When I became a stay-at-home mom 6 months ago, I thought I’d have more time with our three kids. But between the tasks I now do at home (more meal prep, less eating out) and several ongoing activities (violin lessons, soccer games, church, etc), I feel like our family’s only quality time together is a few hours on Saturday.
I’m committed to nurturing my children’s strengths through extra-curricular activities, but sometime it feels like our schedules are so packed that we rarely connect as a family. I’ve heard it said that “quantity time,” isn’t as important as “quality time.” What would you do if you were in my shoes?
A Frazzled Chauffer
Dear Frazzled Chauffeur,
You have brought to mind the “elephant in the room” for this generation! You are quickly realizing that just being unemployed or, in another way of expressing it, being a “professional homemaker” (in the sense of devoting your primary energies, creativity, and skills to your home and family) does not magically provide a utopian home environment and all the time you need.
During the last few decades there have been major cultural changes. The ever-increasing materialism and continual bombardment of activities that affirm individualism and minimize family unity as well as the government push to control the education and training of the next generation literally from the cradle to the grave are factors not to be taken lightly in evaluating where we are as a nation in our concept of home and family and its role in society.
Apparently, this idea of quality in lieu of quantity is only reserved for the family—and especially for children. Time with children seems to be the most flexible and expendable and at the top of the list for cutting corners when other demands arise. Especially is this tragic for babies and young children as all new research is consistently reminding us that brain development and mental, as well as emotional, nourishment in the first years of life is especially important—so much so that when missed, it cannot be recovered!
When you try to identify what is convenient for you in expending “quality time” with a child or teen, you cannot anticipate when that child or teen is ready to share the events of the day, discuss a crisis in which he is immersed, reach out for loving comfort, or ask a moral question that has just appeared in his life. Perhaps the biggest factor in quality vs. quantity of time comes in a mother’s availability to make the adjustments in her life to accommodate when a child’s quality time calls for more quantity than has been scheduled. It is that flexibility to do what is needed when it is needed that a mother like you is pursuing.
Yes, it is a privilege for a mother to devote her primary time and energies to her home, but it is also a sacrifice. Yes, she does have more time to spend in her home than mothers who have chosen to balance home and the workplace; but, as you have expressed, spending time in the home does not automatically provide carte blanche for hours of leisure with your children. There is work to be done to manage the household; there are challenges to stretch more limited resources to meet the needs of the family; there are goals lovingly to create the oasis you want your home to be, providing shelter and comfort and enrichment for every member of the family.
Now, let me summarize with some characteristics important to me for the best investment of time in the family—an investment that links quality and quantity:
- Marking your life with biblical priorities through a personal quiet time of reading God’s Word, listening to what God is saying and continually praying through your challenges, giving God the ultimate control on how you manage your time.
- Flexibility means that you are not rigidly bound by a schedule. You have a plan; you govern your days with a calendar noting appointments and activities for the entire family; but you also plan to deviate from that scheduling when individual family members need your attention.
- Creativity opens the door to using minutes—even small blocks of time, such as when you are driving to and from activities; focusing on routines like mealtime with a determination to have the family together at least once every day for a more relaxed time of sharing and updating; developing traditions like holiday celebrations or vacations or reunions.
Connecting as a family will not just happen even for mothers devoting their full energies to the home. You must dream and plan and adapt to the challenges in the lives of your family members in order to create the bonds that will strengthen the family as a whole and meet the needs of each family member:
- Start with minutes and make them important.
- Move to short blocks of time in the natural flow of life and plan carefully.
- Do creative planning and stretch your resources sacrificially to provide a special more extended time when you can create some unforgettable memories for your family.
Most important of all—never give up! Keep trying to invest in your family—it pays dividends!
Devotedly yours in the journey,