a two months old and mom is already turning her attention to her résumé.
As I reflected on how little time we each get with our kids I was reminded of a math calculation I performed about a decade ago when all my kids (I have 6) were under 10. Somewhere I had come across the idea of having one good hour of “quality time” with your child per week, and I thought, “how much does one hour per week really add up to?”
So the math was pretty simple…1 hour per week x 52 weeks = 52 hours per year. Now let’s say your child will move out for college when they are 18 years old. So, 18 years x 52 hours = 936 hours. And this is where I started to get depressed; when I performed the math to determine how few days this really is. I took the 936 hours and divided it by 24, and that’s when I realized that if you spend 1 hour per week of “quality time” with your child for 18 years you will spend a total of 39 days with your kid.
Yes, you read that right… only 39 twenty-four hour periods. If you want to feel a little better let’s put it into 8 hour increments (like work days). So we’ll take the 936 hours and divide them by 8 hour days. Now we have a whopping 117 days with our kids. To put that into perspective, your average work year is approximately 250 work days (fifty 40 hour weeks). So the average employee will spend twice as much time THIS year working at their job than a 1 hour per week “quality time” parent will get with their child over 18 years.
As I did the math and scratched my head I realized I was in trouble. You see, I have 6 kids and rarely do I get 15 minutes of “quality time” with any of them, much less, each of them! I’m a filmmaker and a small business owner and I work long days, and I occasionally have to travel, and I bring work home on weekends, and my phone connects me to email and business texts during meals and while we’re at baseball games and while we’re sitting in traffic. You can see why I can get depressed about this!
It was years and years ago that my wife and I committed to have family meals as often as we possibly can. And we committed to family vacations, and family car trips, and family runs to the grocery store, etc., etc. We’d do our best to make up for the lack of “quality time” with “quantity time” and we committed to making the most of the quantity time we had with our kids.
Today our oldest is a junior in college, but I’ll never forget that first night we brought her home from the hospital as a newborn and she slept all night long curled up on my chest. Time is fleeting. None us are guaranteed tomorrow and even if we were, our kids grow up so stinkin’ fast. 39 days goes very quickly and for many of us a bunch of those days are already gone. So my plea to new parents, like my friend who was polishing her résumé, is to be intentional about being with your kids. Teach them about life every chance you get… through words, deeds, and example. And of course, don’t forget to hug the hell out of them.