Mindful Parenting- Parents' Work Schedules
Updated: May 3
Mindful parenting is when a mom or dad brings her or his conscious attention to what’s happening instead of getting hijacked by their emotions. These mindful parents are able to let go of shame about the past and focus on right now. These mindful parents accept whatever is going on, working with and around it, rather than trying to change it or ignore it.
For instance, we might try and evaluate whether we truly love and are proud of what we do in our current work. But with life transitions such as divorce and/or custody modification comes financial change or instability. The reality then becomes we have to do what we have to do, regardless of whether we “love” it. Why? Because it works. All we can do is acknowledge that and then modify our expectations or definitions of “happiness,” as well as our lifestyle, to allow the continuation of what simply makes right now’s ends meet. In that, we don’t need to love it. We just need to live it. But with awareness of how it affects our families and the time spent with them.
Genadek and Hill (2017) find that work schedules influence the amount of time spent with children, and that this varies depending on different attributes of the work schedule. Is it flexible? Is it consistent? What are the start and stop times, and are these consistent? Genadek and Hill (2017) also find that work schedules, and their attributes, impact the timing of the parents day and thus the activities that the parent can do with the child, such as leisure activities, housework, sharing meals together, and primary care (2017). While more time with children, overall, has a positive impact on their development, time spent in primary care and shared meal time are particularly beneficial (as cited in Genadek and Hill, 2017).
So, work schedules affect the amount of time spent with children AND how that time is spent with children, both of which have effects on the development of children. If these are the effects of work, and work is an unchangeable part of life and circumstance, I’d like to offer one step in the mindful parent direction for parents who do not live together: Build your custody schedule with work schedule awareness.
Generally, Genadek and Hill find that consistent and flexible schedules are best for maximizing time spent with children in both quantity and quality. Having work days that are inconsistent is not helpful for caregiving, and may make spending time with children more difficult (2017). While we do not always have control over our schedules (though you should do a serious check-in on where you might be able to find space for flexibility and control, maybe by talking to your employer, reviewing and questioning policies, etc.), there is power in the knowledge of what is important for children and their development: As much quality time as possible! If you can’t change how much time you spend with your children, can you change how you spend time with them?
Applying Genadek and Hill’s findings to custody schedules, it stands that no matter what you want for custody, you should consider the practicalities of what you can realistically do with the least complications, based on what your job requires of you. You can also use Genadek and Hill’s findings as a measurement of fairness by weighing time differently. Maybe the question of fairness shouldn’t be how much time each parent is spending with the child, but what is the quality of that time. Does each parent get a fair share of quality time? Lastly, acknowledge your work schedule/type and compare it to that of the other parent to get a reading on how quality their time spent with the children is. Who has more flexibility and consistency in their work days? Who more often has the ability to start and stop their work day at consistent times, as compared to circumstantially starting early and running late? Answering these questions, even on a day-by-day (for example, “Thursdays are ALWAYS crazy for me,” or, “It is rare that I am at the office past 1:00 on Friday afternoons) or month-by-month (for example, do you have a busy season?) basis, might be helpful in creating a custody schedule that is both beneficial for the children and fair for each parent.
Genadek, K. R., & Hill, R. (2017). Parents' Work Schedules and Time Spent with Children. Community, work & family, 20(5), 523–542. doi:10.1080/13668803.2017.1371672.