The 20 minute rule

September 28, 2016  •  1 Comment


Back when my daughter was a baby, I remember reading an article instructing parents on the importance of spending 20 minutes a day with their children.  “Psshh,” I thought smugly, “I spend hours on the floor each day with my baby. 20 minutes? How sad.”  I was head over heels in love with my daughter, wanted nothing more then to soak up every minute with her and couldn’t imagine a life in which 20 minutes a day was an acceptable allowance of time to spend on my baby.


Head over HeelsMe & A, 2008


Well, life changed. 


In the 7 years between the day I first read that article and now, I have moved twice, started a business, and watched my husband accept a position at work that has him away from home more often than not.  My days morphed into a blur of multi-tasking as I tried to balance the needs of my kids and my goals for my business with virtually no support and very limited childcare.   


Stackable Ramins, 2011Work/ Life Balance

Over the last year, my daughter developed a refrain that I started to hear daily.  “No one cares about me.  No one pays attention to me.”  Fantastic.  “No matter how much I give her, no matter how much I do for her, it’s never enough,” I thought. 

I alternated between brushing off her remarks as her being dramatic and blaming myself for being selfish for putting so much time into my business.  I redoubled my efforts to stay centered and present.  I tried to compartmentalize family time versus work time.  But still, the accusation kept coming.  “Nobody likes me.”

Alone in the big, wide world.

Finally I came across an article from a parenting course that I had purchased long ago. In this article, Amy McReady, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, explains what she calls Mind, Body and Soul time.  Simply put, Mind, Body and Soul time is time spent one-on-one with each child for 10 minutes, twice a day in an activity of the child’s choosing. 


There’s that 20-minute a day rule again.

But now instead of smug dismissal, I felt a sudden panic.  20 minutes?  Per kid?  Every day?  Who has time for that? Our daily routine flashed through my head:

get ready for school > school > get ready for after school activity > activity > get ready for bed > bed

Far from the days of having hours engaged in kid centered play, now we’re reduced to mere moments of conversation tucked between the commitments of life.  Yes, we have time together, but undivided attention centered around an activity of my daughter’s choosing?  Dear God, she wasn’t being dramatic. She was feeling the loss of true connection and desperately waiting for someone to hear her.   

A Day at the Beach

So I meditated on this puzzle of how to create more time, and then I made a plan.  I started putting my son to bed earlier and made a commitment to create Mind, Body and Soul time each night with my daughter in that hour between my son’s bedtime and hers.  It’s nothing fancy.  Usually she just wants to play dolls or act out a scene from a favorite book.  Sometimes we just talk. But do you know what?  It’s working!  She’s happier, she’s more patient with her brother and the best part—no more accusations that we don’t care about her. 

"Good story, Cathy, but what does this have to do with family photography."

Well, this brings me to my Oprah “What I know for sure” moment: the number one thing our kids want from us is our time.  In an age when busy-ness is rampant and time seems to be of short supply, it can feel oppressive if not impossible to get in daily quality time.  I get it.  There are days when I look at my calendar and think, “no way, not happening”.  In fact there are days when I have evening obligations and I miss Mind, Body, Soul time.  But my daughter now understands that I am doing my best.  She sees that I am making an effort and she keeps enough reserves in her tank to carry her through the days when life gets in the way.


This realization is one of the reasons I am so committed to Day in the Life photography.  Your days are full of obligations.  You and your kids don't need another 'have to' on the schedule that takes you away from time you could be connecting as a family.  I center my photography around what you like to do together.  You get to stay emotionally available, engaged in an activity that your kids love.  You get to give your children the gift of your time, and I just arrive to bear witness.  

We hear the phrase so often, it become cliche:

It goes so fast.  

In a way, all we have is time.  It's how we choose to use it that counts.



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It is said that she was killed during the seventeenth century by a privateer ruler, yet dark to him was that she was the descendent from a long line of witches. Reliably on Halloween she raises from the dead and feeds upon the living, never recognizing time has passed and consistently neglecting what she is until she sees her first loss.
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