The Idle Parent: Time is More Important Than Money

This is the fourteenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

The gift of time via The Risky Kids

Time is More Important Than Money


When I think back upon my own childhood, my fondest memories are those in which it felt like time would stretch on forever.  Summer afternoons at the lake with my friends.  Stretched out on my bed with a good book and nowhere to go.  Sleepovers where we giggled long into the night.  Playing cards with my parents.

I grew up middle class, and while we never struggled, my parents weren’t ones for fancy vacations or buying lots of “things.”  They also weren’t big on organized activities for me.  I did a few things – art classes, tennis lessons here and there, church youth group.  There was a period of time as a teenager and young adult where I vowed that I would do things differently as a parent … don’t we all?  My kids would play sports from an early age so they could compete and excel.  We would travel often.  I wouldn’t deny them whatever fad it was everyone else had, or worse yet, buy them a knock-off of said fad.  It’s funny how wise we are before we actually have children of our own.

Looking back now, I realize that my parents gave me an incredible gift that doesn’t cost a penny.  They gave me time.  I’m sure my memory is clouded by time, but I honestly don’t remember a single moment from my youth where I felt rushed or overscheduled.  I don’t ever remember being busy just for the sake of being busy.  I just remember having time.  Time to play, time to read, time to do my homework, time to lie on my floor and twirl the phone cord while talking to friends.

It’s different now.  This spring, while most of their friends were juggling music lessons, multiple sports, and scouts, my kids mostly stayed home.  Eli did nothing, Elena participated in Girl Scouts and the occasional after-school program.  There were weeks when we didn’t have a single thing scheduled for after-school.  We didn’t go anywhere for Spring Break.  We are not normal.  We are weird, or lazy, or ruining our kids’ future, depending on who you ask.

In the book, Hodgkinson notes that, “To have your kids say they had a happy, relaxed childhood is worth more than all the family holidays, toys or achievements.”  I couldn’t agree more.

We can spend the money on all of these things, but we choose not to.  It allows me to stay home, but more importantly, it allows our kids to have the gift of an afternoon, or even an entire weekend, with nothing to do but whatever their imaginations come up with.  Maybe you opt out of activities, things, or vacations for the same reasons.  Maybe you don’t have a choice.  But whatever the reason, if you find your family with extra time on your hands, please realize you’re holding something more precious than gold.