How much time should you really spend with your kids? The question has left parents wondering since time immemorial. There is actually no right or wrong answer, especially now that most families depend on the incomes of both the working dad and mom to afford a little comfort and luxury.
Left with limited options, parents choose -- and rightfully so -- quality over quantity, what with everything else one needs to do apart from manage a home and raise kids. (Don't forget me-time, too!)
However, it may be time to rethink that. New research from the University of Essex and University College London found that when a mother spends more time with her three- to seven-year old child, the young one's cognitive and social skills are noticeably improved. The findings, which was an analysis of a cohort study which involves more than 8,000 children born between 2000 and 2002, also show that first-born children tend to benefit more from their mother's time and undivided attention than their younger siblings. It's the first study to examine the direct relationship between the time mothers spend with their children and the skills the kids develop over time.
"Our results emphasize that the time spent by mothers with their children has a noticeable influence on early child development," Professor Marco Francesconi, Ph.D., one of the co-authors of the study, said via a press statement. "Mothers are also likely to change time investments over the early years of life of their children in response to earlier outcomes. When this is the case, the socio-economic gradient in outcomes observed at later points of children’s lives may be driven by variation both between and within families," he added.
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Take note, however, that the "time" researchers refers to is quality time. Moms involved in the study spent time with their little one doing education activities such as reading to or with them, singing to and with the child, and generally having an engaging interaction. The study also found that the level of education attained by a mother has an effect on early years development.
Does this mean, then, that a mother should take time off from her career in those crucial formative years to be with her child? If you have that option, why not? But remember that if you do not -- if you cannot, it does not in any way make you a bad parent. In fact, another recent study, this time from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Oxford, claims that young children whose mothers are not working have less capabilities in terms of talking, social skills, movement, and everyday skills.
Every parent's ultimate goal is to raise happy and productive adults. The bottom line is, while these studies give us insight, you really just have to find a balance which would work best for you and your family.
How do you make time for your kids and what activities do you do with them? Share with us in the comments!