Quantity Time vs. Quality Time

The longer I’m a parent . . . 

(Don’t you love how I talk like I’m an old pro or something?  In reality, I have just short of eight years of parenting experience, so take anything I say with a large grain of salt.)

But anyway.  What I’m learning, the longer I’m a parent, is that quantity time with my children is at least as important as quality time.

Take this afternoon, for example.  I rarely watch a TV show with my children.  I generally use the TV as a free babysitter.  And since I try to limit their TV time to an hour a day, when it’s on, well, that’s prime blogging time, dontcha know!  After all, at what other time during the day are they sitting still in one spot for more than five minutes?  And besides, the TV is about the only way I get a break from the Festival of Questions that accompanies my 4-year-old daughter wherever she goes.

But today she looked so precious sitting all by herself, watching Clifford The Big Red Dog, that I couldn’t help but get up from my computer chair and join her on the couch.  You would have thought I offered her a bag of lollipops (or "bah-bah-bahs", as her baby sister refers to them).  She snuggled up to me, looked up with adoring eyes, and said, "Mom, are you going to watch with me?"  When I confirmed that I was, in fact, going to watch TV with her, she grinned from ear to ear and laid her head on my shoulder and hugged my arm as if she was never going to let me go.

And it hit me, right then and there, how very important it is to just "be there" for them, to be around, to be engaged with them and available to them, whether they’re watching TV or eating breakfast or playing Polly Pockets on the living room rug.

I generally try to take advantage of the times when my kids are occupied to get chores done or to do things that I want to do.  But I’m realizing that if I want to be there for the "Aha!" moments, then I need to be around for the ordinary moments as well.  You know, my friend "Fsutrill" pointed this out when we were talking* recently, and I agreed with her at the time.  But today really brought the whole concept home to me.

*It was more like emailing, but who’s splitting hairs?

The other thing that occurred to me recently is that a great way to identify with my son would be to become an avid Phillies fan.  Sometimes when he’s watching a baseball game, he starts to share with me an exciting and often complicated play.  I smile and nod appropriately, but I usually don’t have a clue what he’s talking about.  My knowledge of baseball goes about as far as 3 strikes make an out.  But I know he would love it if I really took an interest in the game.  I guess this is getting into the realm of quality time, but of course quality time is important too.

It’s easy to relate to my daughter.  She already loves to shop, loves makeup, loves pretending to be a mommy.  But my relationship with my son has always taken more work because our interests are so different.  But as he gets older, as they all get older, I am committed to finding the balance between the quality and the quantity of time that I spend with them.

Oh experienced moms of the internet, what are YOUR best secrets to establishing and maintaining open and honest relationships with your kids?

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22 Responses

  1. That is precious. I have found the same thing, actually. Delaney LOVES to tell me about Dora when I watch with her (btw, I saw that Manuel and Lolita show or whatever it was called that you blobbed about, remember?)

    Shower time is our time as well. We still shower together and make “soup” and “cakes” in the shower with all her toys.

    We are so wise, aren’t we? 🙂


  2. I’m lucky my boys and I like a lot of the same things, but I know what you mean – they love it when you snuggle to read a book or draw with them or just swim or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what it is, it’s just that you’re there and that’s nice.

  3. My Secret:
    From the get go I’ve told my wee ones “I’m sorry. I made a mistake.” My own parents were infallible and I lived in dread of disappointing them. Now that my children are teens, I love the way they tell me if they goof up without all the guilt trip and secrets. But confession? I really started doing it when they were toddlers because I loved their comforting “It’s ok Mummy” baby hugs.

  4. First, in my “mothering” experience which is a whole whopping decade, I’ve learned that no matter how hard you try, getting “quality” without “quantity” is pretty rare. If you want the precious moments, you have to pay in time. The world tries to tell us that we CAN have quality, without quantity, but personally, I don’t believe it. At least it’s never worked for me.

    With that being said, i will share two ways I have tried to open up communication with my kids: One, spending an extra few minutes laying on their bed at night. Somehow when the lights are out and the house is quiet you can learn a lot about what is going on in their minds. Two, like you said, simply playing with them.

    I have to confess to you that I am not a good “player”. Part of it is for reasons you blog about, but part of it is also because I have an agenda of “things” that need to be done and once I slow down, I lose my motivation (energy wise). So I have learned that sometimes playing is more important than getting everything checked off my daily list!

    Also, to encourage those who still have really young children, IT GET”S EASIER! Physically, I have more energy than I did when I had two toddlers at the same time! So giving quantity time isn’t as hard as it use to be back in the day when I was sleep deprived and tired from running a household and keeping up with little ones!
    Good post!

  5. We have instituted a date night with each of our children. It may not happen on a weekly basis…but it might be the only one on one time we get for the month…it was so much fun to do! We went to Don Pablo’s and Tar*get and GOODWILL! 🙂

  6. As the mom of a teenage boy who loves to read (like me) and loves sports (like me); we have our best times together discussing his latest assignment in lit class or the sports page.
    My 9 year old daughter also loves to read and loves all the girly things (like me).
    So I truly have the best of both worlds with my kids. Just remember to hug and kiss while you can. They grow up way too fast!

  7. You’re right about the quality and quantity time. They both are important to our children. Whoever told us it was just quality was important was just trying to make parents not feel guilty, they lied!

    Since I have two girls, it’s fairly easy to bond. And since I homeschool, I get both quality and quantity time. But, even with that I find that I get busy and can sometimes spend a lot of time talking to them, but not with them. I try to make a special point that when one of them has something to tell me that I stop what I’m doing and give them my full attention.

    My younger child will talk my ear off, but it takes my older child a little bit of time to open up and talk. I have to make sure I carve out time during the day to just listen to her. And I ask a lot of open ended questions like “how did that make you feel?”, or “then what happened?” “or what did you think about that?”. It’s amazing how she will open up to me. But, she has to have time. But, overall I’m very close to both of my girls and would be so sad if that relationship was ever stressed or strained.

  8. What a thought provoking post today and now you have me musing too. I will be keeping an eye out for these moments that I can just “be” with them.

  9. Learning about and taking an interest in football was the best thing I could’ve ever done for Matthew besides signing him up for it.

    The memories we have while sitting there watching a game (even though we still have to call my dad to explain something to us) is priceless and I’ve found that I really DO enjoy it.

    Of course, Matthew is stuck in a house full of girls, so often times he’s stuck watching “girl” stuff…

    I actually looked FORWARD to football season this year… 🙂

  10. I absolutely agree. Quantity time is just as important as quality time. Actually if you give your kids most of your time, there is bound to be some quality moments in there somewhere, right??? 😀

  11. This post brought tears to my eyes. I too have had similar moments with my kids…leaving the ironing to go sit and read a comic book with my son…leaving the dishes to play tea party with my girls or let them brush my hair and put all kinds of silly barrettes and elastics in it. They really do appreciate those things, but we just get so darn busy and caught up in cleaning, cooking, straightening, organizing, etc….we forget about the fact that they need us to actually be with them, and not just around them, you know what I mean?

    Sigh, I have learned so much from the half hour I’ve been browsing through your blog. You sound like a wonderful mom and an all around beautiful person. May God continue to bless you and your family with all that is good.

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