We’ve all heard that it’s important to spend some ‘quality time’ with our loved ones. Being parents of small children with little social support, it is challenging for my husband and I to spend time together. Our mornings and evenings are chaotic to say the least, getting our girls fed, dressed or undressed, bathed and teeth brushed. Weekends can be manic with children’s parties and the general care of small children.
When I joined my father’s business five years ago, I thought it would be great to spend some quality time together. I imagined breakfasts and lunches at the country club nearby where we could discuss the strategy of the business. I thought we’d get a lot closer seeing each other every day. He made absolutely no effort to build our relationship or to work together on the business. Instead I got exposure to how messed up his life really is with the drinking, fighting and violence. He didn’t want to spend more time with me. He just wanted me to make him millions.
When my mother retired I thought she’d have a lot of free time and we could have the odd lunch together. Not once has she suggested getting together. Perhaps it would have been uncomfortable as I don’t want to hear about her dysfunctional marriage and she didn’t really want to hear about my illness. Maybe she was concerned I’d bring up my childhood and all the disappointments my parents have provided.
Rather, she landed on us every Sunday afternoon, criticised the messy house and was an obstacle, rather than a help, in getting the kids ready for bed. Throughout my illness, not one suggestion to bath the kids or to feed them. Sure, she has her own challenges but it would have been nice to have some support.
I thought she’d volunteer to pick up our girls from school and take them somewhere fun. I had to keep asking her when she was going to collect each girl. At a time when I was really exhausted from my illness, I had to push and drive her to spend quality time with our girls. And boy, did they love it when she relented and took them home with her for the afternoon.
Now she has moved to another city and she seems to be missing us terribly. She made little effort when we were around and now she’s full of regret. Frustrating to me because I think there’s a small window in a child’s life where one builds a bond with them. If you don’t have a strong relationship by the time they’re about eight, they don’t want much to do with you thereafter.
Our six-year-old daughter is on school holidays at the moment for a full month. With me taking a year off work to recover, I’m at home and able to spend quite a bit of time with her. I’m also conscious of how our three-year-old feels about me spending a lot of quality time with her sister. So this weekend, I took her out shoe shopping and for a small treat at a coffee shop. She loved spending the one-on-one time together and it gave my husband a chance to bond with our ‘big girl’.
It did leave me feeling a little sad that my parents didn’t want to take the time to be with me. Shopping through a large mall with a three-year-old is not an easy thing, especially given my low energy levels. But the relationship is important and I want to spend the time with her. So I’ll make the effort and I’ll take the trouble. She’s a crazy, funny, beautiful child, full of enthusiasm. It’s funny to watch the smiles, particularly from older women, observing her skipping and singing around the mall. I want to relish her good qualities and ensure that she feels loved and accepted for who she is.
Before my diagnosis I was so frazzled that I could not appreciate the beauty of each child. I was too strung out just keeping them alive, clothed and educated to really enjoy them. Now that I’m a lot calmer and I don’t spend my days doing things that I dislike, I can be focussed on them. I can appreciate the unique qualities of each child and take the time to invest in them.Follow me: