Family

Finding time for family

Working parents face challenges to spend time with children

Posted 6/6/16

Any working parent can relate to Tiffany Haynes.

“It’s hard,” she said. “Balancing work and sports and all of that stuff. I feel like nine times out of 10 I’m just trying to make ends meet.”

Like millions of Americans, Haynes works …

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Family

Finding time for family

Working parents face challenges to spend time with children

Posted

Any working parent can relate to Tiffany Haynes.

“It’s hard,” she said. “Balancing work and sports and all of that stuff. I feel like nine times out of 10 I’m just trying to make ends meet.”

Like millions of Americans, Haynes works full time while raising her family. She runs her own housecleaning service in Parker and has three children, all of whom are involved in various sports outside of school.

“I make time with my kids whenever I can,” she said, “but most of the time, that time is at sporting events.”

She recently got engaged, but Haynes has been a single working parent for nine years. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, she’s among millions of mothers who support their families. In 2015, 70.8 percent of women in single-parent households worked full time.

It would seem that having two parents in the home would decrease the strain on schedules and allow more time for families to be together, but data indicate that isn’t the case.

In a 45-year study, the Pew Research Center found the number of families in which both parents work full time has increased from 31 percent to 46 percent between 1970 and 2015. Both parents work at least part time in 60.6 percent of all American families, according to whitehouse.gov.

Parents in the Pew study also reported that more time on the job and less time at home takes a toll on their ability to have meaningful family time. Approximately 40 percent of working mothers reported they spend too little time with their children, and 50 percent of working fathers said the same.

Numbers indicate the problem is growing, but statistics don’t tell the whole story.

“It definitely is getting worse,” said Jasmyne Kettwick, a family therapist in Parker who’s seen an increase in parents who say they are too busy to spend enough time with their children.

“People are working a lot harder to really get ahead. It takes much more to buy a home, to pay off student loan debt … we are working harder and longer.”

The ‘Facebook Effect’

Other factors, like social media, contribute to the issue, Kettwick said.

The “Facebook Effect,” she said, comes into play when a parent sees peers posting images that portray a successful work life paired with an ideal family life, regardless of whether or not that image is real. Kettwick says it’s important to remember that social media posts show only what the poster wants the world to see. But the effect can still be upsetting for a parent who struggles to balance work and family.

“It can bring them down if they see others achieving something they aren’t able to achieve,” Kettwick said, “if they see something on social media like Facebook that they would like to do, but they feel it’s unattainable because they are too strapped for money or time or energy.”

Haynes knows what Kettwick means.

“I work full time and I see these moms posting things,” she said. “Part of me wants to say `What do these people do?’ How do they find time to make homemade cupcakes for their kid’s class when I barely have time to go to the grocery store and buy them for my kids’ classes?’ ”

Another catalyst for stress among working parents is the idea that they have to be successful in every aspect of life. “The glorification of busy,” Kettwick said, leads many working parents to try too hard to have it all.

“There are so many things to get right,” Kettwick said. “You have to have a nice home that’s put together like all the homes you see on HGTV, you have to be able to provide meals for your family that are healthy and presentable, you have to be able to have a job where you can sustain a certain lifestyle, and you have to be able to get your kids to all their activities.”

Jennifer Winship doesn’t want to have it all. She just wants 20 minutes with her sons.

Winship and her husband, Eric, share custody of her two sons, Brennan, 16, and Jakeb, 11, with her ex-husband. The alternating weeks that the boys spend with their father give her and Eric time to connect. But on the weeks the boys are with them in their Parker home, things can get hectic.

Eric works 40 hours a week and Jennifer works between 40 and 50. Jakeb is involved in a computer club and swimming six days a week and Brennan is on a robotics team, plays football and just landed a student internship at Lockheed Martin.

“We try to do dinner together — that is the time we come around and ask `How was your day?’ and find out what’s going on the next day,” Jennifer said. “It’s kind of our time to regroup. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, we try to figure that out.”

Despite family dinner being a priority, Eric and Jennifer say they still have “FFYN” or “fend-for-yourself-night” about once a week, when schedules and fatigue dictate an a la carte menu.

Jennifer and Eric say their family doesn’t compare their situation to others on social media. They may not have the ideal life Kettwick says many families strive for, but they’re happy with the one they have.

“This is life,” Jennifer said with a shrug. “As a parent, I accept the fact that for the next however many years I have with them, I’m going to be tired, and I’m OK with that. It is what it is and when you reach levels of acceptance in life and you realize that this is just part of it, it’s not such a burden.”

Making family time a priority

Like many of her clients, Kettwick says she does creative scheduling and utilizes her parents. Her husband, Andy, is out of state four days a week and their calendar forces them to plan the time they will spend together.

Making family time a priority is essential, Kettwick said, for parents to overcome the feeling that they just don’t have enough time to be with their children. And, she says, it’s something all families can do.

A family dinner, going bowling or having a game night can provide the time a family needs to bond and connect, but Kettwick says it needs to be planned in advance so family members can look forward to it instead of looking back on it as a missed opportunity.

“Create a couple of really strong goals for your family … something small to start with,” Kettwick said. “Make it attainable, and actually schedule it in … You can also have it be something more general, like saying `these are the five things I want us to do this summer,’ and then make sure you fit them in as you go.”

Single-parent families like Haynes and her children face a tougher challenge to find family time, but Kettwick says quality is more important than quantity.

After a long workday many single parents feel drained. They may not have enough down time to help with homework or read with them, but finding one simple thing to build a routine around can make all the difference to children, Kettwick says.

“All kids crave having a routine,” she said. Finding one activity — setting the table, preparing dinner or even watching television together — can provide the “quality time piece” children and the parent can count on.

“It helps both of them know that this is something that will be done, each day,” she said. Kettwick says everyone’s idea of the perfect family routine or activity is different. What matters, she says is simply being together.

“Kids just want to spend time with their parents,” she said. “They don’t need it to be perfect.”

Haynes doesn’t need an expert to tell her that.

She says she rarely eats dinner with her children and they spend an average of 10 hours a week together, mostly on weekends, “going from one sporting event to the next.”

But she doesn’t complain.

“I don’t feel like we’re missing out on good family time,” she said. “It’s just when you have working parents, this becomes your new normal.”

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