For a whole week in 2019 I recorded the time I spent on daily activities every 30 minutes. I thought I’d do the same again, this time as the father of two young children. Here’s what I found:
An increase in sleep
That might sound counterintuitive given all the jokes about new parents and loss of sleep. My daughters are now 2 years old so luckily we’re beyond the days of night feeding. The explanation I can give is that parenting is difficult enough for your body to require more sleep. If your day starts at 6am you also cut out the late nights and learn to prioritise sleep. This results in over 9 hours a night in bed. However, with sleep disturbances it’s unfortunately not a solid 9 hours. It might be more appropriate to give it the label “time in bed”.
A reduction in work
There has been a definite switch from “living to work” to “working to live”. After the pandemic hit a lot of people reassessed their priorities, myself included. The conclusion was that if my job pays me to work 35 hours a week, I will work 35 hours a week. I will not go above and beyond, working extra hours to get noticed. It’s not that I’m any less committed to the role, it’s that I don’t feel the need to consistently do more.
An increase in childcare (duh!)
I cover childcare alternate mornings from 6-9am by myself, plus a few hours when my wife wants to do something else. Evenings and weekends are family time, either playing, reading books or simply supervising their independent play. It’s still demanding enough that I can’t sit and read a book of my own, but it’s not always hands on parenting. This has been the biggest adjustment for me since having children. The idea that someone clocks off from work and has time to themselves is almost incomprehensible.
One of the best outcomes from the pandemic is the shift to home working. This allows me to trade my daily commute to a weekly one, saving a whopping 9 hours on public transport. That extra time is not repurposed to “more work”, despite some employers expecting that to be the case! Instead, it’s time I can simply take back for myself.
Exercise is a Priority
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I’ve maintained my exercise levels post-parenthood. It’s the first thing on my calendar for the day and I’ll even change my working hours to accommodate it. Right now I’m taking 0.25 days holiday each week to have two long lunch breaks for the gym. I also make a point of prepping my lunch in the morning. This allows me to squeeze in a 45 minute workout in the middle of the day during my lunch hour.
Reduction in Self-Improvement
This has been one of the more difficult changes for me to handle. My hobbies (7.5 -> 4 hours) and learning (7 -> 2.5 hours) were evening and weekend activities that have now been replaced by childcare. I enjoy reading, and continue to do so on my shorter commute, but the amount I do has slowed considerably. I consider myself a lifelong learner and have reluctantly paused some “upskilling” projects until my children are older.
Even in 2019 what I logged as TV was actually streaming sites like Netflix and not a physical TV. These days I typically watch a film every 2-3 months. That’s despite receiving a constant list of “must watch” films and series from friends and family. Spoiler alert: 90% of recommendations are shows that you aren’t really missing out on. Six months after the Squid Game hype I asked if it was still worth watching, and not a single person said “yes”.
This experiment lies on the boundary of tedium and insight so may not be to everyone’s liking. Having hard numbers at the end of the week does mean you can’t shy away from the truth. The process of logging activities also makes you realise how you’re choosing to spend your time.
My main takeaways are:
- I have a renewed appreciation for the opportunity to work from home. It means the world to me to save two hours a day and spend that time more wisely (not to mention the cost saving!)
- A reduction in FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I’ve generally cut out unproductive time, either watching films or aimlessly browsing the internet (filed under Miscellaneous). I rarely feel like I’ve missed something genuinely worth watching.
- Childcare is (literally) a full time job. I spent as many hours looking after my children as I do in full time employment.
- If something is a priority, you’ll make it work. While 10 hours of exercise seems a lot, it’s exactly the amount I save by not watching Netflix or scrolling social media, and I’m healthier for it.
If you’d like to try this, I recommend creating a notepad on your app. It may also help to change your home screen for the week, to prompt you every time you open your phone. It’s not as hard as it seems, for some people Monday to Friday will almost write itself, and who knows, you might learn something.