Laura Vanderkam

Stop Telling Yourself You’re Missing Your Kid’s Childhood

The eternal problem of working parents can be solved with a shift in mindset

Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Published in
5 min readOct 17, 2019

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Illustration: Michael Rubin

Dear Laura,

I generally work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a 30-minute commute. I know this is a fairly normal work schedule, but now that my toddler has a set sleep schedule, she’s basically down by 7 p.m. each night. You do the math: I see my kid for just 30 minutes a day! Does being a working parent mean I’ll miss her whole childhood? Should I just quit my job?

Signed,

30-Minute Mom

Dear 30-Minute Mom:

Let’s separate out these questions. If you would prefer to be a stay-at-home parent, and that works for your family financially, great. However, if you enjoy your work, and/or your family is better off with the income — which is the case for the vast majority of families — then stop telling yourself that you’re missing your kid’s childhood. There’s a better way to frame this situation.

First, I’m quite sure you spend more than 30 minutes per day with your child. Family time doesn’t only occur at 4 p.m. or 10 a.m. for that matter. If she goes to bed at 7 p.m., I’m taking a wild guess that she does not wake up precisely at 8:30 a.m. when you leave for work. If your toddler is anything like my youngest child, you’re probably awakened every morning before 6 a.m. by a little voice yelling “Mommy!” This means that, on an average weekday, you are clocking two to three hours awake and together in the morning. Yes, you need to shower at some point in there, but you can also use this time to have breakfast together, read stories together, and play together. In the months when the weather’s nice and the sun rises early, you could spend some time outside.

This might require a rethinking of morning hours, and some preparation the night before (packing lunches and planning outfits, for example). The key is to change your focus: Don’t obsess so much about leaving for work that you miss the time that is passing.

Including mornings, your actual weekday tally of potential kid time is probably closer to three hours than it is to 30 minutes. Also, do you work seven days…

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Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Writer for

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.