Free Time

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It’s been radio silence here on my blog, since lately I’ve been putting all my energy into this and other work during my essentially non-existent free time.  When I finally managed to check my email  today, there were 27 new messages…and don’t even get me started on my online reader:  I’m getting close to that point where I just “mark all as read” and start from scratch.

Just when I found myself wondering what happened to all my free time, Lisa Belkin wrote about a survey in Britain by which polled 3000 people and found that after everything else was subtracted, working parents have 90 minutes a day “to themselves.”

The poll breaks down the average day as follows:

Get up                                          6:42am
Get ready (shower, dress, coffee)           55 minutes
Get children ready                                  47 minutes
Commute to work                                   52 minutes
Working day                                            7 hours
Pick children up                                      33 minutes
Makes / eat dinner                                  46 minutes
Children’s play and bedtime                    1 hour 9 minutes
Household chores                                    1 hour 13 minutes
Work from home                                      1 hour 12 minutes
Go to bed                                                 10:45pm
Spare time                                =              1hour 30 minutes a day

Gosh, I love Motherlode…it’s always so timely for me.  Lisa wanted to know what her readers thought about the amount of free time…does 90 minutes sound like too much?  How does the breakdown compare to our lives?  Questions that made me laugh, because it’s all about how “working” (presumably, out of the home) don’t get enough time to themselves.  I wondered how that would compare for stay-at-home parents, and so I did something I’ve been threatening to do for a while: I recorded my day.

  • (3:00am – When I finally tore myself away from a freelance web design project (read: work from home) and went to bed)
  • 6:50am – Nora wakes up; bring her to our bed so she can nurse while I snooze
  • 7:15 – Nora says, “Out” (a newish word!) and gets out of bed.
  • 7:25 – Nora whacks me in the head with a book…and I realize it’s about time to get up
  • 7:30-7:45 – getting ready for the day whilst someone strews hotel shampoo all across the bathroom – mental note (again) to find a new home for that basket
  • 7:45 – undress Nora and attempt to get her to use the potty chair
  • 7:50 – Fill up the kitchen sink to wash the dishes Chris and I were too lazy busy to wash last night
  • 7:59 – Finally convince Nora to let me put a diaper and clothes back on her
  • 8:02 – Mr. T Arrives
  • 8:05 – Give Nora a SnackTrapfull of cheerios and raisins so she can eat them dump them all over the floor and feed the dog
  • 8:06 – Make tea
  • 8:10 – Play with/entertain Nora and Mr. T
  • 8:45 – Realize tea and dishwater are now cold, gulp down tea anyway; drain sink, start a load of laundry
  • 8:50 – Change diapers (x2!)
  • 9:00 – Put Mr. T in backpack carrier; put Chris’ net-book up high so I can check email while standing
  • 9:03 – Nora decides she MUST NURSE NOW; attempt to stand, holding her with one arm while she nurses, sway for Mr. T in the backpack, and still check email.
  • 9:15 – Move toward kitchen to start cooking family breakfast
  • 9:16 – Nora refuses to be put down…
  • 9:25 – Realize Mr. T is sleeping, and think how easy the backpack makes things
  • 9:30 – Wake up Chris so he can watch Nora
  • 9:32 – Begin to furiously make breakfast – whole-wheat waffles and chocolate-peanut spread to balance out anything healthy about the wheat waffles.
  • 9:45 – Chris leaves to go to work early (no family breakfast today, darn)
  • 9:47-10:00 – feed Nora waffle pieces to keep the screaming at bay while I finish cooking
  • 10:00 – Mr. T wakes up, change his diaper, and heat up his bottle
  • 10:05 – Sit Nora at the table with a plate of waffles, eat one-handed while feeding Mr. T with the other
  • 10:20 – Clean waffles off the floor, refill sink with water, wash three dishes…
  • 10:25-11:30 – Play with/entertain Nora and Mr. T…song-singing, reading the same thrilling mind-numbing books over and over, building with blocks, and generally making a huge mess of the living room
  • 11:35 – Mr. T falls asleep
  • 11:37 – Sit on couch so Nora can nurse…she falls asleep, and amazingly, I am able to put her down on our bed without waking up after only 10-15 minutes…
  • 11:50 – Go to the bathroom (ALONE, without someone poking my leg, saying “that!” and signing “potty”!!!)
  • 11:55 – Consider taking a nap, but realize it’s now or never…Wash dishes, switch laundry, pick up toys in bathroom, kitchen and dining room, sweep and start to mop bathroom, kitchen and dining room
  • 1:05pm – Mr. T’s Mama arrives for her lunch hour; Nora wakes up
  • 1:10 – give Nora juice, finish mopping floors
  • 1:15 -Feed Nora a snack and hang in living room while floors dry
  • 2:00 – Mr. T’s Mama leaves, change diapers (x2!), and put everything back on the now clean floors
  • 2:05 – Heat up leftovers for our late lunch with Mr. T in sling (Nora, thankfully, self-entertains)
  • 2:20 – Sit down for late lunch – eat with one hand from a bowl out of Mr. T’s reach
  • 2:45 – Clean Nora up, carry dishes to kitchen…Nora gets an orange out of the fridge
  • 2:46 – Put Nora back in booster seat, peel and cut up orange
  • 2:50 – Narrowly rescue the ceramic plate-turned-frisbee from crashing to the floor
  • 2:52 – Clean up Nora (again) and clean up orange pieces/juice off the freshly mopped floor
  • 2:55 – Switch laundry
  • 2:57 – Play time in living room
  • 3:20 – Mr. T falls asleep, take Nora upstairs to nurse so I can use the computer (and to be bribed with Boo…I hate myself for it, but it works so well – isn’t that why they invented dual monitors?)
  • 4:00 – Mr. T wakes up, change his diaper, put him in sling and begin gathering up his things to go home
  • 4:05 – Mr. T’s Mama arrives to pick him up
  • 4:30 – Take off Nora’s diaper and try to get her to use the potty
  • 4:35 – Make some attempt at folding laundry Create piles of “dress-up” clothes that Nora can try on…why are the folded ones always more appealing?
  • 5:00 – Heat up (different) leftovers for dinner…think to myself how wonderful leftovers are…feed Nora crackers so she’ll let me fix dinner
  • 5:30 – Sit down for dinner…eat with two hands!
  • 5:40 – Try to get Nora to eat something besides just pomegranate seeds, finally succeed with some beets and a few pieces of tofu; resign myself to her toddler-eating wierdness
  • 5:45 – Clean dining room floor…again.
  • 5:50-6:00 – Try to get Nora to go potty
  • 6:00 – Decide to “rest my eyes” in the armchair in her room for just a few minutes while she plays
  • 6:05 – Wake up when she pees on the floor…and my foot
  • 6:06 – Clean floor in Nora’s room
  • 6:10 – Decide to give her a bath early
  • 6:30 – Sing and wash lunch and dinner dishes while Nora sort-of self-entertains/only whines a little…once again thankful for leftovers (fewer dishes!)
  • 7:00 – Get her to help pick up her room
  • 7:15 – Close her door, turn out the light, and sit in the armchair so she can nurse
  • 8:06 – Wake up realizing that my entire right arm is numb from the weight of her head and I have a crick in my neck
  • 8:08 – Ever so slowly…quietly…carefully…transfer Nora to the crib and sneak out of her room
  • 8:09 – Drain bathwater and pick up toys so Chris can shower when he comes home; rewind about 10ft of toilet paper
  • 8:10 – Slowly regaining feeling in right arm…get what’s left of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a spoon and sit down at the computer

That was today, so far.  As days go, it was a good one.  I got both kids to nap at the same time for over and hour (a miracle!), was able to get quite a bit done, and there was a very minimal amount of complaining (by all parties).  A lot of days I don’t get as long to do housework, so it’s much, much messier when Chris comes home, but today worked out well.  It was also rainy/sleeting and gray out, so we didn’t go for a walk, which we normally do to get out of the house.

Looking at my days, I do sometimes miss the alone time or time to myself that I used to have while working.  The British survey said working parents only get 90 minutes to themselves; I’m not sure where that came from in the day, but I do think I had more of it when I was working than I do now.  Then, I could go to the bathroom all by myself, without having someone inspect my every movement.  I had a 45 minute commute one-way, which allowed me to listen to NPR for an hour and a half each day (now I largely listen to Raffi, Disney movie soundtracks, and the like on Pandora).  And, I was also lucky enough to have a job which I enjoyed quite a bit, that was mentally challenging and stimulating, and in which I could completely self-direct and manage.  I had many more opportunities throughout the day to take mini personal breaks (or time theft, whatever you want to call it) to check email/Facebook, and even when I wasn’t doing that, I still felt like my time at work was in many ways time to myself.  In that sense, I do understand why some people might want to continue working after they have kids.  Staying home with a toddler (and really a baby, too, since I babysit) is more challenging (and sometimes draining) than I ever expected it to be.  I thought it was going to be all playing and cuddling and sewing and doing yoga in an immaculate house.  Ha ha ha!

That’s not to say I would rather be working.  No.  Way.  But, I would love to see a study of time “to ourselves” for stay-at-home parents and how it compares.  It think there would be less.  Today was a good day, but there’s still work to be done.  I have laundry waiting to be folded and put away, the living room to be picked up, and work to do trying to find an investor for my business…and I just spent two hours writing a blog, which means I’ll be up late again.

But I love it.

…And because it’s not a blog post without a picture of Nora, here’s the carrot that makes all that work worthwhile:

About the Author


3 responses

  1. Wow…free time what’s that? When you and your brothers were little I got up at 4:00 am to get ready for work, get you ready for day care/school, fix breakfast and feed everyone, then off to day care/school and work. My only free time was my lunch hour. Depending upon where I worked that amounted to 30 minutes or an hour. Usually I opted to run errands since I did not need to drag you all with me. Work day was 8 – 9 hours.

    After dinner, it was homework, bath time, reading a book, and off to bed. I then cleaned the house, did laundry, dishes, and sometimes work that I brought home. Then off to bed for me to start everything over again the next day.

    Sleeping in on Saturday or Sunday was not an option. I was always the one that got up with the three of you. I didn’t get to sleep in on the weekend until your dad and I got divorced. Sleeping in was wonderful, every other weekend when you guys were with your dad.

    Relish your time with Nora. Be sure to find time for yourself, Chris should do as well. You also need to carve out time for the two of you to do something alone. Go out for a walk, to the beach, to the library, etc. Trade baby sitting with another mom, so you don’t have to pay for a sitter.


  2. willingvessel3 Avatar

    Interesting blog! I loved the part when you nursed, rocked and were on the computer. A bumper sticker idea I came up with really fits this….”ofcoarse I can, I’m a mom.”

  3. Lauren Relyea Avatar
    Lauren Relyea

    I can relate to much of this post; the bone wearying busyness of homemaking (or at least of homemaking done well) was what worried me most when I considered full-time homemaking and child rearing. As an extrovert I also greatly miss the adult interaction opportunities my full-time employment afforded. I have constant company now, but their conversation skills are lacking.

    My “free time” hobbies include coupon shopping, stain fighting, and repeating directions.

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