Most parents will probably attest that one of the ongoing challenges of parenting is spending quality time with your children. What makes it especially tricky is that what defines quality time can be different with each parent and each child.

My eldest daughter loves to have a plan when it comes to spending time together. Her idea of quality “mommy time” requires advance knowledge of exactly what activities we will be doing and my active participation from start to finish. My second daughter, on the other hand, is largely self-entertaining, and her books and toys can keep her occupied for extended periods of time. I must be present and show some interest in her make-believe world, but she’s happy to absorb herself in what she’s doing.

However, when it comes down to it, I’ve realized that quality time is simply being there for my children. It’s a time when I get to know them each personally and experience their growth and development as an active participant rather than as a mere spectator.

Quality time isn’t about endless hours of one-on-one time with each child, nor is it about perfectly orchestrated hours where all activities flow like clockwork. It’s about being Mom to the children I love, listening to them when they have something to tell me; it’s being attuned to little subtle changes in their behavior and in their actions that indicate that they need my help. It’s about communication that goes beyond instructions or reprimands and gets a glimpse of their hearts. It’s about resisting the urge to tend to the pile of laundry awaiting me and instead cherish a few extra minutes of story time. It’s a sacred time when I am entirely devoted to my children and leave the clamor of the workplace and deadlines behind, even if just for a little while.

It’s placing a higher value on the future that I am building through how I raise my children than on the immediate urgencies that can so easily clutter my day.

I want to someday look back on these years and know that I made the right choices by making time each day to show my children how much I love and care for them. There’s no better way to do that than to just be there for them and make whatever time we have into “quality” time.