Parents’ time resources
Parents’ time resources are a very significant factor and they must be mentioned here in order to meet the requirements of the International Time and Motion Study Research Guidelines, Ås 1982.
Parents spend time on a number of different activities which can be defined in practical terms by:
- location (where an activity occurs)
- interaction (the person(s) they are with) and
- behaviour (what they do).
Time/activities are split into four main groups:
1. Necessary Time- time spent on the basic, personal needs for rest, eating, personal hygiene which can be opportunities for being with one’s children in close, private interaction, which is contact and play in a valuable combination. This is the kind of play between parents and children which is referred to in the play classification as “intimate play”. This is not a hobby, more an “interest”.
2. Contracted Time- is the time parents spend at work, in study and education, including travelling time connected with these activities.
Children’s roles in these activities are limited with the exception of children whose parents are self-employed and where parents state specifically that the children participate in work by “helping indoors and outdoors”, the play classification’s “tools/collecting/sewing”.
3. Committed Time- includes daily obligations in connection with the family’s everyday life, cleaning, shopping, looking after children and practical activities including home maintenance and gardening. Many of these activities can be carried out with the children. Also included here is a large group of activities which include obligatory and play characteristics. (These forms of play are listed under “Tools/collecting/sewing”.)
4. Free Time- the time remaining when all the parents’ other activities are completed - time they are free to spend as they choose.
Activities included here are individual and the individual person carries out these activities without obligation and for the sake only of his/her own personal enjoyment. Play and interaction in free time can, of course, take place with children but many parents tend rather to see this as duty rather than pleasure.
Much of parents’ free time is also spent outside the home and without involving the children. Many parents have an idea that free time is something which they prefer to enjoy without children. Other parents would never dream of e.g. going on holiday or spending free time without their children.
There are no overviews showing how parents in families with children combine the four forms of activities mentioned above but the figures for the use of time in Steenhold’s tables (1993,d) are best regarded as tentative.
Parents’ interaction with their children in their free time is (seen from the adult perspective) by no means necessarily a pleasure and the time children and parents spend together is often limited and involves several different activities simultaneously.
Qualitative interaction - measured in time spent - is not an easy thing to measure and the quality of the activity itself cannot be measured by its content.
Children’s assistance in single parent families is of far greater importance for the efficient functioning of everyday family life than it is in homes with two parents. There is nothing in the families’ responses to tell us whether this is play/interaction or duty/work.