I’ve seen a couple of articles recently that say mothers just want “time” for Mother’s Day. Time for themselves, quality time as a family, time to sleep, time to shower, time to shop, time to relax, time to read, time to poop, etc. etc. etc. And when I first read those, I kind of thought, “Yeah… that’s what I want. More time!” Then, ironically enough, a book I had on reserve at the library became available to me: 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Basically the book encourages you to look at your life broken down by the hours in the week… there are 168 hours in a week. That sounds like a lot of time when you say that, right? And if you assume someone works 40 hours a week and sleeps 8 hours a night, subtracting those still leaves 72 hours a week. So why is it so hard to find time to do things, even mundane things like eat a meal or take a shower?
I’m only a few chapters into the book thus far, but already I’m starting to think that some of the ways that I thought I didn’t have time are more decisions how I choose to use my time. One example, I thought I was failing in some way because I don’t have the time to plan/cook fancy meals for my family. I feel them, but it’s pretty simple. But the reality is that I don’t choose to spend my time that way. Part of it is that I have a small rotation of food I know my toddler will eat consistently, part of it is that I usually have to cook these things while holding her. And instead of spending a lot of time on meals, I would rather play with her anyway.
One part of the book was rather jarring to me. It said “Working mothers clock a lousy 1-7 minutes of daily reading to or with children, but even stay-at-home moms of preschool-aged kids don’t top 8 minutes per day.” Can that be true? Those numbers make me incredibly sad! I usually read 15-25 books with Alex every single day, because that’s what she asks for. She wakes up in the morning and says, “Eat? Book?” The girl loves books and doesn’t really play with toys at all at home. Sometimes she changes from books and asks to “Color?”, but the majority of the time she wants to spend it reading books.
I feel like the whole time from when I pick her up from school to when she goes to bed is pretty hands-on parenting. She doesn’t usually play independently during this time; she wants to tell me stories, color with me, dance/sing with me, and be in my arms. I’ve often wondered how stay-at-home moms ever get anything done because I struggled to “do things”, but if doing the laundry takes longer because she’s “helping” to sort or move stuff from the washer to the dryer… if grocery shopping takes longer because we have to point out all the produce… if dinner prep is way condensed because she wants me to hold her… I need to relish those things because someday she’ll probably want nothing to do with me when it comes to life’s tasks.
So I’m going to track my time this week. I know I waste time on some frivolous things that I could probably tighten up to get more time for myself. I know some of that frivolous time (TV time) might mean that I spend less time with my spouse. Although, is it really quality if we’re sitting next to each other on the couch, both ignoring the same TV show while we use our computers?
I made a Google spreadsheet to fill in how I use/waste my time. I made a template available if you’d like to copy one into your Google Drive account and do the same!