Quality vs quantity time

quality vs quantity time

I cannot say it enough – I am incredibly lucky to be a work-at-home mom. It’s a lot of work and has its own unique challenges, but it does mean that I’m around to spend time with my little one during the day. I still have guilt about how I spend my time, particularly when I’m busy during the day and not feeling like I’m giving my best to my job or my kid. However, for the most part, I’ve found my rhythm that seems to work best for me and Harley.

But I do wonder about the question of quality time vs quantity time. The concept of quality time is one that I hear about often, mostly recently being reminded of it in a blog from The Blessed Barrenness. She wrote about feeling guilty that her quality time with her kids is spent preparing meals together, or washing the car or reading stories instead of extravagant memorable events. She then had an epiphany that this kind of time with her kids is exactly the best thing – she’s having quality time with them and that’s what really matters. While I agree with her that she’s doing exactly the right thing, I think I’d use a different term.

To me, quantity time is about those daily activities that kids can rely on. For my entire childhood, my mom was there when I came home from school, ready to hear about my day. It’s something that I want to do with Harley, to ensure that I’m always free when she comes home to talk about her experiences and touch base with each other. The same goes for family dinners, weekly braais, and even bath time or other daily rituals. Those are things that I think are the most important and help forge such meaningful bonds. That’s quantity time – literally putting the time in to help make sure your kid knows that you’re always there.

Quality time feels like a forced concept to me. It could just be semantics and my own prejudice about it, but I feel like quality time is when parents put pressure on kids to have a good time and remember it in the bad moments. Trips to interesting places or fun activities are great, and I can’t wait to take Harley to the zoo or the planetarium, but if she doesn’t enjoy it or it doesn’t go as planned, I’ll hopefully be able to keep in mind that her real happy memories of her childhood will come from silly day to day stuff we do together.

At least, that’s how it was for me. Sure, my family did some incredible things together, and I have really fun memories of that. But my favorite memories with my mom are the consistent ones – coming home from school and chatting, or going for coffee and being silly together, or playing board games together, or laughing after bath time. I remember my father making me breakfast in the morning, or reading bedtime stories at night. It wasn’t about quality time in that every bath time was hilarious or every bedtime story was meaningful. It was that I could count on my mom being there for bath time every night, or my father to read the bedtime story long after I was old enough to read it myself. It was about the consistency rather than quality of the experiences. Does that make it quality or quantity time?

Either way, I think the most important thing is finding ways to connect with your tiny person, and finding new ways as they grow. For now, Harley enjoys her massages in the evening. As she gets older, that might stay as part of our rituals together, or it might evolve into something else. But whatever we call it, I know the thing my kid will get from me no matter what – time. Maybe we’ll play games together, or read books, or watch series – there are so many things I want to introduce her to and spend time enjoying together. Call it quality or quantity time, she will know that I’m here for her. At least, that’s my hope.


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