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.