“A recent study by Joseph P. Price (BA ’03), a BYU economics assistant professor, is waking up parents with his finding that, by and large, firstborn children get about 3,000 more hours of parental time between the ages of 4 and 13 than second-borns. In an article published in the Journal of Human Resources, he says that while parents may spend equal time with each child on any given day, they tend to spend progressively less total time with their children as their parenting years advance. As the amount of parenting time gets smaller, the second child garners less total time.
“Price explains what typically happens in families: “As your firstborn gets older, reading to him starts to drop off. You say, ‘Oh, he knows how to read now; I don’t need to read to him.’ But at the same time you stop reading to your firstborn, you read less to your second-born, who is younger. Also, as the firstborn gets older, you start to watch more television with him, which means you’re watching more television with your second-born when he’s at a younger age.
“In other words, the second-born gets sucked into whatever the firstborn is doing. And so, unfortunately, he loses out on reading and gets more TV.”
I have to admit, I’m guilty as charged. From day one, I was reading books to the Ant Bug. Reading 2-3 books before sleep has always been a key element of our bedtime routine. I’m sure this has been a factor in her prolific verbal abilities. In addition, she’s always been on the short end of the scale when it comes to sleep duration, so we had plenty of hours in the day to fill up with enlightening activities like story time, music time, and school time.
And now we have our Sweet Bee, just over a year old. If we’re lucky to have Dad home at bedtime, then he reads books with her while I get the Ant Bug ready for bed (but this has only been a recent development). And she is a really good napper! But unfortunately, that means that her awake time usually corresponds with meal times (preparation, eating, cleaning) and errand times (shopping, etc). Which doesn’t leave much quality one-on-one time. Also, the Sweet Bee is much more easily entertained. For an extended period of time she will quite happily toddle all around the house, with something in hand and mouth, thrilled to be able to walk on her own two feet.
So is all hope lost, for any children after the first born? Hardly. Happy, successful people come from all walks of life, in any birth order.
But in the meantime, I’m rethinking my time spent with my most precious responsibility. And I’ll be thinking of ways to discover more quality and quantity time with both of my sweet girls.
Take this informal time-use survey and judge if the time you spend with your children is both quantity and quality.