One of the most consistent observations among the moms in our study was the psychological benefit they derived from their entire family being together in one place. The one question in our journals that we asked every day was "what do you wish was different about today?" One of the most popular responses was something along the lines of "I wish we had been together more." They sometimes had another comment, "I wish we had had more time to talk as a family," but this aspiration did not seem to be as prominent. Even time spent together watching a movie or attending church seemed to provide a sense of satisfaction to our moms.
For example, Diane and her daughter Maggie went on a spring-break vacation while Diane was journaling for us. By all accounts it was a fun, relaxing, and otherwise enjoyable time together, but almost every day in her journal, Diane lamented that her husband and son were not with her. Her husband also traveled a lot for his work, and this was a significant source of stress for Diane and the children—we could track the tone change in her journal as her husband came and went for his business trips.
One of our families, the Tafts, spent a lot of time engaged in separate activities while at home: Dad played on the computer in the den, the kids watched TV in the living room, and Mom would be engaged elsewhere in the home. Even with all of their time "apart," Mom did not express as much frustration about their family togetherness as did some of our other families. One possible explanation is that even though they were separately engaged, they were still in one house—this physical proximity seemed to be beneficial even though there was not the "meaningful interaction" that we often assume is necessary to build family cohesion