28/04/2009 10:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Quality Time - Myth And Madness

In my chaotic work-from-home universe, laundry tumbles into dishwasher loading until the cuckoo clock coos nap time. Then I write, call, email and think like a mad woman -- until a couple of hours later, when I hear the sleepy cry for "Mama."

My family and I have "quantity time" a plenty.

I know, I know. What the hell is "quality time," and are you having it with your kids? Quality time seems like a concept devised to torture parents who ache for their little ones so much that they cram whatever fun and bonding they've missed all day into the worst part of what remains, the time between when we punch out and tuck them in.

Here's my take: "Quality time" is a curse. Like you, I live in the real world, one in which my sweet boys slowly melt into mush at about 5 p.m. And that's if they've had a nap. Whenever I attempt to create happy memories on cue, I always fail. I lose it. Tears usually ensue. What I can do is set the stage for something much less dramatic: Unhurried time.My boys are still young, and you know what? They simply like being with me, no matter what I'm doing. If I'm making soup, I give them each a small pile of sliced carrots to chop with butter knives. If I'm switching laundry from washer to dryer, my three-year-old can't wait to clean out the lint trap. If it's time to pick up the toys using our living room as a petri dish, we do it together. That's quality teamwork -- and believe it or not, they think it's all fun.

Work-at-home mum blogger Alexis Rodrigo offers another fine reminder that I forget almost daily: Shower your children with undivided attention as often as you can. (That doesn't mean every minute of every moment.) "If your child's basic need for attention is met," writes Rodrigo, "the more likely he'll be happy to play by himself." I'd also add: Get outside. Fresh air makes me and my kids more playful.

Then you can make dinner. And eat it together.

Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos is editor of Project Homestead.