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Committed parents want to spend more time with their children

Children are the main focus in the daily life of today's parents. But despite profound commitment, many parents would like to have more time with their offspring.

"Spending time with the kids and taking care of their daily needs has top priority, edging out adult activities such as personal fun and fitness workouts," according to Lucas Forsberg at Tema Children. His doctoral thesis takes a close look at the daily life of eight middle-class Swedish families with schoolchildren, families in which both parents work at least 75 percent of a normal full-time job.

He sees a lifestyle that focuses on children. Parents feel pressured, not only by their own standards, but by the community-at-large, especially the schools. Homework is the daily task that causes most conflicts between parents and the children.

"The parent bearing the brunt of the commitment, even in this day and age, is Mom," says Lucas Forsberg with a tone of disappointment.

"The families in our study are conscious, committed and concerned with gender equality. Nonetheless, it is still the mothers who shoulder the main responsibility for day-to-day child care."

Although kids are usually close by when housework chores are being taken care of, parents do not count that as time spent with the kids. They want quality-time, time that focuses on the children's needs and wants.

"Parents envision an ideal world where they shut out everything else to give the child their undivided attention. It is difficult to turn that dream to reality when they have so many practical demands on their time. This dilemma results in a bad conscience," says Lucas Forsberg.

His study is part of a larger project that investigates the daily life of contemporary families with young children. Three countries are compared: Sweden, the United States and Italy. The research is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic, not-for-profit institution based in New York City.

"Sweden is usually regarded as a leader in issues on child care and gender equality. But our study indicates that Swedish parents have not yet achieved full gender equality," says Lucas Forsberg.


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Last updated: 2009-06-03