Monday 5 December 2016

Want quality time with the kids? 15 minutes should do it!

A new 'Fast' approach to parenting has left mum Judith Woods baffled

Judith Woods

Published 07/03/2011 | 05:00

Image posed. Photo: Getty Images
Image posed. Photo: Getty Images

Five, four, three, two, one . . . Right, time's up, that's your lot. Put away the Duplo. Next! Stop crying, darling, you're booked in for another 15-minute session tomorrow. I said, Next! Look, will somebody please take this one away? She's started to get a bit whingey.

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Welcome to the fabulous new utopia of 'Fast' parenting, as practised by BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth on her three children, Ella aged six, Georgia, five and Oliver, who is three.

Fast actually stands for Families and Schools Together, but it's such a speedy way of rearing offspring that it could just as well be called supersonic nurturing or Bringing Up Baby -- Blitzschnell.

The idea is that busy, guilt-ridden parents with tearaway tots can turn around their behaviour by spending 15 minutes of quality time a day with each child.

That means no computer, no blogging, no texting or tweeting for a whole quarter of an hour, which is a pretty tough sacrifice on the part of any grown-up, but the kiddies are worth it. Apparently.

Happily, the daily 15 minutes of technological purdah only lasts eight weeks.

After that comes eating meals together and Learning the Art of Family Play, from which I would beg to infer that the demographic for whom this programme is designed possibly isn't national broadcasters on six-figure salaries.

But Raworth (42) is a convert to the Fast regime, which hails from the US, after learning about it during filming for a new BBC documentary, Parents Under Pressure.

Now, as she reveals she suffers from working-mother guilt, I find myself rolling my eyes heavenward.

I also find myself questioning if not her intellect, then certainly her emotional intelligence.

When I hear highly paid presenters -- highly paid anyone -- bleating on about the angst they feel when they go to the office, I can feel my inner Mumsnetter (aka bolshy know-all) bubbling to the surface.

Life, certainly at that professional level, is all about choice. And choice -- usually an adjunct of personal wealth -- is the ultimate luxury, because relatively few of us have much.

A new report recently reiterated that women are largely absent from our boardrooms because they don't want to be there, not because men are stopping them.

Raworth, who is married to an estate agent, has, by her own admission, a marvellous job on the News at One, which means she can pick up her children from school.

It is the sort of gig every dual-income parent dreams about, the stuff of a million maternity-leave fantasies before the stressful reality kicks in of finding a reliable childminder to do pick-ups or the emotional fall-out from leaving a resentful 10-year-old at the after-school club, again.

So, given she knocks off when most of us are buckling down for a hard afternoon's graft, why does she feel the need for Fast parenting?

For households where poor parenting has begotten poor parenting, instigating change within a 15-minute framework is a solid start, and maybe Americans don't mind the fact that 'fast' isn't a label overburdened with positive connotations.

Fast food is unhealthy, fast cars an ostentatious sign of immaturity, a fast horse may be applauded, ditto, fast banking but not so a fast woman -- and a fast newsreader would be an unmitigated disaster.

So why in heaven's name would anyone think that breakneck parenting might be a good idea?

Or perhaps, more saliently, if Raworth really is so frazzled that she needs to heroically gift a full 15 minutes of her day to each of the children she brought into the world, hasn't she got enough nous to keep stum about it?

When it comes to parenting, we've all got our dirty little secrets. Mine is calling TV dinners "television suppers", because it sounds less chavvy and more like a delightfully rare treat than a shamefully regular occurrence.

Also, I'm not sure what the opposite of quality time is -- bog- standard time, maybe -- but it's pretty much the norm in my house and neither of my children has attacked me with an axe yet. Although, I have been called A Bad Lady once or twice.

I was mortified when, then aged just four, my daughter threw herself onto the sofa and declared: "I'm so stressed, I can't tell you how stressed I am." It was a reflecting mirror and I didn't like what I saw.

So I mended my ways, took up meditation and transformed myself into a beacon of serenity.

Did I hell. I just learned to reserve the histrionics until she was at nursery.

And you know, even though she wasn't there, boy did she feel the benefit. Because in my book, if anyone in the family needs 15 minutes of undivided attention a day, it's mummy.

Irish Independent

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