You may have more time than you realize. If not, it’s crucial that you put out an effort to find or make some.
A few years ago family experts were preaching that what’s important is “quality time,” not “quantity time.” More recent research shows that kids need both “quality” and “quantity” time with their parents. In fact, the more involved parents are with their children, the less likely they are to have social, emotional, or academic problems, use drugs or alcohol, become involved in crime, or engage in premarital sex.
You have to keep in mind that it’s not always possible to plan meaningful interactions between a parent and a child. Such serendipitous moments can’t be cooked up and crammed into a few minutes of “quality time” every day. Many opportunities to teach or model moral values may catch you off-guard and will be gone in the blink of an eye. You can’t seize the moment if you’re not there to do the seizing. And that means spending lots of “quantity” time together with your kids.
Without more detailed information about your family situation it’s hard to know exactly how to advise you. But your inquiry leads us to believe that you may need to re-examine your priorities. You can begin by honestly asking yourself a few simple questions. Is your employment outside the home a matter of providing for basic needs, or are you driven by materialistic desires or a longing for personal significance? Are there any aspects of “maintaining a household” that you can afford to sacrifice? Do you attach a greater value to status or appearance than to the well-being of your kids? After all, a spotless home isn’t nearly as important as a close relationship with your children. As an anonymous poet has written:
For when at times I’m forced to choose
The one job or the other,
I’d like to cook and clean and scrub,
But first I’ll be a mother.
Another suggestion: one of the easiest ways to make more time for your kids is to turn off the TV. In the average American home, the television is on 49 hours a week. By way of contrast, the average amount of time that both parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children is 39 minutes a week. If you’re serious about wanting more time with your kids, make the obvious choice. Instead of watching TV, read to them, play board games together, take a walk to a local park, or just talk to them.
It’s also important to avoid the temptation to get your kids overly involved in activities outside the home. Some parents feel pressure to sign their children up for numerous sports teams, music and dance lessons, social clubs, and all kinds of community organizations. Don’t fall prey to this mindset. Kids don’t need a dozen different weekly activities. They need quality and quantity time with loving, involved, and committed parents.
We hope these few suggestions have been helpful. If you’d like to discuss this subject at greater length, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.
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The Involved Father