What I Learned When I Kept a Time Log, Part 3

When I kept my time log for the week I recorded how much time I spent playing with my kids. I was particularly curious to see what those numbers were. I generally have the feeling that I should always be playing with them more because, you know:

  • these precious years go by so fast
  • no one ever looks back at their life and wishes they played with their kids less and did more dishes
  • one day my kids won’t want to play with me anymore (woomp woomp)
  • fill in another 700 reasons here

So I hoped that tracking my time would put some of those feelings in their rightful place- either “Yes, I do need to spend more time playing with my poor, neglected kids” or “Nope. I am doing a-okay in that department. Off to browse facebook some more!”.

What I found is that I spend enough time engaged with my kids that I can go ahead and stop feeling guilty or worried that I’m not doing enough. This is based on a very complex algorithm that I couldn’t possibly begin to explain, involving hours spent together, fun had, boredom experienced, and an overall gut feeling. Don’t bother challenging it because it is pretty much airtight.

Before I go on, I should define what “playing” meant for my week: doing puzzles, going to the library and reading books, playing with the baby and watching the big kids do a tumbling class, going outside so the kids can ride their bikes, playing Hungry Hippos (we got it for Christmas), etc and so forth.

Some of that is very engaged/all-in playing, like when we do a puzzle together or I read to them. Some is just me watching/commenting/occasionally texting a friend while they do their thing- like ride their bikes around. I counted it as “play” if the priority was engaging with them and having fun together.

Bouncing while I mow the grass.  This is not "playing".  Even if he looks like he is having fun.

Bouncing while I mow the grass. This is not “playing”. Even if he looks like he is having fun.

Here’s what did not make the cut as “play”, even if we were doing it together and they were having fun in some way: mowing the lawn while the kids played outside, lowering the crib mattress while the kids “helped” (I use that term loosely).

See the difference?

Let’s get down to the numbers, since I know that is what some people are curious about. I spent about two hours a day playing with my kids during the week, and more on the weekend. This number was higher than I thought it would be, and represents an atypical week for me, which I’ll explain later.

Here is my bottom line: I’m pretty happy with this amount of time. I might have patted myself on the back when I realized it. When I think about the average day with my kids I hear myself on repeat, saying “Not right now. In a minute.” and “Sorry- I can’t. Maybe later.” So to look back at my time for that particular week helps me put that vague maternal guilt in its place. I actually do hang out with and play with my kids. So stick it, Maternal Guilt!

Also, I am pretty militant and unwavering and DO NOT CHALLENGE ME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES about naptime/room time every day. I feel okay about holding them to that quiet time when I see that I am also investing in time together. It’s not just me telling them to shush all day.

As I mentioned, time spent doing “play” was pretty high during this particular week. The following week would have shown more time spent, say, cooking or doing other things and less time playing with my kids. My time log week happened to be one where I felt sick for a couple of days, so doing a puzzle with the kids felt better than trying to shoo them away and GSD.

This exercise was great and I’m glad I spent the time and energy to do it. This topic- how much time I spend actually engaging and playing with my kids- was one thing I was really curious to find out. Considering I’m home with my kids almost full-time, I usually feel like I spend most of our time together herding them around or just managing them. It is freeing to see it right there- on paper- that we do more than just that.

I’m curious- what would you want to know about where your time goes during the week?

Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

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9 thoughts on “What I Learned When I Kept a Time Log, Part 3

  1. I think I would want to know just how much time I spend sitting in front of my computer. Now that I’m out of grad school, and don’t have a desk job anymore, most of my computer time is spent on social interactions (i.e. email) and social media. Some of that time, I see as having some value, either because I’m making plans with friends, or communicating with family, or planning trips, or taking care of my home business. And, some of my time on social media directs me to intellectually engaging articles (like one I was sent today from the NY Times website) and some of it I spend reading blogs of friends ( 🙂 which I enjoy). I like hearing important life updates (like, my coworker finally had her first baby today, a week after her due date! Or, my friend got engaged last week! Yay!). And, I love being inspired by the experience of friends, and seeing photos from cool places and adventures…. but I would like to know how much time I spend staring into the computer with some expectation that I might find some fulfillment or happiness there. I’m more aware now that this expectation will never be met by my MacBook, but I’m sure I still ‘waste’ time in this way. Knowing exactly how many minutes of my life that I spend, wasted staring at a computer screen, might be rather enlightening.

  2. Freaking maternal guilt. It’s like the plague.

    I had a really wise and wonderful person (who I can’t actually remember, but they were clearly wise and wonderful) remind me that my kids are getting just as much (or more) from one another as they are getting from me. They are learning valuable lessons playing one-on-one (or one-on-two or more) in different ways than I can teach. Not saying that it justifies not spending any time with them, but it is a good reminder that independent and child play are just as important as mommy play. And since my kids are at daycare during the day, I have to remind myself of this DAILY!!!

    • Yes yes yes. Agreed.

      I don’t want to heap on guilt for working moms. I am so thankful for my day of work, where my kids are with their sitter. It is valuable time for them and me. They connect with each other, another little friend who is here, and a person in authority (who is not me)- it is good on all counts.

  3. My attempts at time logging have been failures. BUT, I find myself being more aware of how much time I spend cleaning up after my kids, doing things that they should be doing themselves. I clean their room when it gets to the point that I am bothered enough by the mess.I clean up the Lego’s so that I can set the table for dinner in a timely manner. I need to require their participation more than I do.
    I also need to put my foot down about quiet time each day. Neither of the boys naps anymore, but I really need that down time in the afternoon.

    • I think that writing everything down was another reason I spent more time playing with my kids than usual- I wasn’t doing things as mindlessly or on autopilot. Like you’re saying with the Legos and clean-up and stuff. I noticed that stuff too.

      It is pretty knee-jerk for me to think of a few things I need to do before I can sit down with them and read or whatever. But writing all of it down made me think twice before I just said “Not right now” over and over.

  4. I want to know how much time I spend on the computer, too. Probably too much. Actually, I probably don’t want to know.

    As for the kid thing, I logged a whole lotta hours when mine were young. Pretty much from the moment I got them from daycare to the moment I tucked them in, it was all Mommy, all the time. (Daddy did dinner and all the household things. Mommy did all the childcare. This division of labor contributed to the end of Mommy and Daddy living in the same house, so I don’t recommend it. Actually it was probably the result of a disintegrated relationship rather than the cause of one, so who knows? I digress.) What I wanted to really say is, in some ways that was great, but it set my kids up to expect me to be always available. Now (as teens) they can highly resent me not being there to attend to their every want/need. I think your afternoon quiet time is awesome and smart–not only because it allows you to recharge, but it also allows your kids to learn how to make themselves happy. Win-win.

    • Yes, I’m sort of glad I do RescueTime, and sort of not. Sometimes it feels horrifying (not going to lie).

      The afternoon quiet time is a good thing for all parties involved, even if the younger participants don’t think so:) Who knows what that will translate to in the teenage years: “Why did you shut me in my room every day growing up??? Do you know how rejected I felt??”. I’m just assuming there will be a therapist on retainer to straighten it all out (ha). We’re all just doing the best we can, at any given point.

  5. I never measured the time I spent interacting with my kids when they were small, but I do know that looking back I don’t regret one minute of it. We had some traditions like dinner together every night and family game or movie nights on the weekends that helped keep our time from getting away from us. That shared time and conversation made the teen years much more smooth than they might have been otherwise.

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