What makes for thriving kids, peaceful homes and happy families?

(Clue: it’s not ironed sheets, spotless floors or nicely plumped accent cushions.)

Apparently parents spend more time taking care of the household chores than they do playing with their children. About 83 per cent of them have days where household chores and other commitments leave them feeling like they haven’t spent any real time with their children at all. We found this fascinating, but not altogether a surprise.

Here are the top 10 things that people say get in the way of quality time with children, according to a recent survey:

1. Household chores
2. Long working hours
3. School timetables
4. Children’s homework
5. The children would prefer to play computer games
6. Everyone in the family is too busy on computers/phones/tablets
7. The children would rather watch TV
8. Anti-social working hours
9. Children’s extra-curricular activities
10. The children would rather go to their friend’s houses

What’s particularly heart-breaking is that nearly half of parents admit that their children had made comments or complained about the time they spend cleaning the house rather than playing with them.

I am one of the 83 per cent.

There are indeed days when my children get up, go to school, have whatever it is they have going on after school, and then it’s a fast track to tea, homework and bed. And the truth is that while I’m cooking, washing up, doing the laundry or faffing about, they’re entertaining themselves, usually in the company of a screen of some size or another. Cue another guilt trip.

It’s not like I’d win any prizes for a clean and tidy house, either. In fact, my house is a monument to engaging with nature.

The corners are full of cobwebs. The boys and I have watched spiders spinning, hunting, mating and fighting, real-life natural drama, all from the comfort of our sofa. After introducing my niece to the spiders under the book shelf, I started getting text messages from her with photos of spiders she spotted on her way to school. She had found herself a bit of extra daily #wildtime, and I love that. Leopard slugs pay us visits at night, and we leave them alone – they make themselves scarce of their own accord, they keep garden pests under control, and in all honestly, I just can’t see what harm they do.

I subscribe to the ‘DALAP’ school of thought when it comes to household chores (do as little as possible). But if even someone who is a lax as I am about household chores realises that these tasks get in the way of spending time with the children, then how do the seriously zealous fare? The study behind these figures, by bedding giant, Slumberdown, found the average parent spends almost four hours a day (the equivalent of more than 59 days a year) doing chores. But we spend on average slightly under 3.5 hours a week enjoying time with our children. That’s 52 days a year.

The study also found that long working hours, busy diaries, social calendars and children preferring to watch TV were also blamed for getting in the way of family time.

Most parents say that they wish they had more time to spend with their children.

And we'd like this away from the distraction of the household chores. Ignoring chores can be stressful, too, the study found. Ah-ha! There’s the chink of opportunity! What we parents need is permission to say no, to stand up to the guilt of undone chores, and to ignore the raised noses of judgmental relatives.

What can we do to make it easier to ignore chores that, particularly those that aren’t really that important? This is the awesome, magnificent, wonderful and free answer to this problem...

GET OUTDOORS!

The Wild Network urges children to pledge every hour of screen time with an hour of Wild Time. This study suggests that we need to look at our own behaviour, too (especially number 6 on that list).

What if we all tried to swop a little bit of that daily Chores Time for more Wild Time with the kids? Being outdoors is such a tonic, so restorative, so calming, that the restorative effect it has seeps into daily life.

Swop Chores Time for Wild Time, and this will happen:

  • You can’t do housework, because you’re nowhere near either the house or the work.
  • You get to spend brilliant, memorable, high-quality time with your family.
  • And (wait for it, this is the genius part) – you are less likely to be bothered about it.

And of course (genius alert #2), our savvy, independent, resourceful children will then be much more likely to turn into older kids who want to go outside and play wild, leaving us parents with more time to do what we want.

Except dusting cobwebs. 


By Tamsin Constable, for The Wild Network. Image: Natalie Johnson, 2016. A wild, chore-free Sunday stroll.


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