We're not alone in feeling like
leisure time for moms is rare, even unattainable.
Brigid Schulte, author of "Overwhelmed," recently published the article "Why Time is a
Feminist Issue," which points out that women generally do two or three times
as much housework and child care as men do, even if we also have paying careers.
She admitted that pre-kids, she and her husband had planned on splitting the
work of a family equally. But when her kids were born, "it was like these
unconscious, old 1950s-era black-and-white movies started playing in both our
Schulte found herself devoid of anything but "time
confetti"—tiny scraps of time that aren't enough to truly relax or get lost in
the flow of a fun project.
Do I want my kids to think that being a woman is about getting all the housework done, or do I want them to know that women can have fun, too?
Meanwhile, according to a 2013 study, men who are parents
to young children enjoy almost three hours more leisure time per week than
In addition to her full-time paying work, Schulte was the
one performing the majority of the household duties. She was the default
parent, the one who drove the kids to their appointments, signed them up for
summer camp and packed them nutritious snacks.
Even when we do find some free
time, we tend to turn toward our never-ending to-do-lists instead of doing
something fun or relaxing.
As women, we have a tendency to wait until we're totally
depleted—or perhaps have broken a limb—to ask for help. But we don't have to.
While there are plenty of obstacles to achieving leisure
time, there are also some concrete steps we can take to reclaim the right to recharge.
1. Have a sit down with
In her article, Schulte realizes that she and her husband
had no role models on how to equally divide household duties, and that lack of
role models led them to a steep imbalance. So they listed all the
responsibilities they had as a family and reshuffled them to make things fair,
freeing up some time for Schulte to devote to herself.
2. Schedule it.
Some friends of mine have devised brilliant regular weekend
schedules with their partners where they alternate taking care of the kids. One
partner gets a chunk of time for whatever they choose—a yoga class, a nap, going
out to a movie—while the other hangs with the kids. Then, they swap.
While this arrangement might cut down on a few hours of
family time, it still leaves plenty of time for togetherness. And if your house
is anything like mine, quality family time—a nice meal together or a trip to
the park—often works out far better than hours on end together.
Once you plan some time for yourself, put it on the calendar
where everyone can see it. This ensures it will remain as non-negotiable as soccer practice or your partner's night out with friends.
3. Say no.
Life is full to overflowing for most of us. When faced with
the possibility of taking on extra work or other commitments, I often have to come
back to a central question. For example, say I'm offered a volunteer commitment
for an issue I'm passionate about. Would adding this volunteer commitment to my
plate help me with my top two or three life goals? If the answer is no, then my
answer needs to be no, too, no matter how great my passion.
It's easy to use our kids as an excuse not to care for
ourselves. Maybe we work a lot and don't get to spend as much time with them as
we'd like. I've had to reframe this idea and use it instead as a motivator
for self-care. Our kids are watching us—and we are showing them how to live
their lives. Do I want my kids to think that being a woman is about getting all
the housework done, or do I want them to know that women can have fun, too? That
we can do good things for ourselves? So that when they grow up, they can too?
So that finally, there might be role models for gender equality—at
least in the home.