Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What is free time, really?

I am sitting in a coffee shop in a neighboring city. I have just dropped my son off at daycare, and don't really have much to do. I mean, there are things I could be doing--cleaning my house, gardening, laundry, etc. But, nothing that doesn't normally need to occur. I always looked at 'free' time like this as a time to catch up on chores that I couldn't do with my toddler, or because I was working.

Now that the grief period is over, I have been wondering how to structure my days and effectively use my free time. I have been slowly taking on more parenting time, and trying to ease the load on hubby. I struggle though with giving up what I perceive as my 'free' time. Such a silly concept when you have a family.

I have never been in a position like this before, so it is an uncertain time for me. I have been working since I was 14 years old. I worked my way through college (3 jobs). I have always worked. I am unfamiliar with how to structure my days, how to prioritize myself, and what to fill my days with that would be considered productive and constructive activities.

The first week I did crafts that I wanted to work on for a long time. I made some holiday cards, I made some magnets that I want to give out to family as gifts. I baked bread and granola. I cleaned up the closets and completed my filing (6 months worth!!!). We again paired down our budget and I canceled those service providers. I have made a pact with myself to be reasonable about how often I will search for a job. Hmm, what else can I do?

The second week I tackled the yard. I cleaned up some waywardly placed items. I raked the leaves. I bought a trunk full of wood for the fireplace. I turned the compost. Hmm, now what?

I would normally relish in this free time by spending it at the mall. The mall is always where I want to go when I have all of my check boxes checked. It is relaxing for me to be outside, wandering around with no immediate goal. Even when I don't buy anything, I feel happy just wandering around letting the consumer environment fill me with ideas. The difference is that 'before' we had money to spend on small indulgences. Now, I would feel guilty even looking lest I be tempted to buy. Plus, I have no self control so all I would need to be is tempted and then I would be unable to control myself. The mall is out.

I canceled my gym membership to save money months ago. Otherwise I could be pursuing my lifelong goal of becoming a trophy wife. I could exercise outside, after I drop the little man off at daycare. But, that goes against my comfort level. When I get up in the AM and get dressed for the day--I am dressed for the day. It would feel exceedingly uncomfortable for me to get dressed, drive to daycare, then come back home, change into exercise clothes, get sweaty, then shower and change again. Seems like such a waste of time. Additionally, I like taking Elliott with me on a long walk in the late afternoon. It relaxes him after a stimulating day and it helps us spend/kill that difficult hour before dinner. I guess I could get dressed in my workout clothes, do drop off, then go home and exercise. I could also hike after drop off somewhere closer to daycare. All ideas that I will try.

The take home message here isn't that I am inflexible (which I am)--it is that I am confused with how to spend my days. I thrive on order, schedules, and clear expectations. Having so much flexibility is not something I can easily get used to. I am certainly trying though. I am grateful to be able to spend this time with my family, and hope to be able to enjoy it soon enough.

2 comments:

Lynanne said...

Free time is your time to do whatever you want, whether it be absolutely nothing or something fun like reading a book or going for a walk. It's essential you keep some of that time in your schedule - it will help you recharge your batteries and be a more effective mother and wife. Personally, I don't think of chores as free time. Even when they are mindlessly easy chores it's still not what I would choose to do with my time.

Didn't you say you had a vacation time pay-out on your last check? That was vacation time that YOU earned. Don't feel a bit guilty about using it now, even if the circumstances suck.

It took well over a year for me to adjust to not working and it was a planned change. Part the reason I struggled was I had certain expectations on how I should manage my time and I kept failing to meet those. I see now I needed time to regroup.

But...I'm rambling...I guess I should just say that while I've never gone through what you are, I empathize with how difficult it is to adjust to not working. Give yourself time to make that adjustment. All the best!

Shawn Michel de Montaigne said...

One of the great myths of our consumer culture is the one that says we always have to be busy doing something. I don't buy it.

Ever read The Tao of Pooh? Great commentary on that notion. Read the chapter called (I believe) "Bisy Backson." You'll love it.

The best to you and your blog. It looks great!