Got a minute?

Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine cover story was all about moms and time. This is a tired story. Yet I’m gonna go there because I can’t resist.

Time and tracking time is one of those things that has hogged my thoughts and dictated my life since I had our first babe over four years ago. For the purposes of self-disclosure, I am pretty anal and organized, I run my house by schedule and have policed my children’s sleeping and feeding schedules from the minute they came home from the hospital. It’s the only way I know how to bring order to chaos. In fact, in that foggy daze of adjusting to life with a child, my first fight with DH was triggered by his comment “I lost track of time.”

I completely lost it. Sure, sleep deprivation and hormones had a lot to do with it. But we’ve never had a fight like that in our 8 years of marriage. The idea of losing track of time seemed like such a luxury to me, though I was only 6 weeks into this whole parenthood gig, that I both resented him for having that chance and was furious that he wasn’t consumed with time, schedules, feedings and sleep patterns as I was. And still am. Four years later.

So I read Sunday’s piece with great interest and frankly, was largely disappointed in the end. I felt the writer, Brigid Schulte, came off as a martyr in a way she probably didn’t mean but I think that is one of the great challenges facing moms when discussing the absence of free time in our lives. In the piece, Schulte ended up attempting to track her time for a professor who specializes in time-use, to analyze her time spent and help her find 30 hours of leisure time each week. Of course the whole idea that this is possible is a total joke but the point was that it depends partly on how you define leisure time. It was never clear to me how Schulte defines leisure time.

For me it’s easy – am I without children?

LEISURE.

Am I out with just one child – half-leisure.

It’s really that easy. So while Schulte questioned if gym time is leisure time – to me that is the panacea of leisure time. My morning gym visit has practically turned me into a gym rat and without that precious quiet time, I can’t face the day. Schulte challenged how waiting 2-hours for a tow truck was leisure time. She was without child so the prof deemed it leisure.

Again, expectations. To me – two hours anywhere without the kids equals leisure time.

Am I saying I don’t like my children? Of course not. Am I saying that I don’t love spending time with them? Again, of course not. But any time that I am not responsible for fetching something for someone, shuttling someone to preschool while another one is screaming for her nap in the back seat or chasing down a toddler clueless to danger in one direction while trying to make sure the 4- year -old on the opposite side of the park isn’t being kidnapped, is leisure time. It’s really pretty black and white to me.

So back to the premise – moms and time. There is so much about moms and time. How much is written about dads and time? And Schulte barely skimmed over this in her piece. She once referenced her husband out back smoking a cigar while she was doing dishes or something. I’m thinking – what the hell is he doing having leisure time while she is working.

And here’s where I think moms fall victim to being martyrs. So many of us, me included, are control freaks – and so with an inability to let go and pass off responsibilities to husbands who in all actuality, are capable functioning members of the human race (hence why we married them and then went on to have children with them) – and so we end up in this reality where we are frazzled and exhausted and have bad hair and need a moment. Why is this? And what are we doing to change that. I’d like to see more written about this issue in how we divide our time than the “woe is me the mom without a minute to spare” ballad.

Again, I’m picking on Schulte because she put herself out there. She writes about making cupcakes at 3am, kids homework at ungodly hours of the night, etc. So again, where is her husband? What’s he doing? At what point does a gal need to learn to let go so that she can have a minute? And what does it take for her to figure that out?

I guess we all have our breaking points. And I am sure there are couples out there where the dad is the one consumed by time and the mom loses track. It’s not me, but I’m sure they’re out there. That being said, I’d enjoy seeing more about how families constructively divide time and moms do find time to themselves instead of the raggedy old mom icing Valentine’s cupcakes at 4am for school when she has a board meeting with the CEO 4 hours later.  I also think learning to say “no” is part of this. Are our children completely overscheduled? Do we accept every invitation and spend weekends driving from one birthday party to the next? Is this fun for everyone?

So again, maybe I’m tired and cranky but I think too many women take on everything and lack the confidence to say “no.”

There you have it. I am picking on women this time instead of men.

3 Responses to Got a minute?
  1. SassyAsti
    January 19, 2010 | 4:04 pm

    I read this article as well and to a certain extent I agree with you that leisure time is without the kids. I look forward to cleaning up the dinner dishes at night, because if DH has the 2 kids, that is the one time I don’t have to worry about them. But then I also agree with Brigid that where is the leisure time where I am just resting and reading a magazine or doing something I enjoy? That didn’t seem to be in any of the 28 hours that they calculated for her in leisure time. And my DH always seems to have his leisure time.

  2. kate
    February 5, 2010 | 4:06 pm

    This is my first time at your blog, so forgive me if your bio is a background to your comment but I am not aware of it, but do you work? Because it’s the work that makes the “no child” leisure time definition a problem. Especially if you have a job you bring home, like emailing editors, researching a story or (in my case) screenplay material. And you can’t tell me that ironing is leisure time with or without kids. But for me, Schulte’s most compelling point was not how to define leisure, but how do we get to a point where real honest to god leisure time (yes, the gym, definitely counts) doesn’t feel like leisure. or waiting for your car to be towed. Because you are comsumed by the constant list of to-dos. I didn’t love everything about the article, but I thought Shulte was admirably critical and self-aware of the fact that the problem largely existed in her head, to start with, and is fed by the culture. (You’re not really playing ball like the rest of us if you’re not a bit overwhelmed, if you’re not constantly measuring your productivity.) Anyway, the thing I came away with from that article were two revelations: how too busy seems normal, so we impose that sense on our lives, but should actually resist that, and 2) value and live inside your leisure as much as you value and constantly measure your productivity.

    Your point about “where is the husband” is a very good one. “The glass ceiling at home” I’ve heard it called. Which really means, the glass ceiling inside every woman. YOU sit at the table after dinner and talk to your guests about politics while HE clears the table and puts the dishes into the dishwasher. Say “I’m going to ice 6 cupcakes, you have to ice the other six by 7 am tomorrow. Work it out.” Anyway, good luck to you, in your time management and raising your kids. It’s good work, and here’s to wishing you time and space to explore the non-parent part of you that needs fulfillment as well.

    • kittytime
      February 5, 2010 | 4:23 pm

      Thanks for reading my blog. And I enjoyed reading your prespective and some of your interesting insights. I think your “do you work” question just feeds into a nasty stereotype that the media loves – SAHM vs. working moms. So yes, I do work. I’m raising two kids full-time and freelancing. Do I drive to a job and am I gone from my chidren for 10 hours a day, five days a week? No. Not anymore. I stopped working in the spring, after working full-time 3.5 years with kids. I’m grateful every day that I have this opportunity and I think the issue of how much time we work impacts part of this story – which makes it more interesting. FOr example – commuting. Or ironing – as you are saying. Commuting used to be my nightmare. Now, I would view that as a gift – a gift of 45 minutes in the car where I can listen to the news or just enjoy quiet. Ironing – no, it’s not fun – but am I doing it alone? Then it’s certainly more leisurely. So there’s been a profound impact on my perspective since I’ve been home. But yes, I work. I work harder now than I did when I had a demanding job. To me, the crux of this piece was as much about the issue of how involved the husbands are than how we define leisure time.

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