“The Best 15 Minutes of My Day”: How Do You Find Time to Spend With Your Kids?

spending-time-with-kidsHow do you find time to spend with your kids? How long each day do you have with them?  I can’t find the original article, but there was a story a while ago where a female CEO was quoted as saying that the 15 minutes she spent with her children were the best 15 minutes of her day. At the time, the reaction to this quote on Corporette (I think the quote predated CorporetteMoms) was immense — why even HAVE kids, a number of people argued, if that’s all the time you’re going to spend with them? But I know soooooo many working fathers who get home well after the kids are in bed, and leave pretty early in the morning — one mom I know actually asked her husband to stay away until their child was in bed, because she didn’t want the child to get all excited right before bedtime.  So: 15 minutes on a daily basis might be a generous statistic for some people! Let’s discuss: how long on workdays do you get to spend with your kids? Do you think daily time is less important than quality time on the weekends? Is the daily number different for your husband — and do you think fathers have a different bar? If someone magically created a 25th hour in each day, would you spend it with your kids — or would you find other things (work, working out, sleep) to spend it on? Do you think there are times in a child’s life that it doesn’t really matter how long you spend with them?

For my own $.02, I try to remember that sometimes just physically being with them is important — if I’m in a busy period for work and need to be in front of a computer when I should be on mom time, I try to work on a laptop with Jack snuggled next to me on the couch watching cartoons.  Harry is getting old enough now (and we finally finished weaning) that I’d like to set up “parent dates” on the weekend where we each have dedicated one-on-one time with each boy.

Ladies, what are your thoughts — how do you find time to spend with your kids? How long do you get to spend with them on a daily basis?  What habits and hacks have helped? 

Pictured: Kikkerland Owlet Kitchen Timer, $7.75 at Amazon.


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  1. I think it’s really not okay for either moms or dads to only see their kids for 15 minutes a day. People are just rationalizing to make themselves feel better if they are telling themselves this is the case. And both my husband and I work full time, so I’m not someone who thinks kids need parents who stay home. But seriously? 15 minutes a day?

    • mascot says:

      Maybe the 15 minutes is the time that the parent is focused only on the child. For us, that is the bedtime book/snuggle routine and/or dedicated activity or play time after school. We do family meals and all that, but during the week, so much of our face to face time revolves around an end game of getting ready for school or getting ready for bed. So yes, we have a couple of hours, but its not always distraction free quality time. It’s not an option to move wake-up and/or bedtime for him in the effort to gain more family time. We try to do more quality time on the weekends.

      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed. I have three kids and, frankly, I probably don’t routinely get 15 minutes/day when I’m focused on each and every one of them.

        Our waking and home time overlap by one hour in the morning and for 2-3 hours in the evening. But the morning and bedtime routines take up ~ 2 hours and dinner prep/eating takes easily an hour, which leaves 0-60 minutes for actual family time.

        My older kids and I chit-chat in the kitchen while they eat their breakfast and I assemble lunches for the day. It really is one of my favorite parts of the day, and probably lasts about 15 minutes. We also eat dinner as a family, so that time is when we review our days, etc. So long as everyone’s in a good mood, it’s a good time – but other days it’s just something to get through without screaming ;)

        The baby and I usually chill together after work, while the olders are relaxing with screen time and my husband makes dinner or does the dishes. Baby is attached to me most of the time that I’m home, but I’m not actively engaging the whole time.

  2. Depending on when she wakes up in the morning, I can be with my nearly 5 month old daughter up to an hour and a half before I leave for work, and depending on when I get home, I’m with her for up to another hour and a half to two hours. I try to either have my husband bring her to me at lunch (he’s on leave now), and when she starts daycare, I plan to visit at least a couple times a week if not every day to nurse her at lunch, so that’s another hour. I have every other Friday off, so that helps get more time in on the weekend. And I still feel like it’s not enough! 15 minutes… I mean, wow. That is kind of extreme to me.

    As far as what’s worked, we are currently bedsharing, something I did not set out to do or really want to do, but she loves that closeness right now and it’s been the only way this nursing mama has been able to get some quality sleep. But it’s actually been good for us – I know it won’t last forever, and it helps keep us close when we have to be apart during the daylight hours. It’s not for everyone, but it has worked for us.

    • I spend about 45 – 1 hour in the morning getting kiddo ready for daycare and dropping him off, then another 2.5 hours after school before bedtime. Husband spends slightly less because I wake up earlier than he does and do about 1/2 of the morning routine. Weekends are shared.

      If I had an extra hour in the day, I think I’d spend it with my kid about 1/2 the time, and the other 1/2 the time working out or sleeping. My husband would absolutely spend it all with the kid – he was working crazy hours when the baby was born and for about a year afterwards, and feels like he missed out on a lot (kid is 18 months now).

      I feel sad for any person who only gets to see their kid for 15 minutes a day. That isn’t easy on anyone.

  3. Philanthropy Girl says:

    I arranged my work schedule so I leave the house about an hour after Philanthropy Baby wakes up but I’m home by 345, so we have a good two and a half hours before he’s asleep. He goes to bed super early, so we start bedtime routine at 6 and he’s usually out by 630. It isn’t *nearly* enough time for me, but it’s what I have to work with. I try to make that time as concentrated on Philanthropy Baby as I can, reading stories, dinner time, playing, outside time, and then bedtime routine. The TV’s off, the computer and smartphone is put away, and chores and hobbies wait for later. I love getting home earlier in the afternoon, because it keeps the evening from feeling so rushed. I’m blessed because kiddo goes to bed so early, so I still have grown-up time in the evenings and I don’t feel like I have to ignore baby or divide my time to get my other things done.

    DH is a stay-at-home dad, so he obviously gets a lot more time with him than I do.

    I’ve debated the quality vs. quantity matter with myself a number of times. Honestly, I think kids do best when they have a large quantity of quality time with a parent; that unfortunately isn’t real life for most of us. If forced to choose, I’d say quality matters more – zoning out to the TV for two hours is not nearly as beneficial to your child as 15 minutes of focused one-on-one time. I know that only 15 minutes a day wouldn’t work for me – but to each her own.

  4. shortperson says:

    i do a couple long work days a week during which dh is the parent in charge and I don’t see baby at all — I leave before she wakes up and get home long after she’s asleep. but on the other three days a week, we spend two hours together in the morning and 1-2 hours in the evening. we usually have time to go for a real activity a few times a week during these time blocks — long walk, playground, pool, restaurant, etc. it works for us — I get my hours at work in and dh gets quality time w baby .

    • Sophia says:

      I may have to start trying this schedule. As it is, depending on when our son wakes up I have between 30-60 minutes with him in the morning, but I spend much of that time getting ready to go to work. I leave work at 5:15 or so but sit in rush hour traffic for 1.5-2.5 hours and at best get 30-45 minutes of bedtime with him, then try to finish up work at night. If I just stayed at the office later, I would miss bedtime but would be more productive and, skipping rush hour on the Belt Parkway, could get home in 50 minutes.

      • Sophia says:

        Oh, and my husband is usually out earlier in the mornings so only sees the baby a couple mornings a week, but he gets home, relieves the nanny, and spends 2-3 hours with our son. He panics if I’m late for bedtime, but in reality they’re developing a wonderful bond and have their inside jokes and games (as much as you can have with a not-quite-one-year-old).

  5. Katie says:

    This happened to me yesterday and speaks to me today. I am 7.5 mos preg and up for partner next year at my law firm but the most important job for me is hanging with my 2.5 y/o, which right now is from the time I get home from work until he goes to bed (6-8?). (It is harder now because I need to sleep a little later in the morning to function — which sucks up the little bit of morning time we had together before my energy got zapped. . . and thankfully I have an amazing husband who is all in when it comes to picking up my slack so my son is getting 100% of dad’s attention in the mornings).

    Anyway, I got home from work yesterday and my son was on his way out to play bubbles. I was so thankful I caught him (he caught me?) in that moment and that when he asked me to come play, that I was there – and that I could. We had just a few minutes together playing bubbles on the porch before dinner and then played trains and puzzles after dinner before bath time (which has also been delegated to my husband this late in the pregnancy). When I tucked him in, I told him my favorite part of the day was playing with him – and it truly was. But, as I said that, I realized how little of my day was spent playing with him and it made me sad — though I am truly grateful for what we do have and that the time we do spend together is quality. I could be working 3 jobs trying to cobble together enough to make ends meet (and missing him then) or have the job I do have and not have to worry about putting food on the table, health insurance, and so many other stressors that cripple families today. We can afford a housekeeper so that my time on the weekends is focused on family. We can play at the pool together and he can order his chicken fingers. We have a happy home where the stress of money is not the main topic of every conversation (as it was when I grew up, which led to an unhappy home and marriage) and, importantly, he is loved and well cared for around the clock. He is secure and confident and smart and funny. And he knows that mommy and daddy both work and that we work hard.

    With that being said, when he says “Come play with me” I always try to oblige (but recognize the inherent time deficit when it comes to how many hours I spend doing what I love the most…..spending quality time with my son…. the struggle is real when it comes to missing so much time with him …. knowing that time is the most precious time I will never get back and never make up for . . . which makes me constantly reassess whether my current career situation is sustainable.) In short, when we are together, I do my best to make sure I am the best mom I can be and “all in” engaged. It is mostly a happy time (notwithstanding the inevitable 2 y/o meltdowns when he doesn’t get his way) and I cherish every minute of it.

  6. I typically spend 2 hrs with kiddo in the morning (including a ~30 min dog walk in the stroller, so not all quality time), and between 1 and 1.5 hrs in the evening. That feels like enough for me. I’d use an extra hour in the day for sleep or working out. My husband never sees kiddo in the morning, and — except for his daycare pickup days (usually 2x/week) — only about 15-20 min in evening. I actually have thought about asking him not to disturb bedtime routine when he gets home, but haven’t had to do that yet. He definitely feels like he doesn’t get enough time with her during the week, so we reserve weekends for family time and activities.

  7. hoola hoopa says:

    The quantity vs quality discussions bother me, although I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    I have the time with them that I have, and I try to make it as meaningful as I can. Even when they can’t be my focus, I try to let them know that I’m thinking about them and connected by kissing their heads as I go by, folding laundry on the couch with them as I fold laundry, or remembering details about their school/daycare routines and friends.

    My husband and I also try to keep weekends as clear as possible so that we can have family time. It means fewer activities for the adults and kids, but we feel it’s important and our kids seem to agree.

    • mascot says:

      I get it. We are really affectionate and tuned in with our son, but he doesn’t get all our time and focus and we aren’t his constant playmates. At some point, we’ve got to get life stuff done.

    • I agree with everything you said. I’m also bothered by the quality/quantity discussion, but can’t articulate why. Do I feel guilty that I don’t spend more meaningful time with my kids during the week? Sure. But I do as much as I can. We’re together for an hour and a half in the mornings while I get ready and then drop them off at daycare. My husband or I will pick them up around 5:30, then it’s dinner, baths, a little play time, and then they’re in bed by 7, 7:30 at the latest. I could leave them up later at night for more time together, but I can definitely tell a difference in their behavior when they don’t get enough sleep.

      We have one activity per weekend as a general rule: right now both boys are in swim lessons. We try and reserve Sundays for family time as much as possible (Saturdays we run all the errands together that get us through the week). My husband and I only get about an hour per night of time together during the week, so that slow pace during the weekends is also our chance to spend time together. It’s not a ton of “quality” time as a family, but we’re doing what we can and seem to have a pretty good routine down…for now.

    • Here’s my observation on the quality vs quantity discussion: In recent years, parents have become the child’s playmate and party planner. It is not realistic for a working parent to be a constant playmate (nor is it healthy for ANY parent, but that’s a different discussion). Life stuff does have to get done and as long as you aren’t ignoring your child, I don’t think the quality of time necessarily suffers. I think working moms tend to feel the mom guilt about not spending the day with their child, but you do what you gotta do. And providing for your family is just as important as spending “quality” time with your child.

  8. This is a great topic but it also makes me sad. I used to live within a 15 minute walk to work, which was amazing for many reasons. But the best reason was that I could really maximize the amount of time I spent with my kids. I could easily spend 2 or even 2.5 hours (depending on when they woke up) in the morning and then another 2.5 hours in the evening. 5 hours a day! It was amazing. I loved it. We have now moved and I have a much longer commute. In the morning, I have about 1 or 1.5 hours, in the evening about 1.5 hours. I really miss how it used to be.

    Several years ago, I read an article featuring interviews with some of the top Fortune 500 CEOs. One of the few women interviewed said that the secret to her success was living 5 minutes away from work. That way she could maximize her time with the kids but also maximize the time she needed at work to get things done. That response always stuck with me. In my dream world, I would live within a 10 minute commute to work.

    • Two Cents says:


      This is why we live in the city. Yes, we have a smaller place, but we’re not dealing with a long commute from the ‘burbs. I’m always stunned by folks who tell me they drive for 1.5/2 hours to get to work! The ability to spend more time with my kids trumps having a smaller place, hands down.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      Yes – I have tried it both ways and life is so much more satisfying when I don’t have a commute. It used to break my heart that I’d roll in the door and have 30 minutes to prepare and eat dinner with my kiddo, and then it would be bedtime. I’m glad I live in a city that has family-friendly housing near the downtown area.

    • megan says:

      Agree! We are 30 & 45 miles from our places of work and while I love our house and all the work we’ve put into it, I HATE commuting. It breaks my heart, for myself and for my kid (although he probably doesn’t notice- yet). I’m on a 9-4 schedule now to help deal but I can’t work these hours at this job forever, and I told my husband that is when we must consider relocating. I will gladly take a smaller, older, more expensive house to have that hour+ a day back.

  9. NewMomAnon says:

    My kiddo wakes up between 5:30 and 6, and we usually spend an hour cuddling in my bed before we have to get up to start the day (unless she wakes up hangry, then we only cuddle for a few minutes). We eat breakfast and dinner together, except the evenings her dad takes her for dinner. She is 18 months old and pretty much glued to me as I get ready in the morning, prepare meals, clean the house, etc.

    As far as dedicated time – I try to get us out of bed in time each morning so we have at least 15 minutes for dedicated play during the morning prep. We take a half hour to 45 minute walk together after dinner on the nights she is with me (and she walks with me, not rides in the stroller). I do bedtime every night, which is a 5-15 minute process depending on her mood and mine. So I would say I get 2.5 to 4.5 hours total on weekdays with her, depending on her dad schedule, and of that, twenty minutes to an hour is dedicated “quality” time.

    On weekends, we get so much quality time that I think she is often excited to be rid of me at Monday daycare drop off! I feel like it’s a lot of quality time and that I’m in some ways lucky to have the financial flexibility to take a part-time position so I can spend time with her. In other ways, I really resent that SOO much of my time is spent with a toddler and so little is spent interacting with adults.

    If I had a magic 25th hour, I’d probably spend it with my kiddo just because it would still be a pain in the neck to line up a babysitter. If she was willing to sleep for that extra hour, I’d use it to start a business, learn cello or get some extra sleep.

  10. It truly comes down to quality over quantity. But at some point, if you are doing anything for only 15 minutes it’s hard to say that it’s the quality time you’re looking for. I can’t get into a project and finish it in 15 mins.

    That said, I don’t think it was meant literally. I have 3-4 great moments in my day with my kids, no matter how many hours I put in. I try to focus on those moments as a parent. The times when my daughter listened and followed instruction like an angel. The time my baby stood up on his own and fell down giggling. The ice cream cones after dinner. There’s always a special, shining moment in the day. We talk about these before bedtime with our kids. It’s just as much for me and my husband as it is for the kids. It wraps up each day with a nice little feeling of gratitude and accomplishment.

  11. Meg Murry says:

    Maybe it’s because my kids are a little older, but I’ve found the opposite of what Kat is suggesting to work better. Instead of spending an hour with my laptop while my kids are next to me watching TV, I’ve found that giving them 15 minutes of undivided attention and then going to work in a separate room for 45 minutes while leaving them to play or watch a show by themselves gives better “quality time” to the kid, and I get more done in those concentrated 45 minutes than I do in the hour that is pestered with interruptions. I’m not great about doing this (my husband is far better about it), but I’m trying to be more present with the kids when I’m there, giving them my full attention, and then leaving them alone when I’m not, instead of giving them half my attention while I am on my phone or computer.

    Most days I get 2-3 total hours or so between when I come home from work and kid’s bedtime, and that isn’t always “quality time”. However, when I was working a higher stress job with a longer commute and my son was an infant, there would be stretches where I didn’t see him awake at all for a couple days at a time. That was rough and I hated it, but at least I wasn’t working weekends then, so we could spend most of Saturday and Sunday together.

    Anyone else reminded of Downton Abbey, and this exchange between Isobel and the Dowager Countess?

    Isobel: “Were you a very involved mother with Robert and Rosamund?”
    Violet: “Does it surprise you?”
    Isobel: “A bit. I’d imagined them surrounded by nannies and governesses, being starched and ironed to spend an hour with you after tea.”
    Violet: “Yes, but it was an hour every day.”

    • Ha! I totally remember that exchange. :)

    • KateMiddletown says:

      My 5 year old asks me to Play With Her all the time. I don’t feel bad about having to do dishes instead of play dress-up – at this point I’ve rationalized that she’s surrounded by peers 40+ hrs./week in school, and she’s just used to having someone to play with. I think it’s important for kids to entertain themselves, by themselves (no Ipad/tv) for reasonable spells of time. That being said, many of the lack-of-playmate problems could be solved by having a sibling in close age-proximity (another topic of guilt that I’m battling.) Thank God for imaginary friends!

  12. Tunnel says:

    It feels like I only get 15 minutes with my little one. I’m a FTM that has just returned to work (attorney) from leave. In reality, it is actually about an hour and a half to two hours per weekday, but that time is mainly nursing him and changing him in the AM and then a little bit of time before he eats (if I’m lucky) and goes to bed. I’m trying to figure out how to spend more time with him during the week, but nothing is really compatible with the billable hour goal. I will gladly take any tips from moms who have BTDT. I already pack everything the night before, etc.

    • "Part Time" Big Law says:

      Tunnel, I am also a FTM and a biglaw midlevel associate who returned to work six months ago, and I think that changing and nursing and other feeding of babies totally counts as quality time with them! I also found the pressure of the billable hour on a “full time” schedule to be relentless – I found myself nudging baby to daycare a few minutes earlier every day, calling in evening babysitters or not coming home until right before bedtime nursing if dad was doing pick-up, and working after baby’s bedtime until I passed out at night, and I still felt frenetic all day at work. It was not what I wanted for my career, my marriage or my baby. I know some people make the full-time schedule work, but I switched to an 80% billable hour requirement three months ago and I think it was a great decision for my long-term career prospects. I’ll probably get bumped back a year on the partnership track at some point, and maybe I’ll get derailed entirely as a result, but I wasn’t going to make it full time for many more years at that pace anyway. Now I work about 40-45 hours a week, bill 33-35, and see baby 1-1.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. That feels right for me. There are still 50-60-hour weeks sometimes but they are no longer the norm. I think that even if you don’t officially reduce your hours, you have to have a personal maximum hours cap and stick roughly to it, confidently relying on the quality of your work and relationships to see you through, otherwise you don’t have any defense against the endless pressure to take on more and more work that bites into your family’s time.

  13. EB0220 says:

    Finding the balance is hard! I spend a good amount of time with my two. During the week, I am with both kids for an hour or two (wake up time to 8). My husband usually drops off my three year old and I get another hour with the baby (20 min is driving). In the afternoon/evening we typically get 3 hrs together from 5:30 to 8:30 bedtime. Then we spend the entire weekend together almost always.