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30 hours a week of leisure time? It depends on the definition of ‘leisure’

Submitted by on Sunday, 17 January 2010 No Comment

Brigid Shulte, you had me at “I have baked Valentine’s cupcakes until 2 a.m.” Except in my case, it was cookies and thanks to some quick calculations I was able to wrap it up by 10:30 p.m.

As you  describe your frantic days juggling work and kids and maybe a few seconds for yourself,  though, I can relate. I especially can relate at the way you bristle when the “experts” say you have 30 hours’ leisure time a week.

Show me, you challenged them.

First of all, a bit about the “experts.” My favorite was 27-year-old Edson Rodriguez, who insists that middle-class families are overwhelmed because they like it that way. Rodriguez is single, childless and lives with his parents. Next, please.

Then there was John Robinson, the 74-year-old sociologist at the University of Maryland who analyzed your time diaries in search of the mythical 30 minutes … er, hours.

He counted three hours of exercise as “leisure.” That seems obligatory, you said. I agree. He also included watching movies with the kids, frantically trying to round up people and gifts for a birthday party and sitting for two hours in a broken-down car.

Stewing on the side of the road is recreation? This man has an odd definition of “fun.” My definition is “doing something that I want to do and actually enjoy.”

Granted, I do enjoy some of the guys’ movies. The first time I see them, at least. The 300th time, not so much.

And birthday parties are fun – sometimes. Yelling at folks to get ready and then herding them into the car? Not fun.

Stuck in a car on the freeway? That’s not leisure. That’s survival, especially if the kids are with you.

I think that’s where the rest of the world disconnects with working moms – some dads, too – when we say that we don’t have any free time. “This article is just sad,” a commenter on Facebook said. “Who does this woman think is in charge of her time, if not herself?”

What a lucky person, to live in world where she can control everything down to the nth degree. That is so not my life.

I was able to carve out some leisure – by my definition – this weekend. I watched not one, but two movies. One I watched a 11, after the guys had fallen asleep, and the other I watched while the guys played on their computer. Yes, I had to default to an electronic baby-sitter in order to see a 2-year-old movie.

And I painted my nails tonight. They’re a lovely pearlized shade of olive drab. The manicure wasn’t strictly my choice, though. It came at the guys’ insistence after they restocked the polish inventory they think the movers had carelessly tossed. You and I know what really happened to the emerald-green bottle they picked out last time, though.

Oh, and I ran around a baseball field for an hour Saturday, pretending to blow the play repeatedly so Boots could score before I tagged him. With Big Guy and his friend, I didn’t need to pretend. They’re faster than I am. That time isn’t strictly leisure by my definition, because it’s not an activity I picked. I do admit, though, that I enjoyed it.

That, I think, is the key to the working mom’s leisure dilemma. Most of us know we’re never going to get that 30 hours a week until UPS starts delivering time via unicorn. We’re aware that at this stage in our lives we don’t get to do what we want to do.

But it’s possible to enjoy the things we have to do. Even if our fingernails do wind up olive-drab pearl and our hamstrings hurt from rounding third too sharply.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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