Simple Strategies to Spend Guilt-free, Quality Time with your Child

Julie Morgenstern - Global Productivity Expert

Written by: Where Parents Talk Staff

Published: Jun 29, 2021

Julie Morgenstern – Global Productivity Expert POV

The natural, unavoidable chaos that ensues when a newborn enters the family dynamic remains fresh in Julie Morgenstern’s mind — more than two decades later.

At that time, Julie Morgenstern, a native of Philadelphia, had just given birth to her first child, a daughter named Jessi. Navigating life with an infant suddenly came barging in with sleep deprivation and other life pursuits — in one fell swoop.

“It was just like, ‘whoa’ this is hard,” reflects Morgenstern during an interview with Lianne Castelino of Where Parents Talk. “Where’s the manual that’s going to tell me how to allocate my time, while raising a child and trying to be a mom, have a business, be a good friend be in a community,” she says.

Left to her own devices, Julie Morgenstern and her husband figured it out along the way.

Click for video transcription

Where Parents Talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a mom of one, an international organization and time management consultant for over 30 years, as well as a coach and entrepreneur. Julie Morgenstern is also a New York Times best-selling author, and speaker. She has written six books, including her latest called time to parent. Julie Morgenstern joins us from Connecticut. Thank you so much for making the time, Julie, thanks for making the time and being here with me. I wanted to start by asking you as somebody who’s been in the space for 30 years as a mom yourself, what was the impetus for time to parent?

You know, I, first of all, I wanted that book when I was raising my daughter, I, you know, even as a time medicine person, it was just like, Whoa, this is hard. Like, where am I supposed to where’s the manual, that’s going to tell me how to allocate my time, while raising a child and trying to be you know, a mom, have a business, be a good friend be in a community. So I always wanted it. And then in my field, I just found that I never really aimed for parents as my primary target market, but they emerged, and maybe 80% of my client base were parents, because the parenting years are in arguably, the most time stretched years of a human’s life. And there’s never been a manual on how you’re supposed to juggle it all. And I thought people need that we all need that. So that was the impetus.

So it’s interesting when you think about the time that you had before you became a parent. And what were you doing with all that time, it’s always quite entertaining, when you think about it, what’s been the feedback from parents that you’ve talked to since the book has been out?

I think the biggest most consistent feedback that I get is that parents feel amazing relief when they read the book, that they you know, parents are typically afraid to read parenting books, because they’re afraid it’s gonna tell them everything they’re doing wrong, and how to put more stuff on their to do list. But this book kind of does the opposite. And it kind of underwhelms you and it’s like, oh, and people feel, ah, I can do this. I can handle this. This I can do. And that was my goal, which is like, how simple can we make this? How complete? Right without leaving anything out? Because I originally Lianne, I actually originally set out to write a book just on the most elusive part of the parenting years, which is how do I create the time for quality time with my kids? I have so much to do. And I was going to write the book just on that. And then I realized, how on earth can I write just about that? Because readers are going to be like, Oh, great. That sounds great. But what about all this other stuff I have to do? So I decided to write a book, which is really like, what are all the things you have to juggle? How complete can we make it? But how simple and manageable? Can we make it and parents really feel quite relieved, and that it’s doable? And they feel better about their parenting? Not worse, which is fantastic.

Absolutely. And you know, one of the things that you differentiate in this book is the idea of raising a human while also being human. So let’s dig into that a little bit further to the point that you just made. What is the differentiator there? And how do parents go about doing that?

Yeah, so historically, parents have in that we all have in our heads and our training in our veins, you’re supposed to sacrifice everything for your kids. But then you sacrifice sleep, and you sacrifice health and you sacrifice your adult love relationships, and then things get really out of whack. And we overestimate our ability to take care of young people on an empty tank. So I broke the job like any job description, you know, any job description, it’s like, what are you supposed to juggle your time between these three to five things or these two things? So I broke the job down into two parts, raising a human which are what are the four activities you need to do to make sure you have healthy, healthy, happy, fulfilled children and being a human, which are what are the four activities that you need to spend your time on to make sure that you are a happy, healthy, fulfilled human because in order to be a happy, healthy, in order to take care of others, you do have to take care of yourself for two reasons. It gives you the energy, the patience, the polarity, the perspective to deal with like all the problem solving, right, like raising kids is problem solving. So gives you all that. The second reason that you have too few, and I call it fueling yourself, and we can talk about what that me. It also creates a role model for your kids. And this is a really big aha, which is, in all the research that I did for this book, there was in arguable evidence that parents who exercise their kids are more likely to exercise, parents who sleep well, their kids are more likely to get good night’s sleep. Parents who have friendships, their kids find it easier to develop friendships, because they’re watching parents who have hobbies, their kids are more likely to pursue interesting interests. So you do it for yourself, to keep going for maintenance and sustenance. But you also do it as a role model. And that’s a game changer, because then you don’t have to feel guilty that you’re taking me time is not taking anything away from your kids. It’s not, it’s role modeling for them, as well as giving you buckets more energy and patience, and presence for when you are with your kids.

That’s so interesting, because parents listen to that, that would be a huge mind shift for them in order to sort of goes against the grain from I’m sure what a lot of parents are currently practicing and therefore always struggling with that.

Yeah. So there’s that mindset shift. And then the second thing, I’m sure listeners are going to be like, Well, that sounds great, but where the heck is the time come from. So the other really big concept in the book is the idea of the 20 minute doses. And that is both to nurture your kids, which is a game changer. And that was like the result of eight years of studying human science research that I did, which we can talk about, but also for ourselves. So I found both myself, I think about my clients. And I realized that it’s not, it’s two things get in the way of self-care. One is guilt, which we just talked about, right? The other is our approach. So when you become a parent, you typically never make the adjustment in the way you approach self-care. From what you did for the first quarter century of your life. I mean, maybe you’re somebody who’s 18 can have a kid, but most kids, you know, parents are 25 30,32. So for the first 25 or 30 years of your life, self-care was big blocks of time, long date nights, hangouts with your friends, all day on your hobbies, exercising 90 minutes, three or four times a week. That’s the way we do it. One more child, bless. Once you have kids, if you don’t mentally make a mechanical shift, in your approach, you keep trying to find big blocks of time you’re defeated before you start, why bother going to the gym, if you only going to go once every six weeks. Why, you know, have date night, if you have not, you don’t even know what to talk to your spouse about anymore. You know, like, there’s nothing to talk about. So I teach in the book, The idea of this self-care in 20 minute doses or less, that you can fold into the fabric of every day. And when it becomes part of the fabric of your day. It’s sort of like, you know, like the pilot light goes on. And then you just have this well of constant energy. And you don’t like wear yourself out, so you can’t take it anymore. And then you need like a three-week vacation.

And you know what we’ve all done it as parents, we’ve all been there. So it’s great to hear that kind of approach. I wanted to get into the research that you alluded to earlier, and the whole idea of the work that you’ve done in terms of looking at the science of human development at what, what surprised you most as you want about researching this topic, and perhaps still surprises you to this day.

Yeah, for sure. So what really surprised me was that I was in search of the answer to this question, which is how much time and attention do children need to feel loved and secure? Because I believe that’s what all parents want to deliver to their kids. And all parents are consumed with guilt. When they’re trying to juggle everything else. They’re like, I’m not giving my kid enough time and attention and when you’re always consumed with guilt, you don’t get enough sleep. If you can’t really be present, and I was like, I’m not an expert in that I’m an expert in organizing but not in child development. So what’s the answer to the question? What surprised me the most is that the conversation for years as I’ve been exposed to it was quantity, or quality? is a quantity or quality, quantity or quality? What surprised me the most is the answer is actually neither it’s consistency. And so here’s what I found that what children thrive on what makes children feel loved and secure. It’s short bursts of like five to 15 minutes at a time. of truly, truly undivided attention, not with our happy faces half on our phones, but we’re like right in there eyeball to eyeball with them at any age, short, bursts delivered consistently, not big blocks of time delivered occasionally. I didn’t know that when I was raising my daughter. I really didn’t, I was a working parent. So, I felt so guilty that I was consumed with work all day that from the time I got home, I felt like I had to be all on 100% undivided attention. From the time I walked through the door till she went to bed, which left no time for me no time for getting things done around the house. No, no time for anything. Which meant after she went to sleep, that was my only me time, which meant I stayed up until two o’clock.

That’s, well, they say nap time is the best time to get absolutely everything else done right? When they’re babies.

It is but you also need to rest when they’re babies, right? Because it’s exhausting. And nobody gives credit for that. And it’s very hard to just go to sleep when a baby goes to sleep. It’s not so easy. So the idea of the short burst and and when I say delivered consistently, it’s also built in the fabric of your kid’s day. And you think about like each key transition point and a kid’s day, that’s what you should focus on. There are these key anchors in a kid’s day when they first wake up. When you separate in the morning, right? They go to work, you go to work, they go to school, or go to daycare or the babysitter shows up or there’s when you reunite at the end of the day, whatever time that is there’s dinner bedtime, five key anchors, if As parents, we focus on dedicating the first five or seven or 10 or 15 minutes of each of those pivot points in a kid’s day, being undivided attention to the kids, then together, but a part time is not just natural, and welcome. It’s healthy for kids. And they’re ready for it. So you do that as part of your habit. And then kids have they feel secure. And every expert says that it’s not the big blocks. And then if once in a while you can like afford a big block of time and go to the park for a few hours or go to a museum or that’s great. It’s it may be the will make some some memories. But it’s not really what the foundation of love looks like.

Interesting. Here we are in this pandemic, where everything that you’ve just described, you know, communication within households, you know, relationships, all of those things, the time spent with each other has absolutely been turned on its head. So theoretically, a lot of what you’ve just described should be easier. Is that what you’re sensing in terms of the impact of the pandemic on how people manage quality time with their family members?

Well, interestingly, not necessarily because the pandemic sort of came up upon us very quickly, nobody was prepared. Everybody went into triage reactive mode. And the truth is, if you’re working parent, I have found most working parents feel like they’re home. But especially when dividing time between remote work and remote learning, there’s even less time for quality time with their they and they feel so guilty that like oh my gosh, I am home all the time. And I’m spending even less quality time I’m physically present, but I’m not mentally present. Which is if you think about a pretty fair, the workloads increase in jobs, right? The company started stealing your commute time your lunchtime, people have, like FOMO fear of logging off of their computers. And then if you have kids that are having had had any remote learning that was a whole other set of tasks and that’s not quality time. That’s like you’re being the teacher’s assistant. And that’s like work. And parents are just burnt out and exhausted. So as we come out of the pandemic, and if your kids are, if you’re lucky enough, and I know it’s not true everywhere in the world, but you know, as your kids start to leave the house, even if you work from home still or work from home part time, you can go back to building in the presence at pivot points presence at pivot points. And always use first moments of those pivot points not last. Also counterintuitive. Because we are all kind of like, get the work done, get dressed, get everything together, and then we’ll have time for quality time, flip it start every reconnection point with their kid, like I you know, eyes light up, given the first five minutes undivided is so happy to see you. They’ll be so excited. And then Okay, now let’s go get dressed, get food to homework, blah, blah, blah.

When we talk about adolescence, so 15 to 24-year-old age group, what are some pointers there that you can give to parents? Because now we’re dealing with, you know, the key developmental years of these children? In terms of everything you’ve described, what is important for parents to keep in mind at that point?

Yeah, so I, in researching the book, I spoke to a guy named Dr. Lawrence Steinberg, who I recommend everybody listening, go get his book, like, he’s got a few books out, he’s a specialist in adolescence. And he talked about, and I experienced this also as a parent, that once your kids get into the teen years, you really have to change your role with them. And instead of being the director of their lives, and the guy, you almost become a consultant to your kids, as opposed to like the authority, you know, and you want to give them, you have to give them your role changes to giving them the confidence that they can do things on their own, that they can be independent. That’s one. And the second thing is, in the book I talked about, on the part doing your part, the PART are like the four activities of raising a kid. And the R and the TR relate and teach. Relating is the thing that kind of getting to know your kid for the unique individual they are and you are the student of your child. Teaching is about giving your kids the skills they need to succeed in the world. And when you are in teaching mode, your child is the student of you. When your kids get into adolescence, spend more time relating than teaching really, really changed the ratio. And if you spend more time relating than teaching kids will continue to talk to you. If every time your adolescent says I’m struggling with x, y, z, and you launch into teach mode, you’re going against there. And what do teenagers do? Like you don’t understand, don’t tell me you don’t know blah blah blah blah blah, now I’m not going to tell you anything, because you’re always trying to tell me what you know, just relate, oh my gosh, I remember that that sucks, or that’s feels terrible, or that’s interesting, but be more empathetic. And that keeps the bridge the what’s the word like the moat down where the because really what you want is for your kids to keep talking to you. And the less you teach, and the more you relate in the teen years, the more your kids will talk.

That is phenomenal advice. And again, a real mind shift and paradigm shift really for a lot of families. In closing, Julie, I wanted to ask you, you know, when you started in this space 30 odd years ago, the internet didn’t exist. Social media was a figment of you know, not on anybody’s radar. Life was pretty simple. You know, 30 odd years into this, what still drives you and why you still passionate about organization and time management and all these things that that have characterized your career.

Well, from the day I started my business, I have actually, my mission has stayed the same, which is to tame the chaos in people’s lives. So that they are free to make their unique contribution and will continue and it’s the same the chaos the components of chaos have changed. Now there’s more internet and there’s more you know, we’re connected on all these devices. And then there was a pandemic and now work is 24 seven and you know, there’s all chaos as always. So there’s always chaos to be tamed. But the purpose of taming the chaos is to make your unique contribution and what has always driven me in I think the most interesting thing about being on this earth is that each person is a unique individual with unique perspectives, interests, skills, talents that add up to making a unique contribution to their family, to their jobs, to their community, to the animals in their neighborhood. Like everyone has a contribution to make. And when you are organized in your time and your space, in your mind, you’re free to make that contribution. And that’s the service that I think is so worthy and inspires me still every day because people need to mean we want them the best out of all the people on this earth. So that’s what motivates me.

That is a wonderful, wonderful thought. And thank you so much for your time. Julie Morgenstern, author of time to parent. It was a delight to speak to you today. Great to speak to you, Lianne.

Once self-described as “disorganized,” she has risen to become a global expert in the area of time management, productivity and organization, over 30 plus years. A speaker, coach, entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author, Morgenstern, has written six books, including her latest, Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out The Best In Your Child and You.

“I actually originally set out to write a book just on the most elusive part of the parenting years, which is how do I create the time for quality time with my kids,” she says.

Armed with her own lived experience, “eight years of human science research,” and professional expertise in the productivity space, Morgenstern produced a finished product that married the best of all of her worlds, ultimately conceiving Time To Parent.

Rich with golden nuggets of wisdom and evidence-based strategies, the book’s thrust is to provide insight on how — as Morgenstern describes it — “to balance raising a human and being a human.”

The book includes:

  • A framework and quadrants to help guide parents of children from infants to young adults to better structure parenting responsibilities


  • Tried and tested tips for parents to stay focused in an ocean of distractions
  • Approaches for parents to optimally manage those fleeting pockets of “in-between time”
  • Help parents better understand and appreciate the value of self-care

When it comes to age-old question that most mother and father struggle with — quality time versus quantity time — Morgenstern’s findings are rooted in a mix of research and first-hand experience.

“Here’s what I found that what children thrive on, what makes children feel loved and secure is short bursts of like five to 15 minutes at a time, of truly undivided attention, not with our happy faces, half on our phones, but we’re like right in there eyeball to eyeball with them at any age,” she says. “Short, bursts delivered consistently, not big blocks of time delivered occasionally.”


During her interview with Where Parents Talk, Julie Morgenstern also discusses:

  • Managing guilt
  • Parenting as a job description
  • Role-modelling
  • Time management and balance during the global pandemic
  • The four activities involved in raising children (P.A.R.T)


Related links:

Visit Julie’s Website

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