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:
- Is this income necessary, or is it so you can give your kids what you never had?
- 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.