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the mommyhood memos: quality time or quantity time - which is more important?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

quality time or quantity time - which is more important?

Some people say that it’s not about how much time you spend with your kids, it’s about the quality of time you spend with them.

I say that’s rubbish.

Kids need time with their parents. They need to know that their parents are present in their lives. They need to know their parents are available. They need to know that their parents are approachable, interruptible, and not too busy giving everything else priority.

They need parents around to teach them by example – to model good behavior, display character, and impart family values. You can’t do this in short bursts or just through verbal teaching and instruction. It has to be lived-out in the day-to-day aspects of life for them to see and absorb and follow your lead.

Anyone who says that you can cram all of those things into “quality time” alone has obviously not spent much time with kids.

Kids with absent parents often grow up feeling insecure, inadequate, or like they need to work really hard to gain approval or success (which will, in turn, gain them some attention). Although I’m no psychologist or parenting expert, I’ve personally seen this pattern many times with adult friends who have had to overcome these hurdles… many of which—upon reflecting on their childhoods—would say that having absent parents (one or both) contributed to their insecurities as adults.

So… kids need quantity time. They need parents who are around.

But kids also need quality time. Just being with them (in quantity) is not enough either.

I can be a stay-at-home mom (or a work-from-home mom) and be around Levi all the time, and yet still not give him the quality time that he needs.

If I’m not careful I can run around all day with him on one hip getting chores done or doing loads of laundry, and then move him from one activity area to another while I sit “with” him (but actually absent) and bang out emails or do my online banking. I could spend hours being with him but not with him.

Kids need more than us just being with them physically. They need us to be present with them intentionally – both mentally and emotionally (quality time).

Again, kids with absent parents often grow up feeling insecure, inadequate, or like they need to work really hard to gain approval or success (which will, in turn, gain them some attention).

But you can be absent even if you are there. So this goes both ways – when parents are just not around… or when they are around but are not present.

Some of us find quantity time easier to achieve but lack in quality time. And others of us find quality time easier to achieve but lack in quantity time. Both are necessary to raise well-adjusted kids who will move into the future knowing they are not only loved, but valued as individuals and as people.

No matter if parents are working outside of the home or not, children need both quality and quantity time in order to see that they are important to us and that they matter. It’s our responsibility to see how we can be creative and make that happen, even with our varying work schedules and commitments. (And it is possible. My husband works full time outside of the home and yet still gives incredible quantity time to our son - he's ordered his life to be able to do so.)

It’s a challenge, but—in my opinion—it’s a responsibility that we took on as soon as we said “yes” to becoming parents. It’s up to us to work out the details and find ways to give of ourselves – both in quantity and quality time. The outworking of that may look different from day to day or month to month, but in the grand scheme of things gapsin either quality or quantity—will lead to regrets.

And those are regrets that I’m trying my best to avoid.

Dear friends, what are you doing to try and ensure that you give your kids both quality and quantity time to the best of your ability? I've voiced some strong opinion on this post. Do you agree? Disagree? Why??

trying to prioritize well,

I decided to jump back on the bandwagon. 
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adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
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At November 11, 2010 at 12:11 AM , Blogger Steph, from Be Positive Mom said...

It's a matter of finding both or a happy medium for your family and situation. Being a working mom, I find that the time I spend with my family may not be in an abundance of "quantity" so for me, "quality" is key. It's hard to say one is soley better than the other because every family is different. I think what is important is when you are with the kids, to be in the now and present with them, not thinking about work or the to-do list. It takes practice!

At November 11, 2010 at 12:52 AM , Blogger Unpolished Parenting said...

I struggle with quantity because of the amount of time I see my babe in the evenings. But I do agree with you. It does need to be quality and quantity mixed. She needs to know that I am there for her - a present character in her life and she won't know that if I'm never around. But the relationship can only develop and she can only learn (both knowledge and emotion) by having that quality connection.

At November 11, 2010 at 1:27 AM , Blogger Jhen.Stark said...

SPOT ON! Kids need both, and sadly, I think our own selfish motives in life give us excuses. I think working moms can still have the quality/ quantity time for sure, but there has to be sacrifices in their own life to get it. And with SAHM, getting off the computer (dang, I kicked my own butt here) and sometimes letting the house chores go can provided that quality/quantity time.

There are way too many children suffering deep within from lack of quality/quantity time. Loving in our hearts isn't enough...

Great post Adriel! I agree 100%

At November 11, 2010 at 3:11 AM , Blogger Ana said...

It's a juggling act for both Working Mommies and Stay-At-Home Mommies, and like Jhen said (and I am kicking my butt here too) getting off the computer and truly *being* with my boys. Even if I am nursing Phinneas, I can still read with Isaac or let him curl up next to the non-nursing side and watch a flick with him. Or when Phinneas is getting tummy time, I can get down there too with Isaac and his animal toys and be pulled into his imagination. It's easy to go on computer stuff...and not even realize how fast daylight is passing!

For now, these babes are our lives...when they go to school, we can use those hours to catch up...boy I am so guilty of this!

At November 11, 2010 at 11:59 AM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

Motherhood is a balancing act. I think quality time can happen anywhere, even while doing errands. It's just how you use the time you have. Georgia and I have quality time together at the grocery store. Yes, I'm doing my chores, but I'm asking Georgia what color the eggplant is, or to smell the lemon and help me put it in the bag. I'm asking her if she wants goldfish or Cheez-its, and she's telling me all about everything she's looking at. At the post office, she's helping me pick out stamps and helping me hold the letters to mail.
Don't get me wrong, we also do art projects, bake together, and read stacks of books. But the time when we're "having quantity time" can still be quality time too.

At November 11, 2010 at 1:11 PM , Blogger Kerry McCullough said...

I agree- I try to squeeze in 5 or 10 minutes of play time every hour (aside from one good hour long chunk of play time after lunch). An hour of being ignored is like an eternity to a little toddler. They just want (and need) a little interaction every so often. Even a song or a short story will do the trick. It's really tricky if you work from home, but spending that little bit of play time every hour will probably end up saving you time in the long run, because you won't have a cranky toddler :)

At November 11, 2010 at 9:13 PM , Blogger Amy Sullivan said...

Oh, I agree with you it is a mixture of both quality and quanity, but wow, what a balancing act it takes to make it happen!

It doesn't matter how busy we get, I try to always eat together as a family, read stories before bed, snuggle as we do homework on the couch, and watch the Wiggles (yuck, yuck, yuck!) together on Saturday mornings.

At November 12, 2010 at 2:27 AM , OpenID said...

Hi! Just happened onto your blog and love what I have read so far. Looking forward to getting know you a little more.

In a new stage of parenting and still figuring out the whole balance thing....all over again.

Hope you can stop by and check out my blog.


At November 12, 2010 at 4:50 AM , Blogger Lisa said...

I completely agree with you. Quality and quantity. One is not enough. The "quality" idea came from a society trying to make itself feel better about ignoring the needs of their children, and soothing a conscience. I have older children, so it's a little different from you, but we go to church every week together~all three hours~we eat dinner together, we sit by the fireplace and eat candy and talk, we read scriptures and pray together every night, we serve grandparents together, we have "Mother/child" and "Daddy/child" dates, etc. My greatest joy comes not from publishing newspaper articles, or my latest public speaking engagement, but from my spouse, posterity and my relationship with them.

At November 12, 2010 at 10:27 AM , Anonymous Tamara Hutchison said...

My biggest gripe...parents being "around" their children, but preoccupied with far too much technology. Texting, downloading, Facebook'ing etc... while kids are wanting to chat with their parents or wanting to be cheered on at their sporting event. I am seeing it more and more and it really bugs me. LOVED your article of course...again! :)

At November 12, 2010 at 3:06 PM , Blogger Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom) said...

I do think they need both too. And, like you said, if time is short, make quantity the key. Sometimes it's hard to find that balance. Sometimes I'll be home with the kids all day then realize, have I really played with them today? I have to remind myself about quantity too.

At November 15, 2010 at 6:30 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

Yes, quality and quantity! It can be tricky to get the balance right, and I agree with Tamara regarding the technology being such a distraction. I'm guilty of it from time to time. It takes a conscious effort to truly give quality time. Thanks for the reminder!


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