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?
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.