It’s quantity time that matters, not quality time

I spent the weekend doing work in Chicago and now I’m at O’Hare and I’m not sure I should be here. I’m not sure I should travel so much for work.

The German woman next to me could not get the Internet on her phone. I used all the high school German I could remember, except Der Kartoffelsalat ist I’m Kühlschrank. Nothing worked, so I decided it would be ethical for me to download the Amazon mobile app onto her phone without asking.

It’s genius marketing from Amazon, and I am excited for the day when you can download the Penelope Trunk blog app before you get Wi-Fi at O’Hare.

But forget it, because first of all I couldn’t write about puss coming out of my mouth or other bodily emissions that frequent fliers get immunity from dealing with if they flash their Platinum card.

And also forget it because the more time I spent developing the Penelope Trunk mobile app, the more people would write to me and say, “Are you okay? Why aren’t you posting?” And then I’d have to hate myself more.

Also forget it because I don’t have time to build a company big enough to partner with O’Hare. Are they going to give my kid an internship in an astrobiology lab? Because unless it’s going to help my kids, I don’t have time for anyone’s partnership overtures.

I did a twelve-month plan for me and each of my sons. I was going to do one for my husband, too, but he cannot be controlled. He is an ISTP. I made my own version of a personality test because I am tired of other peoples’ tests being too long or too stupid.

So I have thousands and thousands of people taking the test, and guess who never takes the test? ISTPs. Because they think it’s a waste of time because they did not write the test. Not that they would write a test. But still, they think they could do it better so they don’t want to take a test that is not written by them. They don’t care about other peoples’ tests anyway.

So there is no twelve-month plan for my husband except that maybe I could get him to throw out the shirts that have holes in them. Like the one up top.

It was not hard to find a picture with this shirt in it, by the way, because it’s in nearly every picture. It’s his favorite shirt. Or only shirt. You don’t marry a farmer for his extensive wardrobe.

Anyway, I told him, “Look at how much the boys admire you. They want to be you. They identify with you. You have to be careful what you do.” He looks up. I have his attention. So I beat a dead horse: “The boys want to do everything you want to do. You have to model behavior of someone who has great self-esteem. No holes in shirts.”

I am showing you this picture. He is not looking at this picture because ISTPs are about action. Not talk. So I have talked as much as he can listen to for now.

But it’s so clear to me that the boys want to be him. Boys want male role models. I don’t know what this means for lesbian couples. Someone can tell me that in the comments. But I do think it’s probably related to the fact that 70% of women think they are the bad cop and the dads are the fun ones.

Psychology Today explains that kids develop emotionally through play with their dad. The magazine upholds stereotypes of the comforting mom and the playful dad not because stereotypes are good but because these particular stereotypes are accurate. But the bottom line is that kids need time from each parent.

The Center for Working Families at Berkeley published a paper suggesting that kids suppress their desires for quantity time with a parent over quality time with a parent because the kids know the desire stresses out the parents.

And a summary of the academic research about father involvement concludes:  “Children of involved fathers are more likely to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success, occupational competency, better educational outcomes, higher educational expectations, higher educational attainment, and psychological well being.”

So it’s clear that quantity time is as important as quality time for parents and kids. However there is not data to show more time in school is linked to higher achievement.

To me this is a clear argument for more time at home with parents. But it’s also an argument for adding more time with fathers. Typically the moms manage the homeschooling. It’s a relationship of traditional specialities, where the dad earns the money and the mom runs the home.

But we are finding, as we dig for ways to convince absentee dads to pay more attention, that all kids could benefit from more attention from their dad.

Theresa Thomas writes that quality emerges from quantity, and I believe this is true. It’s why I homeschool. But it’s also why I think I’m homeschooling when I volunteer to do all the cleanup after dinner so my husband can play with the kids.

There’s no way I could tell my husband how much time to spend with the kids. As much as I’d like to schedule his life, he won’t put up with it. He is a farmer. “Make hay when the sun shines” still holds true. So I have to give my husband quantity time so he can give some of it to the kids. I don’t know exactly when giving him time will result in time for them, but quantity time is the commodity we pass along to each other.

So I stand at the sink washing the dishes even as I realize I should be building a mobile app empire instead. I could pay someone to do the dishes. I could pay someone to do everything, really. But a big reason I homeschool is because I believe in quantity time, and I want to be there to give it.


21 replies
  1. Dana Carnett
    Dana Carnett says:

    Sooo … I took your Quistic Personality Type Test to evaluate its efficiency (yes, I am an INTJ) and was pleasantly surprised that it confirmed that I am an INTJ!

  2. karelys
    karelys says:

    Every time I read this blog I think “I should start a blog….” because my comments are ridiculously long.

    But then it’s intimidating because I think it would be very poorly written.

    Anyway, I have found that quality time is for when life doesn’t allow to have quantity time. But I will always make it my priority for quantity to be abundant. Spending quality time is stressful. It’s like a business meeting. I grab my coffee, bring my list of points to talk about and agree upon and we take turns and we can’t stray and go on tangents otherwise I have to go back to work and do my stuff and we didn’t agree on half of the issues or found a solution.

    Work is like that. My marriage is like that. My kid is screaming because he feels the disconnect.

    Quality time is great but it’s built in when you have no hurry to go anywhere and you’re always together.

    The idea of quality time by itself is absurd.

    How do ever feel like opening up to someone that is always in a hurry and you are always trying to stay on point about something?

    Plus lots of time allows to master new things like not yelling just for yelling, not allowing yourself to be upset or frustrated just for stupid things, etc. You need time for that.

  3. Tim Blake
    Tim Blake says:

    You have raised an important point in this article. I am a strong believer in quality but while spending ample time works for some people, the likes of me would chose 100% full and undivided attention any time any day than receiving shared time that is inevitably accompanied by repetition if conversation is involved. But then that’s just me I guess.

  4. sarah
    sarah says:

    Nice post. I think the whole “quality over quanity ” came from guilty parents. I think our society undermines the joy that comes from the self sacrifice of doing the dishes so your husband can play with the kids. I do not always like doing the dishes and hearing them play, but irronically in the long run, it makes me feel successful, along with other mundane things. I cant figure out how such mundane things can give me a sense of well being. I feel more succesful as a mom from an evening spent doing tasks and listening to my boys bond, than I do from taking them to soccer practice.

  5. Amanda Smith
    Amanda Smith says:

    We moved to CA from CO four years ago so my husband could take this job where he is at the top of his field and has the most perks. The best perk by far is the work from home. He goes into the office only 6 days a month, and sometimes not even that many, so our two kids have him around a lot. And we are a homeschooling family. Every time I consider moving again to another state, I have to consider what we’d be losing, because my husband says most likely he will never get another job like this one, unless he started his own business. But then that would probably require a lot of travel. Actually, we are moving in a few weeks, but just down to the North County of San Diego to a place on 10 acres. I can not wait for my kids, especially my 9 year old boy, to have that space and time to build, explore, dream, and especially work on projects with his dad. I am extremely grateful for the WFH status of this job so that we both can spend ample quality time with the kids.

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Can I know what the 12 month plan looks like? I kind of do the same thing, but I don’t write any of it down, I just think in my head after we have our talks.

    My husband is a completely different personality profile than Matthew, but he would also give me the “finger” so to speak if I tried a 12 month plan with him.

    I’m like you though, I need the logistics taken care of.

  7. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    For Penelope: I really like that idea of quality emerges from quantity, it applies in so many cases.

    For Matthew: Keep modelling self-esteem to the boys by being comfortable wearing what you want (holes or not) no matter what anyone else tells you!

  8. MBL
    MBL says:

    Still an INFP. I tried hard to not answer questions with INFP in mind so for questions that I am wishy washy about, I wasn’t worried about being consistent and honestly wasn’t sure what I would get.

    I didn’t skip any questions. How many can you skip and still get a result?

    • dcline
      dcline says:

      What’s this about skipping questions? Why would you skip questions? This made me look at the directions and realize that there weren’t any. The 2 paragraphs above the test are ad copy. Now I’m not finishing the thing. If something that doesn’t need directions needs ad copy, how good can it be?

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        For me, these types of tests always have questions that I can only answer with “it depends.” Some tests let you skip some questions, but have a limit. I didn’t skip any, but sometimes answered a confirmation question with the opposite answer of the original one.

        Makes sense to me.


        • Zellie
          Zellie says:

          Sometimes I take it twice, once with one set and once with another but it always comes out INTJ. Probably enough core questions remain the same.

  9. MBL
    MBL says:

    I think there should be a disclaimer on the INFP description:

    INFPs value their autonomy and rebel against any system that tries to “define” or “explain” them. (Except MBTI, based on forum activity on personality types. Our forums are hopping. I looked up something like ESTJ and over half of the responses were from INFPs. :D) ;

  10. Anne
    Anne says:


    You put such voice to many of my thoughts and problems. I am grateful for your words. I, too, can put dish washing in the homeschooling category; it can all go there, in that category! I love looking at it that way! Thanks.

  11. Chavva
    Chavva says:

    I’m a single mom. When my daughters were in school, I felt compelled to make any amount of time we spent together ‘special.’ This was because we had so little time for one another. I nearly convinced myself that it was acceptable for us to spend only a few waking hours together each day if those hours could be counted as quality time. Quality is so difficult to quantify, so I was in a state of constant, frantic search for the perfect activities that would one day evoke fond memories of family togetherness when my kids reflected on their childhoods.

    For a number of reasons, I pulled my kids out of school in February of this year. Since we started homeschooling, I don’t even think about quality time. We’re so frequently together that the special moments I once tried to squeeze out at the end of every day happen naturally and all day long.

  12. Anna M
    Anna M says:

    It is funny, as a homeschooling mom on the one hand- I totally agree and love the quantity of time together. I can’t image getting in all I want to get in with my kids in just a few hours a day- including chores, and down time. But on the flip side, my husband works long days, and we totally ascribe to a quality time mentality. Every morning we sit down to breakfast together, talk, read scriptures together, and then do a variety of things together for an hour or so. Sometimes it is a game, or sometimes it is a chore we need Dad to do. After an hour or hour and a half, he goes to work and doesn’t get home until after the kids get in bed. He has his own tech company and after seven years I have learned not to expect things to ever get to the point where he only works 40 hours a week. Not ideal. But if we didn’t homeschool that morning time would be taken away at school, and then he would see the kids much less. I really think having a Dad who willingly takes on the duties of providing for a family helps grow boys that are willing to do the same. But also boys need to be around men so they can grow up to be one.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      . I really think having a Dad who willingly takes on the duties of providing for a family helps grow boys that are willing to do the same. But also boys need to be around men so they can grow up to be one.

      Woah, that’s some hot button topics right there!!

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Let me elaborate…

        My husband grew up with an absent dad.

        He has excellent character, works hard for our family, and was raised by ‘just’ a woman.

        He’s more of a ‘man’ which I define by character traits of honesty, loyalty, tenacity, integrity, and emotional stability, than many men I’ve seen that did/do have father’s around.

        So, based on experience, I think the argument that boys can’t be good hard working people without a dad to model is baseless.

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