When I was considering returning to work full time and looking at what hours I would be doing in a day, I started calculating this time in relation to 1) the amount of time I would be away from Stevie, and 2) the small amount of time each day I would actually have with her.
So if she woke at 7am and I had to leave for work at 7:25am, that would give me 25 minutes Monday to Friday each morning. If I left work at 4:30pm and arrived home at 4:37pm (yes, I was lucky enough to live a 7-minute drive from work), then I would have until 7pm with her, so that would give me 2 hours and 23 minutes. So basically, from a week day perspective, I would be going from spending 12 hours a day (not including nap times of course) to spending 2 hours and 48 minutes a day with my baby.
Another realisation then hit me – I wasn’t the only person in the house wanting to spend time with Stevie when I got home from work – I would also have to share her with my husband! Then of course someone had to organise dinner, put on a load of washing and deal with other factors that come into play when running a home. (On a side note, this is where meal planning really helps!) I couldn’t even think about fitting in any form of exercise or activities that were just for me or my husband!
Thinking of the limited time I was going to be having with Stevie in the week was making me feel incredibly anxious about going back to work, but it also got me thinking – is it really about the quantity of time I am going to be having with Stevie or the quality of time we will spend together.
I am happy to admit, whilst on maternity leave, most mornings waking up to Stevie crying or calling out made me feel exhausted and gave me that ‘here we go again’ feeling! It’s not that I didn’t love her or that I didn’t want to get up to her, it’s just that as parents we always feel so tired and it always feels way too early to be getting up! Gotta love sleep deprivation!
I would get to Stevie and we would start our morning routine which would involve me feeding her breakfast then letting her play or watch Peppa Pig whilst I cleaned the kitchen, put on a load of washing, made the bed etc. During the day we would attend an activity, either a class or a play date, go home for nap time, then spend the afternoon having play time, tidying the house, preparing dinner and running errands.
By the time her daddy would get home from work, I would feel exhausted and hand her over so I could finish off dinner for my husband and I and prepare dinner for Stevie. It was then bath, book and bedtime routine before collapsing on the couch! How much of this time in the day was actually quality time? We get so caught up in running a house, running a family and trying to keep on top of everything that sometimes we miss those special, quality moments that connect us with our loved ones.
So I made a promise to myself when returning to work – whilst I wouldn’t have the quantity of time I was used to with Stevie, I would try my best to make the time we had together quality time. This might have meant that the bed didn’t get made each morning, and that dishes were sometimes left on the sink, but I got to read her one more story before heading off to work, I took my time brushing her hair, I would let her help me put my makeup on in the morning and would give her an extra-long cuddle. Afternoons became about going for family walks or all jumping in the pool for a swim instead of simply jumping straight into household chores.
By changing my way of thinking about our time apart and making the time we had more memorable really helped in reducing my anxiety and mummy guilt about being away from my daughter. Whilst I now only work 2 days a week, I will try and keep myself in the mindset of quality time over quantity time each day – I don’t want to miss important moments or milestones because I am rushing or focusing on household chores! Sometimes, it’s ok to let things wait.
If you have any questions about Quality time vs Quantity time, don’t hesitate to send me an email on email@example.com.