This is probably going to be the least original and interesting blog post you’ve ever read. Oh look! A working mom is complaining about not having enough time. Stop the presses!!!
First of all, let’s define our terms. All moms are working moms, so what I am is a “working-outside-the-home” mom (WOHM) who goes to a job as well as looking after my family. And by “not enough time” I don’t mean that every moment is so busy and over-scheduled I can’t keep up with getting things done. Some days are definitely like that — even some weeks! — but overall I feel we have a pretty good balance and life is not too hectic.
The lack of time that I’m focusing on is the lack of that all-important “me time” that we moms are always being told we need to have if we’re to keep from going insane. Time that is just mine to do what I please with, whether I choose to take a nap, go for a walk, run some errands or dust my bookshelves.
Now, I am pretty good about carving out “me time” in my days. I read a lot. I write. I anticipate many relaxing baths in our lovely new whirlpool tub. But all of these things are things I can do while my kids are in the house, otherwise busy or asleep, and I am still supervising them.
What amazes me is how little of my 24 hours every day is actually “my time” in the sense that I can do anything I want or go anywhere I want; how very little freedom I have in how I spend my time.
There are many, many ways in which I feel that teaching while my children are in school is the best of all possible worlds for me — emotionally, financially, professionally and spiritually. It works for me, mostly. But in terms of time, there’s no doubt it’s the worst of all possible worlds. When I was a teacher without children, my time was my own from the moment I left work. If I were still a stay-at-home mom, the hours while the kids were in school would belong to me. They’d be busy hours, sure, but I’d be able to decide how to spend them, be free to come and go as I please.
As it is now, I drop my kids at school on my own way to work, where for 6 hours my time belongs to my employer and my students (I actually have a lot more freedom and flexibility at work than most teachers do, so again, I’m not really complaining, but I’m not free to drop everything and go shopping in the middle of the day). I go straight from work to pick up the kids from school, usually cutting the time short on both ends so that that I leave things not as finished as I’d like at work, and arrive to find the kids complaining about having to wait for me. Then for the rest of the afternoon and evening I’m responsible for them (although of course Jason shares that responsibility when he comes home from work), even after they go to bed. All night, until they wake and want (or don’t want) breakfast in the morning.
Where, in all this, is there any time for me to just do whatever I want? Precious little, is what there is. I try to exercise twice a week — yoga and water fitness on Monday nights, water fitness on Wednesdays. Even fitting in those two appointments almost always involves juggling something else. Twenty minutes to walk around the track at the gym feels like stolen time. As for those “breaks” that are not self-improvement but purely self-indulgent … practically non-existant. I like to go to Chapters for a Starbucks coffee and a little browse of the books but to go by myself, without kids in tow, is a rare treat indeed.
Yesterday was a red-letter day as I got to do TWO things that were “just for fun.” In the morning I went to a brunch with the women’s group from church, and in the afternoon I had the sanity-saving monthly coffee date with my friends, the Strident Women. The day felt positively hedonistic (even though I also managed to do all the weekend dishes, finish two loads of laundry, pick up a few groceries and spend a couple of hours making requested changes to a freelance assignment in addition to all that “me time”).
The only reason the few getaways I do manage are possible is because I have a wonderful, supportive spouse who will juggle the child-care hours with me to allow me to get out on my own from time to time. We also have a good network of family support. How a single working parent with no local family support survives, is a question of wonder and great mystery to me. But I’m glad some of them do survive, not only for their sake but because their existence reminds me that I could always be quite a lot worse off!!
I also try to remind myself that this is a short space of time in a long life, and that there will be years and years in the future when my kids don’t need the constant presence of a parent (in fact, would prefer NOT to have it) and my time will be my own again. I am grateful for what I have, for my family and my job, for all the things that fill my days. But if just a couple of hours a week of completely free time were to somehow fall into my lap — well, I’d just be that much MORE grateful.