In this second commentary of mine on the articles being put out by Stuff on the NIB State of the Nation Parenting Survey, I just want to focus on some of the comments that were made by the mother that was interviewed in the article.
In the article Slavin, the mother, states that quality time is better than quantity of time, "Half an hour of a super fun/attentive parent still builds strong bonds and quality memories. Or if not at night then at the breakfast table."
This is simply not true. As humans we are closest to those people that we spend the most time interacting with. This is true not just for children but also for adults. Notice I said, “interacting with”. A half hour of conversation does more for bonding than an hour of silently watching Netflix together.
The other fascinating thing about Slavin’s comment above are the words; “Or if not…” While people have intentions of spending time together in the evenings, how often does this actually happen? How often is that time missed because things became “too busy”?
The article continues; ‘While she said being a full-time mum was both the hardest and the most rewarding job, she wouldn't go back. "I am happier being back at work than being a full-time mum now."’
If you’ve read any of my earlier articles you will recognise the theme that actions speak louder than words. The simple fact is that although she says parenting is rewarding her actions say otherwise. Obviously her work IS more rewarding than parenting and to further make the point she says she is “...happier being back at work…”
We start life being completely dependent on our parents (mothers in particular) and so babies seek our full attention. They don’t understand why you are leaving but they do recognise when you have left. It is almost as if babies and small children say, “When you go away you are saying that something else is more important than me. Is that other thing really more important than me?” Now children, as they get older, don’t expect us to stare at them all day. Children want to start gaining independence and they begin to recognise more of their parents’ independence too. However, children still need to feel that they are a priority in our lives. How can we tell what our priorities are in life? Time. It may not always be a comfortable thing to reflect on but it is revealing. When we reflect on the time we spend, we should approach it with honesty and curiosity. It’s okay to realise that you are not spending much time with your children. Once you know, you can also explore the ‘why?’ question. It first and foremost requires honesty and curiosity, not judgement.
I see many parents trying to lie to themselves that their children won’t notice that they’ve become disinterested in them. But children know. So why is spending time with children often seen as boring? The obvious fact is that if we have boring friends it is most likely because we are boring too. Our relationships reflect our own personalities so much and even more so when it comes to children. The truth is that if we find ourselves disinterested in our children we must look at our own lives first.
Slavin also makes the comment; "I like the idea that the boys see both mum and dad working really hard." Yes, she may like the idea but do her boys like the idea? The question that has to be asked of our children should be, “Do you prefer knowing that mum and dad are not home because they are both working hard full-time, or do you prefer to spend more time with your parents?” I would say most children would pick the second option. Even if they did pick the first option wouldn’t we find that odd? Why would a child prefer to spend less time with their parents if they had the option? It would surely be a strange thing for a child to say unless there was some issue in the relationship?
While you may think I have been harsh in this article the point is not to judge Slavin as some awful person. That is not what I am saying. The point is that we should be curious about who we are as well as our actions and motivations. To not delude ourselves but rather to look at these things honestly so we can ask those ‘why?’ questions of ourselves. Once we have asked why, we can then also find a clearer path to who we want to be and the closer families that we want to have.