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‘Family’ time

I’m not sure how I feel about the Unicef report published by the BBC on Tuesday about the ‘crisis’ in Britain’s families.  The report says that UK children are amongst the least happy in the developed world.  The main reason cited is that we, British parents, don’t spend enough quality time with our kids but instead lavish them with material goods to make up for our lack of parenting. 
I think I find it sad and dispiriting.   There’s a balance to be found between the practical help that two salaries can bring and the enriching time that mothers spend with children (because the newsworthy parts of the report don’t mention lack of time with Dad to be a factor which seems unlikely).  Despite the fact that much of the time I think that my children have far more fun with other people than me, I do know that they need me and they need quality time with me and their father. Together if possible. But I also know that they gain a lot from not being with me all the time. I want my children to feel comfortable in a variety of settings and with a variety of people, being with me all the time would be stifling for them and for me. It’s just the way we have chosen to bring up our children, doesn’t mean it’s the right way or the wrong way, but it’s our way.
The report has made me think though, and I guess that is the point. My initial reaction of umbrage has softened slightly and as I’ve gone about my day today with my children I have realised that spending quality time with them is incredibly important. Not sure I needed UNICEF to tell me that though, I think it’s pretty obvious.  I’ve been working all week so today was my first day with them. I was focussed on them, I thought about writing this post several times today but every time I sat down to do it one or other little person wanted something. I realised they would have asked for anything to stop me sitting down and writing, they wanted my attention. I realised the irony of that particular situation. 
I’m not sure what my future will hold but if I do choose to return to work, which I very likely will do, then I have learnt some extremely valuable lessons about how I will do it. It’s not about the hours or amount of days you work (although flexible is great of course) but it’s about the quality of time you give them when you are with them.  It’s not always possible to give that 100% quality time though, life gets in the way, the idealists tell us that life can wait but I’m not sure I’m convinced by that. 
I remember Fridays before I was made redundant being a mix of stress and anxiety with occasional bursts of joy at being with the girls. The bloody red light bleeping away on my blackberry was a constant source of irritation. I even threw it in the hedge once in a moment of red mist. So pissed off was I with the assumption that because I had a sodding blackberry I could be prevailed upon to deal with ‘urgent’ matters on a day I was not paid to work. Call me a jobsworth or call me a mum trying to have some time with her kids. I don’t care. But what I do care about is that my time with my children is just that. Not some compromise on childcare with a mum too busy to do anything nice with her kids. 
It’s not just kids who need boundaries, we all do. I know I do. I need to have clear boundaries for myself and my colleagues. 
Whilst I’m on the subject of quality time. I had an order from Kite Kids arrive today for Mabel & Milo.  Totally gorgeous clothes (all 100% organic cotton) for Autumn/Winter.  Naturally Eliza and Tilly were extremely keen to ‘help’ me unpack it.  I said that no it was for Mummy’s shop and Eliza said,
“Well can we buy something then Mummy?” I mean of course, it’s a shop that’s what you do.  When I’d finished laughing at her wonderful innocence I said,
“Well yes I suppose you can, come on lets open it.” 
“But  Mummy.  You don’t have a till, would you like to borrow mine?” 
“Yes that’d be great Eliza, thanks.”
So now my lovely box of beautiful children’s clothes is minus a couple of very pretty dresses.  Like mother like daughters. They spotted the pink knitted dresses and just ‘had to have them’.  
They’ll go far.


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