NY1’s Pat Kiernan and Roger Clark, ‘The Moms Podcast’ and more turn walking to school, making dinner and brushing your teeth into precious moments of quality time.
Many working parents want to spend more time with their kids. Unfortunately, bringing home the bacon usually comes at the expense of one-on-one time with the mouths that you’re trying to feed.
For instance, American dads today enjoy more time caring for their children than many of their own fathers and grandfathers did, yet 63% of them said they spend too little time with their kids, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. More than one-third (35%) of moms feel the same way. And both mothers (54%) and fathers (62%) cite work obligations as the main reason why they’re missing this family time.
The struggle is real for most households, as 70.5% of women with children were working or looking for work in 2016, alongside 92.8% of men with kids under 18, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 98.6% of married-couple families with children had at least one parent employed in 2016, while both parents worked in 61.1% of them.
So Moneyish asked working parents where they carve out a few extra minutes to spend with their kids each day. Here’s their 12 best quality-time hacks.
1. Squeeze in a morning snuggle. Denise Albert, cohost of “The Moms Podcast” and TheMoms.com, hits snooze to spend a few extra minutes in bed with her 9-year-old son. “Sometimes he comes into the room at 4 a.m. and goes back to sleep, or sometimes he comes in at 6 a.m. and just hangs out,” she said. “He’ll look at sports scores on his phone, and he usually wakes me up by telling me what the weather will be for the day. I cherish it.”
2. Eat breakfast together. Albert also insists on sitting down to breakfast with both sons (9 and 12) for 20 minutes, because it’s the one meal that fits into all of their schedules on school and work days. “Breakfast is like our dinner,” she said. “I really try to make sure that I’m present with them – I’m not on my phone, I’m not on my computer. I try to get everything else ready the night before – bookbags are already packed, lunch is already made – so we have as little stress in the morning as possible.” They’re still out the door by 8:15 a.m.
3. Pick them up/drop them off at school. “I never want to miss a school pick-up or a school drop-off if I can,” said Melissa Musen Gerstein, cohost of “The Moms Podcast” and a mother of three, who relishes these five-minute walks. “Things are fresh – they have a lot on their minds, whether it’s school work or friendship. It helps start my day.” Lance Somerfeld, a father of two and founder of CityDadsGroup.com, agreed. “I get the most information from my son (age 9) as we debrief his day on the walk home from school,” he said. “It’s only about 10 minutes, but that’s when he’s most talkative about sharing details – triumphs, surprises, and mistakes – so I try not to miss that valuable time with him.”
4. Make the most of your commute. “Whether it’s walking to do an errand, jumping on the subway at the same time, or in the car in the evening or on a weekend, I find we have some of our best conversations when we’re on the move,” NY1 morning news anchor Pat Kiernan, father of 13 and 16-year-old girls, told Moneyish. “It’s a classic way to find time in your day. If you can do two things at once, you effectively stretch the day beyond 24 hours.”
5. Think outside the 9-to-5. “So since I leave the house around 4:15 a.m. each morning to get to NY1 and start the day on the ‘Mornings on 1’ show, I am never around for breakfast or school drop-offs,” NY1 morning reporter Roger Clark told Moneyish. So he plays with his 6-year-old son, Jack, right after school in the afternoon. “During the warmer months we will sometimes drop off his backpack and go straight to the park or schoolyard to play baseball, basketball, whichever sport Jack requests,” he said. “I also coach him in flag football on Sunday mornings in the winter, and afterwards we have lunch together.”
6. Get home before they do. Charles Lee Mudd Jr., an attorney and father of two boys, brings work home so that he can be there before his sons (aged 10 and 13) come in from school. “It provides an opportunity to spend a few more minutes of quality time together,” he said. “Even a few moments makes an impact. It just means a lot for the kids to see me.” And he saves catching up on work until after they boys are asleep. “I make every effort to focus on home until after they have gone to bed,” he added.
7. Be ready and open to spontaneous bonding. Jeremy Neuer, a divorced father of three (ages 6, 8, and 10) working in real estate from Whippany, N.J., has found that quality time often happens organically. “There’s the silly stuff, like the two minutes this morning that my son and I brushed our teeth together, or last night, when my daughter and I spent 20 minutes sorting her baseball cards,” he said. “Sometimes, the most meaningful times are the little, quiet moments that can’t be targeted, set aside, or manufactured. They just happen.”
8. Cook dinner together. Dr. Marika Lindholm, a mother of five and founder of Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere, enlists the three teens (12, 13, 14) to help her with dinner. “A great meal is a chicken stir fry, because you can ask each kid to chop or peel something. They like layering lasagna, too,” she said, adding that she hears a lot of school gossip during meal prep. “They feel more open to chat when you aren’t asking direct questions,” she said. “And they learn how to cook!”
9. Play together while the other parent cooks. James Lopez, who spends time with his 1-year-old while working from home during the day, wrestles in playtime with the other kids while his wife makes dinner. “Sometimes it’s a word match from a magazine, but most times we shoot hoops in our living room with a mini court. We will play horse or just take a few shots while we discuss school, future events anything that pops up,” he said. “It makes me feel good because I don’t want either of them feeling like their little brother is loved the most.”
10. Let bath time run a little long. Meredith Bodgas, editor-in-chief of Working Mother, said her husband has taken over bath time with their 3-year-old son so that they can connect. “They could be done in 10 minutes, but it runs closer to 15 or 20 minutes because my husband will play with him in the bath,” she said. “Or they put on silly music like ‘Gangnam Style’ or the ‘Imperial March’ from ‘Star Wars’ and dance together.” Somerfeld does the same. “My son enjoys having me in the bathroom while he showers before bed,” he said. “That becomes another valuable bonding moment for us to hear some of his zany ideas about being an entrepreneur.”
11. Tell bigger bedtime stories. Bodgas and her husband bought their son a full-size bed. “So every night instead of just putting him to bed, saying ‘good night’ and walking away, the three of us actually lay together in bed for 15 minutes, and chat and snuggle,” she said. Bodgas is eight months pregnant, so the most common nighttime topic has been babies. “He asks us a new question every night: How did the baby get in your belly? What do babies need?” she laughed. “Or sometimes it’s about his upcoming birthday party, what we’re going to do this weekend. It’s a nice heads-up to what’s going on in his life.”
12. Reset and try again tomorrow. “You are not going to get everything in every day. Somebody is going to get sacrificed, whether it’s one of your kids, or yourself,” said Gerstein. “Just remind yourself that your kids love you, no matter what. And at least tell them ‘I love you’ before you go to bed.” And every day is a new opportunity to spend more time together. “You have to turn the page and try again,” said Gerstein.
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