The One-on-One Trick

Eleven years ago, when my first child was a few months old, I met a mom in Gymboree class. She had three kids. She asked me out for coffee afterwards, and we sat in Starbucks with our babies for 45 minutes, new mom alongside wise mom. I never saw her again, but she gave me advice I never forgot.

"How many kids do you want?" she asked.

I didn't know. I solemnly told her my husband wanted five. (This still makes me crack up. Five? We'd be dead.)

"No more than three," she said, definitively. "Because think about it -- you need some one-on-one time with each kid in order to be a really good parent, right?"

Knocked upside down and blissed out by early motherhood, I'd never thought about parenthood in such concrete, futuristic terms.

"Each week, my husband and I each spend about an hour one-on-one with each of our three children," she went on. "It's hard to find that time, believe it or not."

Here I am, eleven years later, the mom of three kids. Not because I think there is anything magic about three -- some parents barely have time for one, others can find one-on-one time with six. But her advice about the importance of "alone time" stayed with me. Carving out one-on-one time with each kid is sometimes a challenge amidst the chaos of work, coaching and volunteer responsibilities, making sure everyone gets fed and clothed each day, taking care of five pets, keeping up with family members and neighbors and avoiding e-mail avalanches. But for me, spending time alone with each child has become a benchmark of balance.

Two weeks ago, that same child I held in my arms in Starbucks went with me for an unforgettable 36-hour whirlwind to Disney World. My husband takes one of our daughters out to breakfast almost every weekend. Each morning in front of school, after the two older kids have ditched us for their friends, my five year old crawls into the car's front seat for our five-minute snuggle. Every day, at least one kid (and often all three) politely insists on "alone time" conversations that often ward off tantrums, meltdowns and internecine warfare. These private moments allow for intimacy, jokes, confidences and a brief respite from the conflicts, rivalries and tornados of living in a multi-kid family.

What about you? Did your parents spend one-on-one time with you as a child? Is it easy or impossible for you to find one-on-one balance with your kids? Do you think it matters as much as I do?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 7, 2008; 7:25 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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Posted by: chemguy1157 | March 7, 2008 7:44 AM

"Did your parents spend one-on-one time with you as a child? "

Only related to chores, preaching, and judging. There were kinda surprised when their kids grew up and didn't spend much time with the parents. What goes around comes around.

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 7, 2008 7:48 AM


Leslie, a good column today.

When my older kids were still at home. I sometimes extended this one on one time to a whole day. I would take each kid on a day long trip to local attractions, historical sites or festivals.

Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 8:00 AM

I agree about the importance of one-on-one time. And if I didn't, my daughter would make me agree. :-)

One of her favorite things is when I take her to school (usually, dad does dropoff and I do pickup) -- if I have time, we'll drop off little brother, and then go have breakfast. Sometimes it's a full sit-down at Bob Evans, sometimes it's just pickup up Chick-fil-A. But she LOVES it. Of course, soon the boy is going to be old enough to want to horn in, so I don't know what we'll do then. :-)

Another thing that's been very important to us is alone time with the grandparents. Probably the best stress relief my girl has is when she can go over there without little bro tagging along. And on the flip side, the week that she was gone to Disney with dad, little bro just flowered with all the attention (turns out he's not a quiet kid -- he just couldn't get a word in edgewise!).

Posted by: laura33 | March 7, 2008 8:13 AM

Hey guys,

Frieda had her first chemo treatment yesterday. So far, ok but I understand that the side effects take about 24 hours to surface.

She hasn't decided if she will be a blonde or redhead yet. I vote for redhead!


Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 8:18 AM

Wow - I've never had it spelled out that clearly, but it is something we have observed: When we take our kids out alone it is totally different. They soak up the attention, interact with us more (or is it us interacting with them more?), are easier to handle and really fun to be around.
If I take my son (1 1/2) grocery shopping, it is great. If I take my daughter
(3 1/2) clothes shopping or to the book store, ditto - we have actual conversations and I can see her enjoy herself.

Alone with me or their father, they become individuals since the whole "us-vs.-them" mechanic of just dealing with them is gone...

Making it regular is something I had never thought of and will be talking over with my husband... sounds great.

Oh - and my parents? I was the oldest of five and although they tried to spend time with each of us and do special things and encourage our areas of interest, the time just wasn't there. So it usually was one-on-one time with my dad when there was something important to be discussed (good or bad), but no social time.

Posted by: enkafiles | March 7, 2008 8:18 AM

Excellent column, Leslie. One-on-one time is very important.

I was the middle of three, and cherished one-on-one time with my parents, especially with my father because he was gone so often for so long. I like golf because I used to love caddying for him - three to five hours of time, just him, me and his playing partners. I learned a lot.

I was always around Mom, so one-on-one time didn't seem so important - probably because it was a lot more common.

When we were in college, my sister pointed out that she never had one-on-one time with our father, and was never as close to him as my brother and I. That struck me; I vowed I'd always make time for my daughters if I had them.

There's nothing magic about the number "3"; we have four kids and manage time with each of them. Okay, nobody ever got taken to Disney World alone; we're not in that kind of financial stratum. But oldest DD started playing softball right after youngest DD was born, and she really enjoyed the fact that Dad went to all her practices and games, knew how she was doing, and could tell you whether she'd had a good or bad game. It was her "special time" with Dad, and in some ways we've been closer because of it than she and her Mother have ever been.

Share their interests. Be interested in them. Include them in your activities if they want. Because now that the oldest is in college, the one-on-one time with her is very rare. It's starting to slip away with the two high schoolers, as well. But I'll always make time for them.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 7, 2008 8:18 AM


"She hasn't decided if she will be a blonde or redhead yet. I vote for redhead!"

You dawg!

Lucy redhead or Rita Hayworth redhead?

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 7, 2008 8:21 AM

Rita, definely!

Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 8:26 AM

There were 4 of us and the age-spread was normal until an "accident." We were 11,9,7, and newborn. None of us ever really got alone time with my mom, but we did with my dad. He would take one of us older ones to breakfast and to run errands on Saturdays.

In addition, my dad collected and fixed up old cars. So one of us would would fly to Texas or Ohio to pick up the car and then drive back with him. That was great time with dad. The kids not on the trip would be so mad and jealous!

Posted by: LBH219 | March 7, 2008 8:26 AM

Second Fred's suggestion - Rita Hayworth redhead!

(Or Veronica Lake strawberry-blonde. Always liked that.)

Posted by: m2j5c2 | March 7, 2008 8:53 AM

I have 3 kids (2 11yo and 1 7yo). NOTHING is more important than some alone time. We try to do a little each day (10 mns) and definitely make more time on the weekends. You need that connection time. Even if it's running to the grocery store, take a child with you. When my twins were young, I would do my shopping on Saturday. Lots of stores and headaches, but I'd always take one child with me, go to lunch with her and make her feel special. My husband would do the same with the one left at home. With 3, it's a little more complicated, but we manage.

Now I'm just waiting for some one-on-one time with my husband!

Posted by: Stormy1 | March 7, 2008 9:00 AM

Good point about alone time with relatives.

Perry and I went to NYC for a wedding last weekend and took our littlest. She spent most of the weekend alone with her grandparents. It was very special all around.

My grandmother had a policy that she would take each grandchild on one trip anywhere they wanted to go once. She was very extravagant. She only got through three of nine grandkids before she died (I missed out sadly) but it was a wonderful concept. Doesn't need to be on her grand scale -- it's not the destination that mattered.

My younger sister is very close with my kids and they CLAMOR for alone time with her. During our Disney World trip we stopped by to see her for a day and my son spent every waking hour glued to her hip.

This also gives parents a break -- or time for alone time with their other kids.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 7, 2008 9:03 AM

Off topic: Fred - I always wanted to be a redhead...the one time I tried, it ended up looking more like purple than red, but that was back in the early 80s when purple was tres in, so it wasn't so bad. I vote for redhead, not blonde, though if Frieda always wanted to be blonde, then go for it!

On topic: I always liked spending time with each kid. Nowadays, usually in the car on the way to some event, but at least they talk then.

Off topic: Leslie, were you sick the other day? The blog entry was later than usual and, with the flu sicking up everyone around me, I hope it wasn't your way too!

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 7, 2008 9:35 AM

My parents, especially my father, made a point of having one-on-one time with both my brother (3 years younger) and me. Those are some of the best memories from my childhood, actually. For the last trip he ever took, my father and I went to Washington (we lived in South Carolina) to check out Georgetown University for me for college. We made it a long weekend and went to dinner, the Kennedy Center, shopping, to the Capitol. He was diagnosed with cancer less than two months later, and passed away shortly after when I was 17. If it weren't for his concerted efforts of making one-on-one time with each of his kids, I doubt we would have as many wonderful memories of him as we do. It's SO important.

Posted by: plawrimore1 | March 7, 2008 9:40 AM

I take a few moments with each kid as I tuck them into bed. We usually lie together and snuggle and a lot of interesting questions, conversations come up (what's a reservoir tip on a condom? was the question from the 11 yo last night. She has sex ed in school this semester.)
I look forward to that time and so do they though occasionally it devolves into arguments about who got a longer *cuddle* time than the other.

Posted by: anne.saunders | March 7, 2008 9:55 AM

With a wife and 4 kids, I calculated that there are exactly 32 different combinations of immediate family members that I can spend time with. One on one is important, but so are the other 27 combinations, including alone time. (Army Brat, Foamy, check my math?)

When I'm out with my oldest daughter and youngest son, people mistake my daughter for my wife. As long as she doesn't get away with ordering a beer at lunch, I'm fine with that. Hahaha!

Mostly I spent one on one time with the youngest, which may not be such a good idea since I have a way of corrupting people, even my own kids aren't off limits.

Posted by: DandyLion | March 7, 2008 9:56 AM

You have only 31 combinations with other immediate family members -- 15 with various combinations of your 4 kids with your wife, another 15 without her, plus 1 with your wife but none of the kids.

I'm sure I speak for Atlmom in reminding you that others here also have math backgrounds *sniffle* *sniffle*

Posted by: mehitabel | March 7, 2008 10:08 AM

Because I am a single mother with one child, we have a lot of one-on-one time--we even commute together, so that's an extra hour and a half each week day I have with her. She's still at the age (almost 12) that she enjoys time with me; I hope we always maintain this closeness.

Posted by: pepperjade | March 7, 2008 10:25 AM


"I'm sure I speak for Atlmom in reminding you that others here also have math backgrounds *sniffle* *sniffle*".

What are the combinations for for me and my three cats? Meow!

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 7, 2008 10:25 AM

Ha, here's an "on balance" article of interest...even the Governator has a hard time finding balance. He was criticized for commuting via private jet.

"I felt it took a toll on my family not being at home every day. So what I am trying to do is find that balance between the family and running the state.",0,2891674.story

Posted by: pepperjade | March 7, 2008 10:29 AM

Chitty asked: "What are the combinations for for me and my three cats? Meow!"

Whatever your cats want them to be. Meow!

Posted by: mehitabel | March 7, 2008 10:35 AM

Hey, pets need alone time too!

I wasn't sick the other day, but thanks for asking, Dotted. I was in NYC for the Today Show and Stacey spaced on posting Maternal Profiling. I HATE IT when that happens! (The late posting, not getting to go on the Today Show).

Posted by: leslie4 | March 7, 2008 10:45 AM

I am one of 8 siblings, and while I am not sure all of us would say the same thing (I am number 2), I thought our parents made an effort to do things one-on-one at least when we were small. I used to go shopping downtown with my mother when I was 5, I can still remember my fascination with the revolving doors and the old fashioned (now) elevators in Woodies. My dad used to take one or the other of us along with him when he worked on the weekends. My mom at one point decided each of us would have a one-on-one event we chose, my sister went to the ballet with my mom when she was maybe 7 or so and saw Swan Lake because that was her passion.

For myself, I just have 2 children, now grown, and I am not sure I made as good of an effort to do these things one-on-one. But I did read to each of them alone each night... perhaps I should have done more. But yes it is important.

Posted by: catherine3 | March 7, 2008 10:46 AM

The middle kid(s) get neglected the most!

Posted by: DandyLion | March 7, 2008 10:56 AM

We'll you really got me thinking this morning Leslie... My experience with my mom, probably similar to chitty's. I just don't have so many warm fuzzy memories of spending time alone with her, which is really unfortunate. As an adult, I do like having her around, but not so much being with her one on one. I knew on an intellectual level that my mother cared about me, but she's not the type that likes to share feeling with others, so there you go. I can tell you it's tough on a daughter having a mother who is like that. My mother was a stay at home mom who would have preferred to have spent her entire life out of the workforce. This is probably why I've never felt that being a SAHM is any kind of guarantee that you are doing a good job as a parent, as some people seem to think.

My dad tried to spend some alone time with me each week. He was always the gushy one. Never talked with him about it, but I think as a child I recognized that he was trying make sure I was getting the attention and encouragement my mother wasn't able to provide. So I got lucky there.

Reflecting on the blog, and some of the responses this morning, has hit quite a nerve with me. Spending time alone with your children, listening to them and letting them know what you like about them, what it is about them that inspires you, goes along way towards helping them feel significant and capable. And if you get them hooked on that feeling of being significant and capable, well, there are worse things to be addicted to.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 7, 2008 10:58 AM

Wise advice.

Posted by: Fjet2020 | March 7, 2008 10:59 AM

Pinkie -- you got me thinking with your post.

I have several siblings. I have never, ever wanted to be an only child. I am proud to be my parents' daughter but if I had had 100% alone time with them, I think I'd be in a nuthouse. My siblings broke up the intensity of my family and their sense of humor when it came to my parents' failings absolutely saved my sanity.

So, alone time with parents is GREAT, but even more important is having happy parents. The burden of unhappy parents, particularly a mom who has made too many sacrifices on behalf of her kids, can be horrible, especially for an only child.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 7, 2008 11:05 AM

I too am one of 8 and each of us received alone time with each parent. Both parents were great and having more kids didn't make them any less of a "good parent."

Posted by: acalhoun | March 7, 2008 11:05 AM

My parents did this, and I still remember how much fun it was. What we did changed as my brother and I got older--and it was easier to find the time, I think, once we each were able to entertain ourselves without constant interaction or supervision--but it was still incredibly valuable.

The other important thing is that each parent has to spend time with each child, regardless of gender.

My brother and I each had great relationships with our parents, with very little inter-generational strain. One-on-one time isn't the only way we got there, but it was definitely part of the puzzle.

Posted by: UCLAgirl | March 7, 2008 11:06 AM

Mom was left holding the bag when Dad died suddenly. 6 kids and one on the way. I am the oldest, 9 yrs old at the time. I think Mom could have written the book 'One Minute Manager', but there really wasn't any alone time except for my sister. She and Mom shared a bedroom.

My wife and I have one child who is now grown, but we didn't schedule a specific 1-1 like I have with my boss at work. It was more about conversations in the car, working together on projects. Adequate, maybe not ideal.

Don't forget to spend time with your spouse, and time alone with yourself!

Posted by: MSchafer | March 7, 2008 11:16 AM

Excellent and thought-provoking column, Leslie! I know when Baby #2 was about to come along, we were advised to make sure we got lots of alone time with Baby #1 (then age 2) to ease the transition. That was some of the best parenting advice I've ever had.

We've had a couple of times in recent weeks where each kid has gotten to spend time alone with my in-laws, and all were just thrilled. Definitely want to do that more often.

I work FT and it can be hard to get sustained alone time with each kid (now 2 and 4). One thing I do is make sure story time is me alone with each of them, rather than jointly. It takes longer to get them both to bed this way, but I feel that alone time is probably more important right now than throwing in some laundry or whatever.

Posted by: chescokate | March 7, 2008 11:24 AM

Leslie, I think siblings can also give each other that feeling of being important, if the family dynamics are right. I read something once about kids needing to feel that they have a voice. I think some parents can stiffle that if they are too self-absorbed, too perfectionistic, too needy themsleves, regardless of how much alone time they give their kids. My MIL is very self-sacrficing and very perfectionistic, but not a particularly good listener. When she communicates with people she really is more intent on having her goodness (and her perfectionistic idea of goodness) be validated rather than hearing what anyone else has to say. So alone time with her can be draining. I think if the alone time you have with your child is working then you both walk away feeling not judged and not emotionally drained, but closer and more valuable.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 7, 2008 11:28 AM

Pink: my mom was very similar. And there are a whole host of things I'd like to discuss with her, but I can't. *sigh*. Just as I was becoming an adult, she was gone.

With my dad - I do remember every once in a while, in the summer, if dad was going on a business trip, he'd take me out for ice cream. I remember walking thru our town eating the ice cream and him singing to me (i'm leaving on a jet plane or beatles stuff or whatever). I don't believe he had that alone time with my sibs - they are both older.

We try to get alone time with the kids, but it's not necessarily scheduled. I took the little one to the grocery store (his fave place) last night, my DH coaches older one's soccer team, I get the little one sunday mornings, I'm taking the older one to see seussical in a few weeks - it all seems to work out. But yes, I agree with others that the kids need to feel important and useful and as if they matter. That's the most important.

OT to mehitabel: sure, it's nice to have SOMEONE to remember you...

OT to atb: you there today? How's the bread making going?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 7, 2008 11:58 AM

There are a couple of us with lots of siblings chiming in--I'm one of nine. Furthermore, I'm second-oldest. My parents both make a huge effort to spend one-on-one time. My dad's been less successful, since he travels for work a lot, but he used to haul me to the tire store or the auto place on weekends when I was a kid. Booooring. But it was clear that there was nothing he'd rather do than spend time with us.

These days, I have my parents over for dinner. My mom and I go shopping. My dad and I have gone scuba diving together, fixed toilets, and built decks. I know this blog is about parenting, but think about it: now we're adults, this goes two ways. Do you spend one-on-one time with your parents? Do you get to know them as people? Can you name their favorite "forbidden" food or comic strip? Do you have Father's Day gift ideas that don't feature ties?

Posted by: krasni | March 7, 2008 12:00 PM

One thing I did notice was that while each of us spend time with the kids alone, neither kid gets much BOTH mom and dad time alone. I think that's important too - when both of us went to science night with the kindergartener, he was especially grateful.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 7, 2008 12:00 PM


"Pink: my mom was very similar. And there are a whole host of things I'd like to discuss with her, but I can't. *sigh*. Just as I was becoming an adult, she was gone."

And you would have avoided my mother like the plague....

Strange how we manage to survive.

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 7, 2008 12:02 PM

What a great topic today. I was (am) an only child, so I had plenty of one-on-one time with both parents. It's funny, though, how it's the little moments that leave such lasting memories. When I was little, my dad used to watch the Smurfs with me on saturday morning. I also remember that when he went to the hardware store, he used to come home with those $1 balsa-wood airplanes, and we would spend an hour throwing it around the backyard until it invariably got stuck in a tree.

I have a 3-year old and am about to have 2 more, and I wonder how I will work out spending individual time with all 3 of them. If you do something fun with one kid, do the others feel left out?

Posted by: floof | March 7, 2008 12:18 PM

And you would have avoided my mother like the plague....

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 7, 2008 12:02 PM

And you know this how?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 7, 2008 12:34 PM

Very nice post. We have twin toddlers, one of whom is much more demanding of time. All too often it's one parent keeping an eye on both and the squeaky wheel got the grease.

We began to worry about the quieter one as he seemed to be coming along more slowly and didn't interact as much. Some specific emphasis on spending time with him really paid off. Thank you for the reminder.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 7, 2008 12:38 PM


"And you would have avoided my mother like the plague....

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 7, 2008 12:02 PM

And you know this how?"

You are correct. I'm guessing.

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 7, 2008 12:46 PM

OT to altmom- I'm stuck on the NYT no-knead bread! It's so good, easy, and consistent. I made a loaf this weekend.

I remember very little one-on-one time, but the important part is that I REMEMBER it. I don't remember much from my childhood, so it must have been important.

Posted by: atb2 | March 7, 2008 12:57 PM

Didn't get too much one-on-one time with my parents, because my dad pretty much insisted on if one of us were going to do something, the other had to be allowed to do it to. (For a while, this even applied to sleepovers!) It used to drive me crazy how he'd refer to the both of us as "you guys" (FWIW, I'm a girl, bro is well, a boy.) However, in the long run, I think this was awesome. My brother and I did get to spend a lot of time with my parents doing fun things and bonding, but even more importantly, we bonded a lot with each other and grew to see each other as friends, not competitors. My dad once told us, in the midst of a fight, that we had to learn to get along, because eventually we'd be each others' best friends. He was right. I think I'll emphasize a similar approach with my kids.

That said, of course, I think it's a good idea to steal away with a kid when the other isn't available or around. And if one WANTS to do the activity and the other doesn't, go for it with the one kid!

Posted by: JEGS | March 7, 2008 1:35 PM

"So, alone time with parents is GREAT, but even more important is having happy parents. The burden of unhappy parents, particularly a mom who has made too many sacrifices on behalf of her kids, can be horrible, especially for an only child."

I could not agree more with this. Oh, I could not agree more with it--my sister and I are still recovering from the effects of that burden. I think this is such a wonderful topic and it is so good to hear from so many people making those good choices for themselves and their kids.

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | March 7, 2008 1:36 PM

My dad was pretty much a workaholic. He worked long hours and traveled a ton for business. We rarely saw him when we were young kids.

But he did two things that were great. Every Sunday, he'd take all of us out to some cheapie place for breakfast -- Roy Rogers was a particular favorite.

And then, once we were older, he'd often try to schedule biz trips wherever we kids had scattered to as we grew up. He literally visited me every random place I went -- Cody Wyoming, Madrid Spain, Minneapolis, Boston, New Hampshire, NYC, etc etc etc.

Really remarkable now that I think about it.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 7, 2008 1:51 PM

It's sad and scary to me that the norm is for people to NOT seriously consider the aspect of spending social fun quality one on one time with their children before choosing to become parents.

I know it isn't that many generations away from when taking care of kids meant keeping them in decent health until they could fend for themselves for survival, but dang.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | March 7, 2008 2:20 PM

Gymboree, Disneyland, three kids, a husband, years of coffee at Starbucks. You sound like a rich lady livin in a fine house in the burbs. You ain't got real problems cause plainly you got all the money you need to solve the real problems. Count your blessings and thanks for volunteering!

Posted by: thw2001 | March 7, 2008 2:27 PM

This idea is nice in theory, but hard to put into practice if you are a single parent. I'm a divorced parent of 2 (ages 12 and 9); I have basically fully physical custody of them, I work full-time, I'm in an area thousands of miles from my family (and can't leave because their dad is located here), and I have no nanny. There's no other parent present in my home to take care of one child while I spend one-on-one time with the other, and while the 12 year old is old enough to be left at home alone for an hour or two (freeing me to spend one on one time with the 9 year old), the 9 year old is not.

Posted by: jesrifkin | March 7, 2008 2:29 PM

My father was pretty good about making time with each of the four kids. Mother, not so much, but there were the times when she wasn't working and was home with us.

What I remember most was Grandma's house. She'd take one kid for the whole week end. We'd sew, or cook, or garden, or... whatever, and it was wonderful!

I rarely get one-on-one time with younger son in the winter, but he's my gardening buddy the rest of the year. He'll ask me to watch him playing a game (video or PC when he's mastered something challenging in the game), or to play with him (chess, monopoly, risk, etc. - I've tried to play his video games with him, but I'm terrible, and it's no fun for either of us).

Younger son gets one-on-one time with DH before and after his weekly guitar lessons, while older son and I walk up to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant and pick up dinner.

On older son's piano lesson days, I get one-on-one time before and after the lesson, while DH and younger son are cooking together. DH and older son get some one-on-one time every day, while younger son is attending an after-school program.

One thing that's developing that I think is really fun in our family, is that the boys are starting to cook Sunday breakfasts regularly. Younger son is the motivator, but he gets older son to cook with the sausages or bacon while he's making scrambled eggs. DH and I are in the kitchen, but we're the supervisors, and there's very little need for us, really. But all four of us together, preparing a meal and sharing it - that's a little bit of heaven in each week.

Posted by: sue | March 7, 2008 2:43 PM

I remember alone time with my Dad (I am one of two girls) and we had a great time doing errands and going to basketball and baseball games. I will have those memories forever.

DH took a while to get used to being alone with DD. I nursed and he did not like to change diapers. I did not make him change diapers but he helped more with errands and chores.

Now they often do gymnastics night without me. He picks her up from school, plays with her if he is early, or late they go to dinner. Then he watches her do gymnastics and brings me home a happy yet tired little girl.

Posted by: shdd | March 7, 2008 3:04 PM

So far I have one. I changed my life so that I could spend as much time with him as possible, which is about 30 hours on-on-one each week.

From these comments, such as a parent of three who succeeds at spending minutes per day and hours per week with each child, I have to ask myself whether I want one child that got 30 hours per week, or three who got much less.

Posted by: Beck_Childs | March 7, 2008 3:06 PM

For us, with only one child, getting one-on-one time with one parent has the added benefit of giving the other parent some down time to themselves, in which we can engage in worthless leisure activities.

So, my question is whether the evil of full-time working parent engaging in a worthless leisure activity that take hours away from time with the family is now balanced out by the good of the one-on-one time with the other working parent, or if it's still evil just on principle? ;)

Posted by: LizaBean | March 7, 2008 3:13 PM

"or if it's still evil just on principle? ;)

Posted by: LizaBean | March 7, 2008 03:13 PM"

Only if it's golf. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | March 7, 2008 3:29 PM

LOL, seems fair to me! :)

Posted by: LizaBean | March 7, 2008 3:33 PM

jesrifkin - if you have to stay in the area because the dad is in the area I assume that means he has some visitation. In that case divide the visitation as a friend of mine does, sometimes he sees both sometimes he sees one (ex. weekend 1 both boys with Dad, weekend 2 both boys with Mom, weekend 3 boy A with Dad, boy B with Mom, weekend 4 boy B with Dad, boy A with Mom)- if you get along you can work this out on your own. If you have to go to court, it might be worth it to try to find another solution.

Posted by: mom_of_1 | March 7, 2008 3:55 PM

This is a great column. I have always wondered how people with a lot of kids were able to handle the kids' needs for individual attention. I have 2 little ones, a 3 month old and an 8 year old. It is working out pretty well for two reasons. When my 8 year old was an only child, he got lots of individual attention from both my husband and me, and he was the darling only nephew and grandchild for the rest of the family. Now, the pressure is off him, and he can share the limelight with his baby sister, who also gets lots of attention from everyone. Because of the big age gap, their needs are very different, and I don't think there will be much competion between them for the family's time and attention. And my husband and I feel like we really have been able to enjoy both of them immensely -- in a way, they are like having 2 only children, except that they have each other as well. Of course the downside is that because of the big age gap, my husband and I do spend a lot of time entertaining each of them, and they don't do as well entertaining each other. But as the baby grows, that may change also.

Posted by: emily111 | March 7, 2008 4:23 PM

I'm in the same boat - and with kids almost the same age as yours. That's why our big one-on-one time is the bedtime cuddle. But I did sign the kids up for workshops at a local museum and while one is in the workshop, I get some one-on-one time with the second. This weekend, we switch off with older kid in a workshop and younger one hanging with Mom at the museum.
I've also used my divorced status to separate kids so one doesn't pass an illness (read stomach-flu) to the other. I usually keep the sick one and he takes the healthy one until the threat of contagion is over. This is a nice feature of divorce!

Posted by: anne.saunders | March 7, 2008 4:32 PM

Beck -- and keep in mind, as you are tipping the seesaw, that "more time with parents" does not equal "more good" to infiniti. There comes a time when "more time with parents" can equal "totally spoiled" (depending on the specific parents and kid, of course). kids also need time by themselves, with each other, and with other caregivers, relatives and adults.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 7, 2008 4:33 PM

Off subject but really important -- thinking a lot about Frieda these days, since chemo started.

The sister of a business acquaintance founded an amazing company called An Easier Recover following her battle with breast cancer. Her name is Catherine McGrath. Here is the website:

I am always amazed by people who take bad luck and turn it into good. The products look really good.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 7, 2008 4:45 PM

Thanks Leslie, I will bring it up on the computer when Frieda is up from her nap.

Thanks to mehitabel and others for their good wishes and prayers and thoughts.

Hi to "Pinkie" and others we have not heard from recently.

Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 4:58 PM

My tribute to those on chemo or have been there.

To the tune of Closing Time by Semisonic.

Chemo time - time to pump in the Taxol and wait for all to see.
Chemo time - I need Neupogen every day but the needle just pains me.
Chemo time - one long haul but damn it all, just get the drugs in.
Chemo time - will the nausea pill work this time for me?

I know I don't want no IV
Doctor come and put a port in me.
I know that I don't want no IV.
No IV...

Chemo time - time to go back to that room where I have been.
Chemo time - the clinic door will open and my brothers and sisters will file in.
So I've gather my info packet and rolled up my jacket - I hope I've found
a friend.
Chemo time - One day I will feel the same walking out as walking in.

Yeah, I don't know today which wig is for me.
Redhead or blonde somehow it's not the real me.
Just not the real me.
The real me...

Chemo time - time to take Arimidex until I'm sixty-three.
Chemo time - time to wonder if this ever ends for me...

I know it's almost time to take me home.
I know it's almost time to take me home.
Come take this Cytoxin away from me.
Away from me...

Chemo time - my new beginning comes from this cancer's end...

Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 5:04 PM

Frieda, Do you remember in "Sex and the City" where Samantha had a whole wardrobe of wigs in fabulous colors and styles, while she was undergoing chemo? From week to week viewers waited to see "who" Sam would be. Not that chemo is fun, of course, but the occasional distraction and/or frivolity can break the tension momentarily. Hang in there, sister, and we look forward to your next "On Balance" guest blog, whenever you're ready to commit quill to parchment.

Posted by: mehitabel | March 7, 2008 5:04 PM

Fred, are you dancing for Frieda while singing this? Laughter is said to be among the best of medicines ;-)

Posted by: mehitabel | March 7, 2008 5:06 PM

no, she is napping right now!

Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 5:10 PM

(of course, even I laugh at myself at any of my attempts at dancing!)

Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 5:12 PM

Fred, while Frieda's napping you've got time to practice your dance moves for once she's awake.

Posted by: mehitabel | March 7, 2008 5:13 PM

No doubt in my mind that Fred is dancing around the house with a hairbrush in his paw while Frieda sleeps, blissfully unaware of the Chemo Time dancefest...

Posted by: leslie4 | March 7, 2008 5:37 PM

ahhh, if you only knew the boring truth of what I am doing right now....

Posted by: fred | March 7, 2008 5:40 PM

Fred, good to hear from you too. My best wishes to Frieda. We've got quite a cold spell here in Galveston today, so tell her to stay warm, it's probably heading your way. And go buy her some beautiful scarves to go with that rita red hair.

Altmom, my mom is still around, but not confident enough to handle much critical discussion of her parenting abilities. I just try to appreciate what I like about her, her dependability, her humor, her good way with small children. We all just do the best we can when all is said and done. Have a good weekend all.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 7, 2008 5:41 PM

Pink: It wouldn't be the parenting skills as much as why she married my dad, why she stayed with him all those years, that kinda thing - cause at least 5 years before the actual divorce, my dad called us all into the same room to make the big announcement that they would be divorcing (maybe that's where my sisters got their drama queen tendencies).

And maybe other stuff. I say offhandedly that it's possible my sister never would have married her current husband if mom hadn't died when she did (mom had met him exactly once and was impressed - they had only been together a few months - if my sister had broken up with him, no other prospective husband would have met her). Maybe mom's advice would've helped (doubtful, given no one else's has). It's just that I wasn't really 'grown up' when she passed (not that I knew it at the time) and so there are lots of nagging questions (like, why, when my dad's business wasn't going well, she kinda laughed at him when he asked her to go to work - when, it really was a difficult thing for him to do -given the generation he grew up in, etc).

That type of stuff. Can't talk with dad for various reasons, though...

And, Fred, if you read this - my best to Freida. It's not easy, I know. And I wasn't even there for a lot of it.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 9, 2008 8:11 PM

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