Quantity & Quality of Time: Can Fathers Have Both

Quantity & Quality of Time: Can Fathers Have Both

In Part I, I had shared some findings from a research that in.harmony had conducted in understanding Indian fathers working in India, their views on parenting especially with respect to the amount of time they spent with their children.

Our research showed that all 100 fathers who were interviewed wanted to spend more time with their children. We also saw that the role of Indian men as the main breadwinner is deeply etched in the Indian society. Taking early retirement from work to spend time with their children or help with child rearing while the mother works, is very rare. Good news is that there is a change, though it is happening very slowly.

The reality is that, for now, fathers have to step out of the house to earn a wage to support their family. The reality is also that work hours, travel, virtual offices, smartphones, laptops, all reduce the amount of pure personal time that is available to fathers.

So, how really can a father increase time with family and child/ children? Is the quantity of time important or the quality? What is the difference?

Quantity Vs Quality

Quantity, as the word means, is the amount of time available in terms of seconds, minutes, hours.

Quality of time is the value of time spent with the child. It refers to the mindshare your child got from the time spent with him/ her; how focused, intentional and engaging the time spent was. Spending one hour with your child working on a puzzle along with chatting with your friend on the phone, is not quality time. You may have managed the quantity but for your child, it didn’t make a difference because you didn’t give your mindshare.

Quantity of time, can it really be increased?
Yes. The simple strategies below can help:
Modify your routine: wake up early, observe your time drainers and reduce them, make time for some physical exercise. Refer to What Exercise Does To Your Mind  to see how much more energetic you will feel if you have a fitness routine, even if it is simple fitness. Your child will also pick up some good habits.

1. Prioritize and delegate: Take on only those jobs at work and at home which absolutely require your expertise or involvement. Delegate the others to trusted members of your team, family members and staff.

2. Reduce unnecessary breaks at work: Unknowingly, many minutes get sucked away in a single coffee/ tea break. Reducing these breaks help you add up to more free time which you can, in turn, spend with your child.

3. Review social media usage | involvement: Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter etc. These are again huge time drainers. Observe your social media usage for a week and make note of how much time gets consumed by this. Planning and scheduling your social media usage is a sure way to free up time. I say this from my own personal experience. A friend was almost addicted to Facebook and his family felt neglected due to his obsession. He consciously worked out a schedule to balance his social media, work, family and personal commitments. Now he checks Facebook and LinkedIn only thrice a day at a pre-decided time for a limited duration.

4. Kiddies day on at least one day of the weekend: If you have a 2 day weekend, keep one day aside to spend with your child. Plan activities where you can involve your child. These activities need not necessarily have to be completely kids specific. You can take your child along with you while running errands like grocery shopping, getting the car fixed or a haircut. Remember, your child learns a lot just by accompanying you. Make sure the day has a good blend of errands and fun activities that your child enjoys.
 For those of you who have older kids, shopping, watching movies, plays, discussing current affairs, there are a whole host of things you can do.

5. Take on some childcare duties: like dropping your child to the bus stop/ school, brushing teeth with them, giving them a bath (maybe over weekends only if time is a constraint), cutting nails of small kids, to name a few. Of course, many of these duties are age specific.

How can you make the time spent with your child memorable - quality of time

Here are some strategies to improve the quality of time spent with your child

1.  Keep a boundary between work and home
 Work pressures will always be there. It doesn’t help you, your work, or your family if you take these pressures back home. Some simple ways of creating a boundary between work and home are:
•    Listen to music on the way back home
•    Catch a nap during your commute back from work
•    Take a few deep breaths before entering the house
•    Enroute call a friend/ relative who helps you de-stress
•    Make a to-do list just before leaving work or during your commute back home. It will help you plan your work better and also feel more in control of the next day.
•    When you walk into the house, spend the first 15 minutes exclusively with your child. Children, irrespective of their age, wait for your arrival to share their day with you.

2. Making routine activities fun
These are again age specific.
•    Turning grocery shopping into a treasure hunt. Car cleaning can be made fun too.
•    Even daily routine like brushing teeth, bathing, saying prayers, eating a meal together can be fun.
•    Make bedtime special. Read books to them, cuddle up to them and exchange notes about your respective day.
•    Older kids can be asked to assist you to surf information about a prospective vacation or do a price comparison of a product you are planning on buying. Besides improving the quality of time spent, this also improves the self-belief and self-value in children.

3. Use Technology smartly
Overuse of technology can be intrusive. Using it smartly will help you connect better with your child. Here are a few tips:
•    Keep the phone away while you are with your child. Children, irrespective of their age, sense when you are mentally and physically present with them
•    Make a telephone call to your child when he/ she returns from school or once during the day (depending on the age group)
•    Use FaceTime, Skype when you are traveling
•    For older kids, you can send emails, forward interesting articles and reading material

4. Involve them in your hobbies
•    Music, running, playing board games, solving jig saw puzzles, gardening, painting, building Lego castles, reading a book together, the list is endless. When you involve your child in your hobby, besides spending time, you will also be teaching them valuable life skills.

5. Getting involved in their projects
•    You can help out with school projects
•    Teach a subject. My dad used to teach me math and history. Our study time was also the time to discuss many other things that happened during the day.

6. Play a sport together
Sports is a great way to bond.

7. Sharing experiences
About your work, people you have met, your travel experiences, current affairs. This enriches the experience of the time spent, for your child as well as you. It will also help your child expand their knowledge and interests.

8. Open communication with your spouse
This is crucial in the whole plan of improving the quality of time you spend with your child. If you are a father who feels that you aren’t getting enough time to bond with your child, talk to your spouse about your guilt, fear and anxieties regarding this. You will be amazed with the innovative ways in which she could help you create occasions to increase time and quality of time to spend with your child.

If you are a father, you may already have some interesting ways in which you have increased and improved the time spent with your child. Do share them. I am always eager to learn more. More importantly, your methods could benefit many other fathers.

Anupama, co-founder of in.harmony, is a management graduate and counselor with 20 years of work experience in employee wellness, business development, client servicing, marketing, brand & event management. Being a mother of a 16 year old, she has a deep understanding of parenting concerns from her personal experience as well. She has also helped many parents through various stages of parenting.

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