Fangtastic Friday Debunks “Quality” Time

As a writer, I’m well acquainted with the notion of quality time.  It’s the 10 minutes it takes to pump up my story with a witty retort for my heroine that came to me in the wee hours of the morning, or the flashing moment when an escape for my hero gels…against insurmountable odds…and my fingers can’t fly fast enough over the keyboard.  Those are productive moments.  And then there are the agonizing hours of sitting in front of a computer when words are as infrequent as a sloth’s bathroom habits.  That may not be true “quality” time, but in the aggregate of a writer’s life, it’s time well spent.  I need those quiet, seemingly non-productive times to recharge.  Perhaps I’m on the verge of an idea just under the surface of my conciousness, and the next time I sit at the computer, it will burst forth like soldiers from the Trojan horse.

On our annual drive to Florida for Christmas this year, I spent 10 hours in the car with our daughter.  My husband drove separately with the Chihuahua and Cockatiel, so he experienced a different cacophony of banter.  Mine was more productive.  In those 10 hours, there was lots of talk about the Christmas gifts we’d bought and had yet to buy, where we’d shop once we got to Orlando, whether we’d stop at the St. Augustine outlets on the way, etc.  But within those endless hours of dodging trucks on the yellow-striped asphalt, I learned how my daughter really feels about her boyfriend of three years and how committed she is to her career path of nursing.  Would we have gotten to the juicy stuff without couching it in casual conversation?  Probably not.  Our easy banter paved the way for about an hour of productive information that I’d been dying to learn. 

With a New Year dawning, I’ve been pondering “quality” time and how it has played out in my life.  The notion of some time having more intrinsic value came about in the 1970s as a way to assuage the guilt of working mothers.  Psychologists said that it wasn’t the amount of time spent with children, it was the quality of that time.  A woman could work outside the home all day, but as long as she helped the kids with their homework and read to them before tucking them in for the night, she’d receive the equivalent of Good Housekeeping’s Seal of Approval.  Many of us bought into that definition of quality time, myself included.  But my son had a way to disprove it.

Every night, he wanted me to read the same book to him…Goodnight Moon.  Now, this is a classic story, and it’s adorable, but I balked at the idea that his mind wasn’t being sufficiently stimulated by hearing the same story every night.  To my over-analyzed way of thinking, this was not productive time.  I wanted to introduce him to a whole world of stories, not just one about a bunny resisting sleep.  But you know what, when I look back at those times, I see a tossle-haired boy with eyes as droopy as the bunny’s ears, listening to the cadence of my words and lulling himself into dreamland.  It’s one of my fondest memories of his precious childhood.  Now, tell me that’s not quality time.

Recently, I was reminded of this story when helping my niece deal with her aging mother, my sister.  I’m smack between the ages of my niece and sister.  When in my early 40s (where my niece is now), I found myself in the sandwich generation, with two young children and invalid parents, so I can relate to what she’s experiencing.  She’s trying to acclimate her mom to a new environment in a new city, HER city, where my niece owns a business, sits on several influential boards, chairs an annual fundraiser for the children’s hospital, and so on.  She’s busy.  To her way of thinking, the best way she can help her mom is to introduce her to the right people. 

Are you ready for the glitch in this plan?  All my sister wants is more of my niece’s time.  At this stage in her life (she’s in her 70s), she isn’t interesting in becoming involved in a new city, and she’d rather bemoan her old friends than meet new ones.  My niece doesn’t get it.  I’ve listened to both sides of this story, and having been there, both gals have valid arguments.  (I should mention that I’m a Libra, so naturally I’m going to see both sides.) 

And this is where I was reminded of my Goodnight Moon experience with my son and how productive small moments can be.  My sister doesn’t want her executive daughter’s offers of community involvement.  She simply wants her time–to sit at the kitchen table over a cup of tea or to take a leisurely stroll in the park.  That may not be quality time as my niece defines it, but in the scheme of relationships, it’s the time that truly counts. 

What does “quality” time mean to you?  For the New Year, I’m wishing you all lots of time to sort that out. 

God Bless.

18 Responses to “Fangtastic Friday Debunks “Quality” Time”
  1. Virginia C says:

    Hello, Susan! Happy New Year! Thank you for a lovely and thoughtful post. I am a morning person, and I get up every day between 4am and 5am. No alarm clock, and I very seldom sleep late. I love the early morning hours to myself. It’s my most productive time of day. The aroma and taste of that first perfect cup of fresh coffee is a beautiful thing. I tend to my cats, do some chores, balance my checkbook and pay bills, check emails, read the morning paper, and prepare myself to greet the rest of the world. During this time, I am also thinking about life in general plus my own personal issues. It’s a “clean and clear” time–very much quality time. Calming, centering, and empowering–essential for every day survival.


    This story involves my daughter Sandy when she turned seventeen years of age. Sandy wanted to get her driver’s license. I made a mental agreement with myself that I wanted this adventure to be a pleasant memory for her with her dad. I had heard so many horror stories of parents teaching the kids to drive and having shouting matches, verbal abuse, and refusing to get into a car together ever again. Believe me, this was not easy. Sandy passed her written tests and eye exam and received her drivers permit. We drove first on back roads and eventually in traffic and then heavy traffic. Months passed and Sandy was doing fine in most areas other than heavy traffic (especially trucks and buses) and parallel parking.
    Each night, in an empty cul-de-sac, I set up two garbage cans containing broom handles with red flags on each. The cans were spaced wider than a car length. Sandy practiced over and over again parking and pulling out. She just could not master this feat as hard as she tried, even with all the techniques and tricks I could dream up to help her. The night before her scheduled driver’s test we tried again. She could not get it. She started yelling at me. She did not want to do this. She did not want her driver’s license. She did not want to go tomorrow and take the driver’s test. We stopped practicing, went inside, and I left her alone for a couple of hours. Later that night, we were sitting in the living room. I explained to her that passing the driver’s test was not a life or death issue. If she did not pass, we would practice again, try the test again, and keep trying until she eventually passed. Early the next morning we set out the cans and practiced again. The results were not much better than the previous attempts.
    We arrived at the motor vehicle inspection station, parked, gave the papers to the proper authorities, and anxiously waited. Our turn with the driving inspector finally came. I waited in an area that was next to the driver’s track. I heard Sandy say to the inspector as he got into the car, “I hope I do well, I am so nervous.” They drove away as I watched. He had her stop at certain areas, make right and left turns (blinkers on), a few K turns and then to the cones for parallel parking. On her first attempt, she was six feet from the curb. On her second attempt, she was about three feet from the curb. I thought she had just failed the test. They drove around, did some other maneuvers, and came back to where I was and parked.
    I approached the car observing the expression on Sandy’s face. The inspector was facing her, so all I could see was the back of his head through the window. Suddenly her face lit up with the biggest grin possible. The door opened, both got out, and she was yelling that this was the most exciting day of her life. She turned to the inspector and said, “Can I give you a big kiss?” He smiled and said, “No, no payoffs allowed.” From there we went directly to the motor vehicle office to wait the couple of hours it took for her photo to be taken and the license to be issued. Then we went out to dinner and home. What a day!!!!
    The secret quality time is this: QUALITY TIME = “YOU”
    Sharing “you” with someone else; the time, effort, patience, love, laughter, and in some cases like the driving test, the anxiety, pressure, apprehension, support, love, more love, and most of all “you” and your time; the time you spend with your significant other, kids, friends, volunteering, Lions, Elks, community services, and the list can go on; this is what quality time is. Give time to those who are important to you; give “you.”

  3. Very well-written blog, and oh so true. Like your sister, all our grandchildren want is our time. My wife is a saint, the “grandchild whisperer” if there ever was one. I, on the other hand, continue to write. Her quality time is with the children, but mine is early in the morning with my books.

  4. Heide Katros says:

    My idea of quality time is spending my time with my husband. I love my kids and grandchildren, but there is nothing more uplifting than time spent with the man I love and admire. We never run out of things to say to each other. Maybe that is because we also give each other space to do things on our own. He plays golf, I play tennis. Maybe quality time is what you make, much as you are the maker of your own happiness.
    Wishing you and all your readers a happy, healthy New Year.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      Heide, what a lovely tribute to your man. Sounds like you’ve worked out “quality” time in your life. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Sheila says:

    I don’t know what quality time is. While I’m around people, I still spend a lot of time alone. For me quality time is time where I can accomplish something and feel good about it. It may be reading or concentrating on a movie without trying to multi-task. If I can feel good about what I’ve done, then I’ve spent quality time with me.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      You bring up a good point, Sheila. We’re all trying to multi-task, but to devote our full attention to something, that’s a good definition of “quality” time.

  6. Teresa Kleeman says:

    Hi Susan,

    I’m a 48 yr. old single mother of a 22yr old son. Right now I’ve been staying with my parents, to help take care of them. My mother had to have her knee replacement taken out after nine years, because her body started rejecting it and cause MRCA. My dad is a heart attack and stroke patient who is pretty much wheel chaired bound or scooter. He’s also a very brittle diabectic.
    Taking care of them and working full time and trying to go to law school has pretty much left me no time for me or even for me to spend time with my son. My house is an hour away from my parents so my son has pretty much been on his own.

    Quality time for me is when I get to go home to my house in the country to spend time with my son and my dogs and horses. This is my safe haven and my peace. I’m home even thou I’m by myself its the me time thats important. I usually read a book and just think in general about my life. I don’t mean to sound selfish but I want my life back. I have two other sisters and they live out of state with there own family. They look at since I’m not married it’s my responsiblity to take care of my parents. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing it, however I would like to have me time so I might be able to go to dinner with a companion now or than.

    When I’m there with my parents I try to escape a little by reading a book and putting myself in that world. Maybe I’m just crazy by doing that, but it’s my quality when I can’t get home. Happy New Years Susan.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      Dear Teresa, when I was your age, I was experiencing similar stress. I had two small children and two disabled parents. And like you, I was the responsible child. Life will get better for you. Don’t give up on yourself or your goals, and keep trying to find time to celebrate the wonder of YOU.

      • I really enjoyed this, Susan. My “quality time” over the holidays was also spent in a car with Matt (and Sparky). When we left Asheville on an impulse (and my pushing), Matt and I were barely speaking. I had adopted this crazy puppy, aforementioned Sparky, who interrupted our every moment together with his incessant demands. Although Matt had agreed to the dog, he really wasn’t into him at all.

        In the car, Sparky would fall instantly asleep and, upon waking, climb up on Matt’s shoulder and lick his cheek. He never barked at trucks or other cars and was a perfect gentleman at all rest stops, motels, etc. After four days in a car and only one and a half spent at my daughter’s house for Christmas where Sparky loved her dog, Lizzie, and had all in residence marveling at his willingness to crate up at 7:30 p.m., Matt had fallen in love.

        Sometimes, I think there is divine guidance on how we learn lessons. Isn’t it strange that both of us had profound experiences with loved ones because we were stuck in a car with them with nothing else to do but talk?

        In 2011, I hope I find some quality time for writing again. I’ve been bad! I hope the four of us in P.F.W. find quality time during the New Year in which we get to know each other and love each other even more.


  7. Roxanne Semon says:

    Reading a book toy granddaughter. Baking bread. Giving bread away.

  8. Susan Blexrud says:

    Those sound like perfect moments, Roxanne. Next time you bake that bread, save a loaf for me.

  9. LM Preston says:

    As a mother of 4 kids who works outside the home, is a published writer (which means I work while at home), and work part-time sometimes teaching at the university, my kids get lots of quality time. From the time they get home, till bedtime 10pm they are my complete focus. My teens help me come up with my blog post, and they are the best beta reviewers ever – I read to my teens the scenes of my book outloud and they even act out parts with me for fun. They also critique it and encourage my work. My son even submitted his a short story I helped him write and it is published in my upcoming book. My little ones also ask me to read outloud on family trips. Also as a home rule, I spend one weekend a month vegging out with the kids on mini-vacation (within the house) where we play games inside, do a movie night marathon (all of these I note on my blog), and play hide and seek. In addition 1 time a month I take out one of my kids for a mommy and me day. We shop, do a movie, or go to a coffee house to talk. I ask my kids if they feel like I should stay home and give them more time – they tell me they love me just the way I am, and that they appreciate the time I spend with them even more because they can’t take it for granted. For me, I say…wow! because we mom’s never feel like we do enough, but when my 16yr old son, still kisses me goodbye or tells me he loves me without me asking him to tell me first – I can truly say I must be doing something right. Can’t figure it out, but am awed by it nonetheless.

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