‘Spend quality time with your children’ I hear this term banded about a lot. But what does it actually MEAN? I spend a lot of time with both my children, we read books, watching television together, dance and sing, bake cakes or craft and we also act silly at home.
But is this quality time? Or does quality time have to be something that is planned, uninterrupted and organised? For example, if you have a tuft spot and fill it with fake snow a la Pinterest does this make you a wonderful, dutiful parent? Will it mean your children are happiest, or ensure they gain a first class honours degree in Medicine? Or, like the rest of society, are you encouraging toddlers to eat their toast, shoved in front of Peppa Pig whilst you hurriedly attempt to look at least half decent for work?
Before I became a parent I remember a fellow pregnant friend declaring to me mid conversation about becoming a Mum, ‘The baby will fit around me- I’m not going to be one of those parents who changes their whole life and talks of nothing else’
I thought long and hard about this.
Surely making the decision to become a parent means that (usually) we are sacrificing selfishness and prioritising our children? But on the flip side, I knew my friend was right- living a life filled with just nappies and CBeebies may fill our lives temporarily but for me personally, I knew it would leave me without fulfilment, or purpose later on.
A family member reminisced to me recently, ‘.. Yes well when the Health Visitor came round after X was born, we just had Bob Dylan playing loudly- she was shocked but we just told her, ‘this is what we do’ as we wanted, in a sense to have to baby growing up listening to great music..’ Whilst I’m not sure having music blaring out whilst a health professional visits, I fully understood the concept. The decisions we make as parents are based around our interests, of course they are. I take my children to festivals and the theatre, because that’s that I enjoy doing and I want to share the enjoyment and create memories they will cherish. I cook food that I like to
eat and hope they will like it too and I buy them gifts that I would like them to play with or enjoy.
All this questioning in my mind has stemmed from good old parent guilt. You know, the feeling that makes you feel like the crappest parent in the world. You are so tired and feeling fed up that setting up the world’s craziest train track, or reading the same story ten times to a bunch of rag dolls just seems like it will tip you over the edge! You long for ten minutes peace, then the pangs of guilt hit you like a brick. You head to social media for solace, escapism or even just a giggle- but what are you greeted with? Photographs, blogs and tweets of wonderful family moments, spectacular festive craft projects and beaming smiles from children that HAVEN’T been sat in their pyjamas all day, or HAVEN’T been dragged around town on a number of essential, but very boring errands.
Of course, people share what they want to share. I know this. Photographs of little Jimmy stood in a queue at Natwest would hardly entertain likes or be deemed a worthwhile share. Baby Sarah sat screaming after being plonked in the trolley at Morrisons is probably having much more of a laugh than her Mum or Dad who simply *must* ensure the weekly shop is completed in order to gain the £25 Christmas bonus, but no one wants to see, or read about this stressful episode on their Facebook feed, do they?
The point is that actually as exaggerated as those scenarios are, those moments aren’t pointless. Actually, they’re just life. Changing your whole life, focusing on JUST the kids doesn’t in the long run teach our children reality. Children need to see that we have to cook, grocery shop and clean. They should learn the value of hard work and know that people go to work, to earn money, and gain satisfaction from doing so.
But of course, as with anything it is about balance. I’m certainly not advocating demanding our children to
sweep the chimney in preparation for Santa’s imminent arrival, nor am I considering that visits to the Supermarket should become part of a daily-educational routine. But put simply, life is life and do what you need to do. You can make pretty much any job fun after all, learning colours, counting along the way etc.
But remember, there is always time for play AND work. There are going to be times when actually our children are bored, and that’s fine because as adults this is something we have to learn to deal with! Overall, we all know that time is precious, however you spend it. Anytime with our children, is quality time as far as I’m concerned. As long as children feel loved, wanted, worthy and enter the adult world with self-confidence as a result of this, then you’ve done your job! Just don’t waste time feeling guilty, it may interrupt the quality time you need to have with yourself.