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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  • I read an interesting thing the other day.

    In short it spoke about these “Planned things” to stimulate and help your kid grow and gain happy memories….. and just how bad it can be to do it too often.

    You see, it’s great to do this for your kid sure. They need to develop their minds, body etc etc and that’s great. But to do this to the exclusion of other things can be very bad.

    You see you need to also let your little one “just be”. By allowing them to just be you allow your little one to explre and let them show you what makes their little hearts soar.

    Your kid goes to the garden to build sand castles? Join. Your little one may be a future engineer.
    Your kid loves climbing? Maybe a future firefighter or mountaineer. Your kid loves to just jiggle around to music? Join in. He or she may be a future professional dance champion.
    Who knows.

    So yeah, while I agree you still need to do the whole quality time thing where you intentionally plan awesome times, not every quality time interaction needs to be meticulously planned out. One needs to let little ones sometimes take the reigns in that regard.

    This might not all apply right now when they are so small, but they start developing little intricate personalities a lot sooner than one would think. Mine isn’t even 2 yet and she’s got quite the personality and will of her own already.

    • and they grow up FAST.

    • Her Highness the Hipster

      holy crap! she is already so grown up – looks like she should be going to college compared to mine 😛 and for sure, got to give plenty of room for their own personalities and interests to take shape.

  • Zoe, I have been loving your blog so much lately – I keep forgetting to tell you! Really, such awesome content. I work as a virtual assistant in the evenings and have done so since before having my kid. I think I took 2 days maternity leave, which were spent in hospital :’) Axl is now two, and I still have this feeling that the time I spend with him is never enough, that I am lacking somehow. Oh the worst is that I log in to social media to find that my friend’s kid says 40 new words, when my kid is just happy roaring like a dinosaur. However, I try my best and I always put aside some time for him and me – watching Barney, playing dinosaurs, creating car accidents, singing ABC. He seems to like it, so that’s what matters, right?

    • Her Highness the Hipster

      Aw, thank you so much for the comment! Yes, no matter how much we do it never feels like enough, and it’s even worse when Facebook seems determined to show off all those friends who find time to stimulate their kids all day and seem like such better parents. LOL – that’s just it, i’m sure your kid will love the memories of playing dinosaurs and creating car accidents. that’s what it’s all about.

  • Love this post Zoe.

    • Her Highness the Hipster

      *hugs* thanks so much!

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