Quality Time: Or Not

I’m a big fan of Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think–a time management book with the premise that most of us do have time for the things we actually WANT to do. It changed my life in at least one way: I almost never say I “just don’t have time” for things anymore. Instead, I say (at least to myself) “I don’t want to give my time to that.” Because that’s nearly always the truth. I mean, there are days when you really don’t have time for one more thing, sure, but overall, if you WANT to do it, you do it.

But then there’s time creep, and the problem of what, among the many things you actually are trying to do with your day, you actually do. Laura encourages you to keep track of your time for a week and really look at where it goes, and I’ve done that twice. This week, she’s doing another time challenge, so I’ve done some keeping track. It’s clear to me I’m not putting in as much concentrated writing time as I’d like to (in part because I don’t have anything big actually DUE at the moment, so I’m moving around on a lot of smaller things), but that’s not what struck me most about the first two days of tracking my time this week. What struck me most is that I don’t really spend any time with the kids.

Oh, I do, of course. We’re together every afternoon at a minimum. I was with some or all of them today from 1 pm on. But how “with” them am I, when that time also went to:

  • Finishing an XXFactor post
  • Vacuuming
  • Laundry
  • Making dinner
  • Helping make lunches
  • Driving to tennis
  • Sitting at tennis for an hour chatting with other moms and finishing my copy of the Atlantic Monthly
  • Making a list of how I want to spend time tomorrow.

My most in-depth interactions were combing out Lily’s hair post shower, helping Sam with his book report model (Spaceship Earth! Still!) and getting everyone to come outside and look at the rainbow! And we did eat dinner together, as we nearly always do.

This isn’t one of my guilt posts–I think this IS spending time together. This kind of time is what solidifies a life together. I try to have as much just wandering the house co-existing going on for us as possible. But it did make me think about how the time I mark on the calendar as “kid time” usually really isn’t, and it reminded me that some of the time, I want there to be actual kid time. Kid time with me and one kid doing some one thing that we’re just doing together. I’ve talked about that before, but it’s never a bad thing to revisit.

Here’s a realistic goal: I’ve found I’m more likely to stick to a work out if I put it on the iCal and plan it when I plan my week (that’s the secret to how we eat so well, too: the weekly plan). I bet I could plan in time with one kid every week. Some of that time just happens (for example, I took Lily to a birthday party half-an-hour away two weeks ago and to her school’s musical last weekend, and during hockey season I tend to get lots of time with Sam) but more often it doesn’t, especially with Rory and Wyatt, who tend to share an identical schedule. I had just Rory last Thursday for a cookie-making afternoon—looks like it’s Wyatt’s turn. Time to not just try to make it happen, but to eye the calendar and put it on.

One Response to “Quality Time: Or Not”

  1. Cheryl says:

    Now that I’ve got two boys, I’m finding that we all have the most fun if our special time is spontaneous. I think its because of their ages – 5yo and 3mo, or that I tend to stress when we have to be someplace at a specific time. Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, I try to find fun stuff to do that my mile-a-minute 5yo won’t get bored with…baking cookies, brownies, etc.; or going sledding at the golf course; walking the herring brook and getting ice cream…stuff like that. Right now, its definitely helpful that I have one-on-one time with the baby while my 5yo is at school, and time with my 5yo after the baby goes to sleep at night – story time is definitely more enjoyable for him, because it’s his special time with mom.