The Mommy Wars continue

It’s not enough that they’re bringing the wage rate down and helping force other mothers into the workforce, but they can’t bother to spend as much time with their kids as I do with my exercise bike:

A typical working parent spends just 19 minutes a day looking after their children, official figures revealed yesterday. The startling research shows the devastating impact that working full-time has on children who hardly see their parents. With less than 20 minutes spent with their parents every day, this is only enough time to eat a quick breakfast together or have a couple of bed-time stories.

The Office for National Statistics looked at nearly 4,950 people over the age of 16 in Britain to find out what they do all day. The findings make grim reading for working parents who already worry that they spend too much time at work – and too little at home. Parents who work full-time spend just 19 minutes every day “caring for [their] own children”, according to ONS’s “Time Use Survey”, published yesterday.

A further 16 minutes is spent looking after their children as a “secondary activity”, but this means that they are doing something else – such as the weekly supermarket shop – at the same time.

While I’m sure those 19 minutes are serious quality time, it is telling that the average amount of time spent watching television is much greater. One ray of hope is that only six percent of working mothers actually want to work full time, indicating that they’re not quite the self-centered psychopaths that the one statistic seems to indicate.

Obviously, single mothers have no choice but to work, barring the sort of supportive family structure that is increasingly rare these days. And given the flexibility that the Internet provides, there’s no reason why many other mothers can’t work part-time, ideally from home. Any employer with a modicum of human decency should do what he can to accomodate such women, who are often completely dedicated to their families and make excellent employees. But to idealize the Hollywood dream of the fashionable mother with fabulous career and a fabulous relationship with the children with whom she spends 19 minutes per day is as ludicrous and as childish as a man who thinks he’s going to be James Bond.

I think we should all try to do our part in helping these women see the benefit of spending time with their children. So, any time you see children with a full-time childcare provider, be sure to address the nanny as “your Mommy”.