The Truth About Quality Time (Trail Blaze #5)

It can be easy, as a stay at home mom, to forget the significance of what you are doing.

In our modern busy-busy-busy, degreed, careered, materialistic, overcommitted society, it is easy to devalue the perfect normalcy of the simple everyday routine, and how that will sear warmth and joy and security into our children's souls.

For example, studies continually show that sit-down meals as a family echo out for decades into a child's future.  That one action affects things like a child's performance in school, likelihood to try drugs, and future obesity levels.  The family dinner, that used to be a given in virtually every home, is now almost a radical act of cultural disobedience.

We are incomparably blessed as mothers.  

There is no role in society like ours.

I am fairly confident that I could rival any supermodel in the amounts of flowers I've been given (if dandelions count), the number of smiles I've gotten, the number of times someone has clamored for my attention, and the number of compliments I've been given in my life.   On the rare day when I wear a necklace to church, I'll hear--multiple times over-- some variation of: "I wike yo pitty neck-us mommy."

Truly, it is a rich blessing to have precious uniquely-built souls looking to you, smiling at you, reaching out arms to you, with little hearts eager for your notice of their latest accomplishment.  Each child watches and learn from mom about the world-- and each child offers love with such open, tenderhearted affection.

Eternal significance oozes out of the pores of the pregnant mother.  

Until this last century, every single human being knew it, and reverenced it.   

As the pregnant woman nurtures a new life, she is brought near to the Creator-- the giver of souls-- and she watches as His creativity is revealed yet again right before her eyes: 
  • The miraculous first hours of wonder, awe, fear, and reverence with a new baby roll over into 
  • Sleepless nights, which roll over into 
  • A new normal as a family, which rolls over into 
  • Getting to know a new little blossoming personality, which rolls over into 
  • Following this little wandering soul around your house 24/7 because they're too little to really understand words and rules and no-nos, but just big enough to be curious about everything and just risky enough to try to find out, which rolls over into
  • Defiance and determination the likes of which you're convinced the world has never seen, which rolls over into
  • Figuring out house norms and rules together as parents and child, which rolls over into
  • Repetitive daily life.

And it's that last one that really seeps into all of the others.  

It's that last one-- repetitive daily life-- that can cause some mothers to think, "this is dull/unimportant/insignificant."   

It is easy to believe lies about what is significant.  

We all want to believe that what we are doing is weighty.  

We are bombarded by worshipful images and messages that communicate that career-minded workaholic women are to be admired.  Society repetitively communicates to us that "me-time", mani/pedis, perfect hair, and dream-chasing are where joy, dignity, and value will be found.  

Scant few of us have witnessed, at an age we can remember it, a determined, devoted, disciplined mother loving and serving and joyfully, productively passing days alongside her children.  

(Psst.  Even though you may not have seen an example of the kind of mother your child needs for you to be, you are utterly irreplaceable in the life of your child.  You are one of a kind, and God has uniquely fitted you for the position He's put you in as a mother.   What's more, this is the one crack at life that you-- and your child-- get.)

Last night I went out to finish up the project that has taken up my extra time for weeks-- the one where I bit off more than I can chew and yet here I am, still chewing, and miraculously it's coming along like I hoped it would-- building the chicken coop.  

I walked out to the workshop alone, and brought my phone and earbuds so I could listen to a sermon and have a little down time.  

But almost immediately after I walked into the workshop, I heard the door open and close behind me.  

Baxter (my 9-year-old) asked if he could help build the coop.  So moments later, we were nailing reclaimed boards up for siding on my blueprint-less chicken coop when he said, "it's amazing that you can just think up and do something like this, ya know?" 

(While I'd like to let his comment hang in ambiguity so that you all would think he was saying that about me, I should clarify that he was saying this about the universal "you," as in, "it's amazing that a person can just think up and do something like this.")  

So then Baxter and I shared an inspiring-to-me exchange about how God has made us humans creative, like Him, and how incredible it is-- the things we can accomplish, when we put our minds to it.  I told him how excited I was to see what God would give him to think up and do in his lifetime.

Those moments just happen.  And we can't script them.

They are the overflow.  Special moments of encouragement, conversation, and soul-building are what happens as time marches on and the little days with infants roll over into exhausting days spent training toddlers to be pleasant and abide by rules, which roll over into enjoyable days spent with older children.  

The truth about quality time... and I hesitate ever-so-slightly to say it because I wish you could hear my heart in it... but the truth about quality time is this:

Quality time is a myth made up by busy people.

Quality time is experienced in the unexpected moments that crop up during quantity time.

And we instinctively know this to be true, because we experience it in our other relationships and areas of life.  

When we have a mad-dash crammed-full-of-relatives holiday, we don't feel that we've suddenly gotten to know their hearts and seen a glimpse of their souls.  We've gotten a quick-and-dirty update.  We've seen their pretty, cleaned-up-like-it-won't-be-for-the-rest-of-the-year house, and they've seen us in our well-chosen outfit that hides our postpartum fat rolls as best we are able.  We've all stuffed ourselves with food and information, and we go home full but not truly satiated.

We know it when we take a May-term class and get the "gist" of the class, but miss out on the regular interactions with a wise professor that shape our souls in unexpected and foundational ways.  The 3-week quick version simply can not provide the same experience that a semester-long, week-in, week-out class provides.

A fast food meal, passed through a window, fills the belly, but does not in any way compare to a sit-down meal, cooked by the home or restaurant chef, accompanied by good conversation and time to laugh and relax.

When we finally meet "the one," we ache to be together.  One date every so often would not produce the kind of relationship that satisfies... no, sometimes it is difficult to even say goodbye at night (even when we know we'll see each other early the next morning).  We long to KNOW and be KNOWN... our souls long to connect with another human being in intimate, satisfying, mutually beneficial, secure ways.  

The truth we all know is that quality time happens in beautiful, unplanned moments of quantity time.   

What have you experienced in your family?  What do you think about the quality/quantity time dichotomy?


Anonymous said...

Yes!!! Beautifully put. :)

kenj said...

Yes!!! Beautifully put. :)

me said...

So good! Thank you!

EmilyG said...

Thanks, Jess! I think it's freeing to think about quantity time versus quality time, and I say that as a working mom of 2. We've worked really hard to keep our evenings and weekends low-key so that we can just know each other instead of racing around to different activities.

Jess said...

Yes, Emily! That intentional "free time", carefully guarded, is EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Time to just BE. Time to know and be known. Time to do nothing in particular... those are the moments that give quality time a chance to show up, amidst the ordinary.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Jess! Thanks :)

Kelly said...

I've been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years and have never been able to put the profound truths you discussed in this post into words. Thank you so very much for sharing them! They're freeing and they're true. I love my job as a mom who spends an incredible quantity of time with my kids. It's been the most amazing, life-changing experience of my life, and I can already tell that I will repeat the words you wrote here many times over to myself and many of my friends. Thanks! :)

Sarah said...

This is so encouraging and beautiful!

Allison said...

So, so, true. Just this morning, while eating an unrushed breakfast, my four year old son began telling me about how there really is only one God and he's going to worship that God even if everyone else is worshiping an idol. He went on to explain that there really is only one God, even though it's kind of like he's three Gods, there's really only one. It was precious to hear what we've been teaching him and what he's been learning at church come out in his own 4-year-old words, and I couldn't help but think that if we had been rushed, I would have missed this sweet conversation with him. These just aren't the type of things you get to experience if life is just one big rush from one thing to the next. It takes large quantities of time in an atmosphere of love and nurture. I just love being a mommy! Thank you for your post. :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Thank you for the truth and strength if your message. My Mom had four children and worked a long hour job every day as we were growing up. I wonder how much future pain would have been prevented if she had time for us? I know how much I missed when I look at my son. No one cares about you like a Mother.

Jill said...

Thank you, Jess, for inspiring me to keep making time that seems trivial. It always offers the fullest experiences. Your ideas have been taken to heart and I am definitely a better mom just for reading this. God has given you a gift: keep on reading.
Jill, Your Newest Fan

Anonymous said...

It took me all day to get through this post because I was interrupted by little faces and hearts that needed attention. I have been chewing on "the quality comes in the quantity" for at least half of the day. So true!! And then you I think about the spiritual application of this-the quality time with God comes in the quantity as well.

Thank you!


Mrs. Cheerio said...

Beautiful insight and wisdom!