t's no secret that parenting is a juggling act, but a new survey by British supermarket chain Cooperative Food suggests that there is, at least, some respite. Nearly two-thirds of the 3,000 working parents polled say they feel like "most of their time" is spent working. On average, the respondents spend eight hours a day working, another hour commuting, and more than two hours getting their kids ready for school, picking them up, and feeding them. Then another hour for playtime and putting the kids to bed — leaving around 90 minutes "to themselves." Parent bloggers scoffed, saying they only have that much free time in their dreams. Do working mothers and fathers really have an hour and a half of spare time every day?
Parents are lucky if they get a fraction as much free time: Ninety minutes is far too generous, says Liza Mundy at Slate, "unless you count things like feeding the cats or taking out the recycling as 'spare' time." It's particularly unrealistic for parents with toddlers in the house — for them, there's always "some small body" needing "to be lifted or put down or herded or rescued or fed or bathed or clothed or ferried." The time those overworked moms and dads get "to themselves" ends when they get out of the shower.
"The strands of time"
If you learn to savor each minute, it adds up: "Maybe it's all in how you define 'free time,'" says Brett Singer at ParentDish. "I spend my day either working, doing various kid-related tasks," or cleaning up. But I also "force myself to take a few minutes every now and then" to slow down long enough to have a cup of coffee or "do something crazy — like actually finish reading an entire magazine article." Even if it doesn't add up to 90 minutes a day, every 15-minute break "is a big help."
"Parents, how much free time do you have?"
There is never enough downtime: It's "sad" that 90 minutes seems so unrealistic, says Sue Kidd at the Today show's Moms blog. But we already knew that finding balance is a major "quandary for every working parent." The bottom line is that unless you scratch something off the to-do list and take the time you need, you'll always feel trapped on the "hamster wheel of work, kids, chores, more work, more chores, kids."
"Study: Parents get 90 minutes downtime. Parents: Really?!"
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