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The age old ‘Quality’ Vs ‘Quantity’ debate – The Parenting BLIP Saga

20 July 2018 Posted by No Comment

By Dedunie De Silva  

I was having a chat with a friend recently, whose only son had been critically ill over a year ago with a serious medical condition. He was explaining the feeling of total and utter desperation and helplessness as he watched his son in a vegetative state, where allopathy had done all it could and it was all up to his son to wake up or not. He had wondered at that moment, when literally his entire life crashed and flashed before him, whether he had any regrets vis a vis his son – Had he done all he could for him medically at that point? Had he been a good father? And most importantly, had he given him adequate and undivided ‘time’ and attention?

For some reason, one specific memory had kept recurring and haunting him – that of his child, when he was about 04 years old, asking my friend to play ball with him a little bit longer and my friend saying he was too tired. In hindsight, what a 4 year old says is seemingly insignificant in the greater scheme of things, as his son is now a testament of great upbringing, in that he is a wonderfully well-adjusted, and contented teenager, who even opted out of studying overseas, choosing instead to study here at home.

However, at that moment of complete desolation and isolation, this, and many other similar instances, was what my friend regretted the most, as it was ‘time’ he could have spent with his son, which he didn’t, which he can now never get back and at the time, seemed quite possible that he may never get again!

So my friend, being one who has had ‘his skin in the game’ (as he puts it), used this experience to impress upon me the importance of actually spending as much ‘time’ as possible with my son, without giving the cliché ‘quality Vs. quantity’ argument working mums use vis a vis home-maker mums. If you really analyse, this argument really is very subjective – i.e. a parent who chooses to be a home-maker, may well enjoy this process, thereby giving both quality and quantity in terms of ‘time’ to the child, in as much as a working parent spending just a couple hours a day with the child, may not use that brief ‘quality time’ qualitatively. So it does not necessarily follow that less time is better spent, or that more time is too stifling, if both scenarios are not managed effectively and with the right intentions.

Be that as it may, the reality is that, it is a very limited window where kids will actually want and crave for your time and attention. After a point, especially after teenage years and other interests take over, they may not want your company as much, nor will they have the same level of adulation for you. So the relationship, which starts off asymmetrically with you being in control of how and when your time and emotions are doled out, suddenly becomes asymmetric with your child being in control of how and when his/her time and emotions are doled out.

This really made me contemplate in great detail into the relationship I have with my son. I think and feel that I do spend as much ‘quality’ time as I possibly can with him, considering I am a full-time working mum. And I have read more than a required amount of literature to comfort me that kids having both parents working, are more independent, self-motivated and self-sufficient; their parents are happy and content as they have fulfilled their career aspirations, whilst being able to provide the best for the child in terms of security, comforts etc.; and this contentment then translates to the home-front where everyone is happy and everything is ‘kosher’!

So obviously my son has to happy and content right? I mean he is seemingly well adjusted for all purposes, confident, happy, care-free, smart… But do I really know whether he would opt out of all of the above ‘security and comforts’, if he could have me home when he comes from school, have me sit with him at all his classes, and generally be present and with him throughout the day, at least during his formative and most impressionable years? Did I ever give him the choice or decide for him, and then find sufficient grounds to satisfy myself that this is the ‘best’ course of action for him?? After all, I too am entitled to my own happiness and in fairness, he does have it so much better than most kids – with an extensive support network in loving grandparents and aunts who fight to babysit him, devoted nanny and other caregivers etc. But are they all just convenient ‘substitutes’ and would he, given the choice, opt to have me there instead?

This is where it gets real, where self-doubt and guilt trickle in and you start asking the difficult questions – the ones for which you don’t really want an overly honest or direct answer..!

But ask I did and with a bit of soul-searching, came upon the realization that it’s not about whether you work or don’t work or whether you spend 24 or 5 hours a day with the child. It’s the real and meaningful “time” you spend, where you give unconditionally and unequivocally, as he does to you, without any clutter, judgment or distraction. Just listening, inquiring, probing (where required), opining (when asked), playing, laughing, singing, hugging, tackling, story-telling – what have you!

Prioritizing your child and his needs should take precedence over all other trivial, hum drum matters that really CAN and SHOULD WAIT!!

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