The #1 Parenting Lie: Quality Over Quantity

This is the time of year when most of us look back on those things we are most thankful for- God, our spouses, our families, our children. Thinking about this recently has made me focus on a terrible untruth that has been circling as sage parenting advice for decades- quality over quantity.

According to these “words of wisdom”, the amount of time a parent spends with their child is not as important as the purposefulness of their being together. I’m all for families spending intentional time together. I think it’s wonderful. But…I think this advice is a little misguided and has maybe been taken just a bit too far. 

“Quality over quantity” has been a view held by people for hundreds and hundreds of years. It certainly has merit when considering it for the purpose of appreciating the quality of our personal possessions over how many things we actually have. It also does well when pertaining to food- I’d rather have one cup of good coffee than five terrible ones. I could continue with more examples like this, but instead I’m going to skip it and cut right to the chase.

Is the amount of time parents spend with their children really unimportant?

I don’t know when this adage began being directed towards parents with respect to their children. Maybe at the onset of compulsory schooling, since parents would be seeing far less of their children. Perhaps in the generation that women decided to leave the home in order to work full time.

Whatever the reason, I’m sure this sounded like comforting advice to people who may have been feeling a little guilty about not being with their kids much, which is probably why this advice is still heard being uttered by so many parents today.

Let’s face it…

We live in a fast-moving society today that is always racing towards the next thing.

Countless children are bused to after-school daycares after being in school all day because their parents are working. I know this is a necessary evil in the eyes of many families, but I’m going to bring up two points right now:

  1. Is this income necessary, or is it so you can give your kids what you never had?
  2. How much extra time are you wasting on extracurriculars and busyness when you could actually just be with your kids?

On the first point, I’d like to say that some people may not have had many possessions growing up. They may feel like they’re doing something special for their kids because they felt deprived in some way. What I’m wondering is what their kids would have to say about this matter.

Does a weekly family game night really make up for an almost complete absence the rest of the week?

For most of my childhood, both of my parents worked full time. My mom worked second shift, so I only saw her for a few precious moments after school and on the weekends. For sure, we had a good relationship- and still do. But would I have traded her presence at all of my dance classes and recitals in exchange to have her home with me all the time? Absolutely.

My dad was the one who was home with me at night. We never really did anything that people would consider “quality time”, unless you consider watching TV quality time. Would I have traded his low key, yet dependable, presence in my life in exchange for one day a week of intentional activities? No way.

My dad is no longer with me. I may not have tons of fancy memories of us doing exciting things together once in a while. Instead, I have memories of lots of time together. Memories of running into his arms every single day after he came home from work knowing my daddy was going to be there with me. Every. single. day.

When you no longer have someone, I’d say that quantity matters much more than you think it will. 

As for the second point, I know it’s the “in” thing to have your kids in so many activities you have to color code your calendar for each child. It’s commonplace for parents to be ever thinking about their child’s future college application.

But are these reasons more important than your relationship with your kids? I’ve seen some terribly sad stories of people in my own family who work three jobs and are away from their kids constantly- not because they need the money but because they feel like they have to have more than everyone else. Do semi-annual cruises and beauty pageants really make up for being nearly a stranger to your child?

Working out of necessity is an entirely different story than working out of…yes, I’m going to say it…greed.

I don’t want to create the illusion that living on one income  is easy. I am telling you right now, it’s not. It takes resourcefulness, ingenuity, and sacrifice. But that sacrifice arises out of the necessity to learn to live within your means in order to raise the children you chose to have.

Quality over quantity is a lie. Your children need you in their lives. Everyday.

Enjoy them this Thanksgiving holiday, and everyday thereafter.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

38 thoughts on “The #1 Parenting Lie: Quality Over Quantity”

  1. I agree, Shelly. My mother worked through my tween and teen years and was never home. Even when she was home, she brought work with her. This is one reason why we homeschool through the teen years and why I value being a stay-at-home mom.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree too but I can tell you by saying this aloud (in a much less confrontational way) it is never received well. But I think there is a huge difference in working to put food on the table and clothes on the kids back versus working to put your kids in a multitude of activities that they kind of enjoy and taking fancy vacation and driving new cars. It’s a choice and when we chose to step back, homeschool, and focus on quantity of time by deciding to drive older cards, take vacation every couple of year (or modify our definition of vacation), and pull our kids out of any activities they aren’t absolutely in LOVE with we had to drop quite a few friends and I found myself defending our decisions so much. I don’t tell other people they’re making the wrong choice since it is their life to live but many felt threatened by the choices we were making.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I definitely think that families should strive to find a balance that works for them and their individual situations and family needs. I agree that how much time we spend with our children is important. When kids know that we can be present and active in their lives on a more consistent basis, I think they feel more secure and at ease. However, if a parent can’t spend as much time with their child because they have to work, I definitely think that maximizing the time you do have with your child by doing something intentional or that will strengthen your bond is very important. It was years before my mom could get a job that allowed her to be home with us at nights, but I appreciate the quality time she gave us during the years before that.

    She knew her job kept her away from us and she made the moments she was with us about bonding and connecting as a family. I am forever grateful for that because it made our family thick like glue.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was a kid of a two career family. I think in our case, it was less about making enough money, and more about both of my parents wanting careers outside the home.

    I feel that everything worked out well for us because my parents were able to integrate me pretty fully into their work experiences. When my dad had to work on Saturday’s, I frequently went into the office with him. I’d work on some kind of art or reading activity while he worked. Likewise, I was always welcome at my mom’s office. For awhile, they owned an accounting firm together. During tax season, I’d practically live in their offices, sleeping in office chairs, or on the floor when they had to pull all-nighters. The one interesting side-effect is that I can’t take quizzes (like the unconcious bias questionnaire), that depend on the participant to have a split view of home and work. The two were too integrated for me.

    In turn, I’m trying to do the same thing with our kids. So far, so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The 80s. That’s when it started. More and more women were career-focused; the term latchkey kids was coined; and “quality time” became the catchphrase of the decade. And I’ve always disagreed with it. Look where it’s gotten us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the post! What a great read. I agree wholeheartedly. While some say they “have to work”, the “have” is a given. Work is considered such a necessity its as though it’s never questioned – it’s always the priority no matter what the economics. I agree that some don’t have such luxuries, but many others do and choose work over family. And before we know it our kids are grown and someone else (or many others) raised them. Glad for the perspective you offer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right. Were some people in our financial situation (10 kids still at home) they would automatically assume that both parents would have to work, but it’s really just a matter of being frugal and prioritizing family over material wealth.


  7. Wow! I’ve read three different articles written by you and, I gotta say, I’m in love with your honesty! They have opened my eyes and gave me a new, fresh perspective, which was exactly what I needed in my life right now. I can’t thank you enough; your words give me courage.

    Liked by 1 person

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