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How much quality time is enough?
Q: My wife is a work-at-home mum with our 2-year-old son, and she has been working in this capacity since his birth. Over the last two years, she has progressed toward burn-out, as evidenced by her extended time in the gym, talking on the phone with friends, etc. Our son is showing signs of boredom, as well–he wanders around not playing with his toys, not reading his books, and wanting to watch TV. I feel that at the end of the day, she is not spending enough quality time with our son. He goes to a Mother's Day Out program twice a week for 6 hours a day, but in terms of development time and playtime, he gets less than an hour a day of one-on-one time with mum (excluding nappy changes, feeding time, naps). The larger question is: if a 2-year-old is not in a structured day care school program, how much time per day should be allocated toward his development?
A: A lot. But it doesn’t all have to be sit-down-one-on-one. There are ways to bring a 2-year-old into home activities along with his mother, and children love this “real” play. Given a sink full of warm soapy water and some plastic bowls and glasses, a 2-year-old will “'work” contentedly for a long time while the parent does other things in the kitchen. A trip to the supermarket is like enrolling in a graduate course at a university. And throughout the day there are opportunities to talk to the child and listen to his replies. But these impromptu teaching muments do not satisfy the need for special times when parent and child sit together and read or work a puzzle or build with blocks, or just snuggle and giggle together.

You know what? You’re asking the question of the wrong person. I’m on your side, and you should feel free to say that to your wife. But the one you really need to talk to is your wife. Give her ample time to express her feelings about the situation. Those feelings are certainly important in helping to decide whether you want to have another child. And, if she indicates that she feels the burn-out you suspect, look for a quality early childhood program to enroll him in on a more regular basis.