Over this past year as I’ve been focusing on my business more and more, I have become aware of the concept of “quality time” with my children.
What I’ve learnt though, is that no matter how tempting it is to do big activities to create “quality time” true quality comes with connection, interaction and involvement.
When I ask parents about whether they feel guilty within their parenting experience, most will reply yes and often this surrounds the issue of how much actual time they spend with their children. They fall into the trap of over compensating, working extra hard to afford expensive trips, outings or treats. The pull for “quality time” often falls into “quantity time” as parents rustle any spare hour they can find and arrange some event with their children. It’s at the core of the supermom/dad epidemic, as we are convinced our children will be damaged for life if we aren’t forever in their eyeline.
I love spending time with my children. Living day to day with my family is the reason why we homeschool as well as why I work from home. We enjoy each other’s company in every moment and I’m always silently thrilled each time our children talk about how they will always live at home and that we will have to move close to any university they decide to attend. I love travelling with them, taking them to a movie or out to dinner at Ikea. I love shopping with them or even going to a playground. However, what niggles me when I get too involved in one project isn’t the actual time I spend with my family, it’s the quality of it that I have to be consciously aware of.
I feel fulfilled, aligned with everything I am and want to be, when my son and I sit laughing together in his bed, really talking and connecting. I feel the same connection, each night, when my girls and I watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix and give manicures. Those are the times that I feel present and focused. Those are the times when life sinks into a space of being lived.
We live in a time of smartphones, facebook and multi-tasking. Our attention and focus is split in a million directions, scattered for thinking half-thought thoughts. But when our children get in the middle of that, that’s when they feel neglected. It really has nothing to do with outings and money spent on them.
Eye to eye contact, really hearing their dreams and desires, discussing their questions and listening to their opinions, with no difference than we would a friend, that is the quality time I relish in with my children, and yet that is often what I resist if I’m not careful. With to-do lists mounting, sometimes the true attention goes by so quickly and I try to do too much at once.
Now saying that there is another balancing act. It can be easy to fall into the guilt trap if that sort of attention isn’t constant as well. It’s not a question of listening to each long, drawn out dream or story, only to be stressing about getting done what needs to be done. It’s also not the act of self sacrifice so many parents can fall into, where our children’s stories are put above our own.
I have my own business. I coach, I teach, I write. But my children, who at 14,13 and 7 have good ideas of who they are and how to play, have their own lives as well. They read, they play, they are busy in their own worlds. Sometimes, when I feel I’ve been working too hard, I go to “spend time” with them, only to find that I am intruding on their own focus, their own intention and I quietly go back to my world of wonder as well.
We are individual people, in each family, eager to enjoy the wonders and fruits of the world in front of us. It may feel like we are supposed to put life on hold for our children, but that is not the case. Our children want to see us in the fullness of ourselves, and being passionate about what we do and are. That’s what we want for our children as well. We have no wish to have shadows, having our children following us around waiting for our every word or wish.
It is in the ability of focus, the ability to listen with our hearts, eyes and ears, the inner knowing to drop everything because we are needed, the shared laugh over lunch, the smiles in passing, the connections a bedtime. Quality time, has, in fact, nothing to do with TIME, in quantified measurement, rather quality time means quality of life. A life that sparkles and dances when we and our children are in a room together, that is what creates a happy, stable childhood and home.