"I really miss them." 11 mums share how many hours they spend with their kids each day.

How much time do parents spend with their kids? Not enough? Well, it’s a lot more time than parents in previous generations used to spend. Research suggests that today’s mums and dads spend at least twice as long caring for their children as mums and dads did 50 years ago. And women who have a university degree spend, on average, 30 minutes longer with their kids than women who don’t have a degree.

It seems hard to believe, when you think about how many more women are in the workforce these days. But maybe it’s got something to do with how we see our jobs as parents. While our mums and dads may have been happy to let us ride our bikes around the streets for hours, we’re more likely to supervise our kids at home. While we might have expected to do our own homework, play by ourselves or with our brothers and sisters, and head to bed alone, we’re more likely to help our kids with their homework, sit down on the floor and play with them, and maybe even lie next to them until they fall asleep.

Mamamia asked parents to tell us how many hours they spend with their kids – looking after them and just playing with them – on an average weekday.

Annita, 11 hours

“I’m my five-year-old son’s carer and have two- and three-year-old girls at home. My husband works FIFO [Fly-in-fly-out]. I spend all day, every day with them from 6am to 7pm (more if they’re up at night). I go to bed as soon as they’re in bed and I don’t get up until they do. My motivation to get to the gym is to have some alone time. As a result I’m fit but I’m not always the best parent I can be due to having this responsibility on my own. I also feel guilty leaving them (even with my husband) because it’s so unusual I’m not there. I want to work but finding the right hours, etc, is difficult in our family situation.”

Sarah, 4 hours

“We are awake at 5.30am and kindy drop-off is at 7am. Then pick-up from 4.30pm and bed at 7pm. I try for that to be some quality time, but realistically, most of it is making dinner and chores and getting ready and driving. But even 15 uninterrupted minutes of blowing bubbles or drawing together brings a lot of joy. I love my job and I believe in the importance of children socialising at kindy and in showing them the significance of parents working and loving their profession. But sometimes the time is just not enough and I really miss them.”

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Emma, 1 hour

“I’ve got a five-year-old and a seven-year-old and see them for about an hour a day three days a week, then about four hours a day the other two days. We live on a big bushy block so they can often be off playing somewhere and I’m not entirely sure where they are. It’s how I grew up and feels normal to us.”

Kylie, 7 hours

“On a typical school day I would spend seven to eight hours with my son. We play together, watch telly together, read, cook etc. He’s my little offsider. I have amazing parents, but I do remember wishing they had more time for me when I was a child. Dad was up before dark as a truck driver and Mum was home in the middle of the night as a nurse. We would be at babysitters every day of the week from 7am, then school, then until about 7pm. When I had my son, I was very conscious of this. I am a house cleaner and only work school hours. So when my son is home, I am with him. We live a little leaner as a result but life has taught me, you can always get more money, but you can’t get more time.”


Fiona, 16 hours

“I co-sleep with my two youngest, so I guess that’s eight to 10 hours a day right there! I work three days a week and have my youngest home with me the other two days.”

Claire, 6 hours

“My kids are 11 and 13. I work full time. I spend about one and a half hours in the morning and then five hours at night. Usually we are all pottering around talking, I am getting them snacks, watching TV together. My youngest likes me to jump on the trampoline with her, play board games, look at her horse collection. I combine home stuff with interacting – eg, watch her in a bath whilst I talk to her and fold washing. The eldest likes to game in his room a lot but I chuck him off regularly and he comes out and hangs out.”

Caroline, 2 hours

“I’ve just been at my dream job for about a month now. I run out of the house at 7.30am when they’re still in bed. I’d spend from 3pm-7.30/8pm with them, but not one-on-two time with them the whole time. At least an hour is housework/dinner prep. I reckon they’d get an hour or two every day of quality direct attention time.”

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Jennifer, 2 hours

“I have one six-year-old son. I would spend anywhere from two to three hours a day engaging with him directly or watching him play. The concept of playing by himself is a difficult one for him to grasp. I’ve often felt how different it is to my own childhood. It was rare for my parents to play with me and when they did it was a memorable occasion.”

Bebs, 6 hours

“As a family we have made it a priority for me to be around for/with the kids and we are lucky enough to be able to do that. Currently I’m at home full-time. We have noticed that since moving to a smaller town that the kids have much more freedom and will go and do things with their friends such as scooter around the neighbourhood or go to the local park with a football, but this is for short intervals of time like 30 minutes.”

Tara, 4 hours

“I have an 18-month-old. She actually was happy to sit by herself with a book with me out of sight to get ready this week for the first time. My mum often comments what a lovely time I have with my daughter, feeling that she never did so much one-on-one with me. This is despite the fact that I work full-time already and she didn’t work at all until I was 10 years old. I do wonder if as a working mum that when I am with her I am too engaged and not giving her the space to play and develop independence because I feel guilty for being at work all day.”

Tori, 9 hours

“I have a 16-month-old that I spend most of the day with. I went back to my job after nine months of maternity leave, but after a few days realised my heart wasn’t in it. I love being a stay-at-home parent, and since we can afford for me to do that, it’s a choice I feel very lucky to be able to make. My partner is a web developer who works from home, so we really are able to share the load and have a lot of fun together.”

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