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When it comes to parenting, quality actually does trump quantity, according to a new study prompting sighs of relief from guilt-ridden, time-squeezed parents nationwide.
The amount of time mothers spend with their children, ages 3 to 11, has little relationship to how successful those kids become in life, according to the conclusions reached in a new, wide-scale study that will be published in April by the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Success is far more dependent on the mother's education level and family income, say the report’s researchers, Melissa Milkie at University of Toronto, Kei Nomaguchi at Bowling Green, and Kathleen Denny at University of Maryland.
Those findings come as a relief to many parents, including TODAY Parenting contributor Randi Zuckerberg.
“When I'm working, I absolutely feel guilt all the time,” said the New York Times bestselling author and host of "Dot Complicated" on SiriusXM. “I think it's something a lot of working moms feel torn between. You know we're more than just our children, we have identities, we have jobs, we have passions outside of our household.”
The study also found that mothers today are actually spending more engaged time with their children than they did in the 1970's, and that's even with more of them in the workforce.
The report also debunked another common myth: That time spent specifically with mom is better than time spent with anyone else. Instead, the study said that the more time children, particularly adolescents, spend with both parents during meals and other moments of family time, the more likely they will be as teenagers to stay focused and out of trouble.
The study also found that common stress often displayed by parents, like guilt and anxiety, could actually lead to a negative impact on children.
“Moms tend to be guilting themselves into craziness, right?" said work-life balance expert Samantha Ettus. "We're constantly putting so much pressure on themselves to be with our children as much as possible.”
Instead, the authors of the parenting study encourage parents to ease up on the guilt and spend more time at family dinners.