The 19-Minute Mother


According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, “A typical working parent spends just 19 minutes a day looking after their children” (Daily Mail, July 19).

The Office for National Statistics studied nearly 4,950 people in a “Time Use Survey,” tracking how much time each person allotted to individual activities throughout the day. According to the study, the top three activities were sleeping, working and watching television. At the bottom of the list, as presented by the Daily Mail, were activities like reading, at 10 to 24 minutes per day, and spending time with children, at 19 minutes per day.

The Daily Mail wrote, “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 bedtime stories. … The findings make grim reading for working parents who already worry that they spend too much time at work—and too little at home.”

The British survey results come at a time when there are more working mothers than ever. It shows just how much two-income families are shortchanging their children. According to the study, over 12 million moms work outside the house today compared to approximately 8 million in 1970. The report blames rising household costs and bloated mortgages for the climb.

However, it appears that Britain’s working mothers are now pining for an alternate reality—a dream that envisions them taking a traditional role in the family. When asked by Prima magazine, “In an ideal world, what would you like to be?” only 6 percent of women said they want to work full-time; 26 percent want to be a “housewife and mother” and another 50 percent want to be a “mum who works part-time.”

Maire Fahey, editor of prima magazine, suggested that the 19-minute mommy can be blamed on parents trying to balance family life with pursuit of material happiness. “In the 1980s, we thought we could have it all and aspired to high-flying careers and happy families. But the cracks are starting to show. Family life is suffering and something has got to give” (ibid.).

That something that “has got to give” is the fabric of society itself. It is unraveling at an unprecedented rate, with the biggest victims of our reckless pursuit of happiness being our children.