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Mom's 1-Hour Out

Photograph by Getty Images

There are infinite ways to be tortured as a mother. There’s guilt for working too much or not working at all. There is the torture of sleeplessness and the constant chaos that comes with raising children. There are also all the worries that nip and tug at my serenity all the time—worries about money, bullying, eating disorders, discipline and the sexualization of our little girls. All of it tortures me.

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But the thing that tortures me the most is something that should be as welcome as a glass of water to a woman lost in the desert: one free hour. When I am in the frenzy of balancing work and motherhood—as I’m running to pick kids up or drop them off—I fantasize about how luxurious and decadent it will feel to have one free hour to myself.

Then, when then it happens, I freeze. The little chihuahua that is my brain spazzes out because I can’t decide how to spend my one precious hour. I spend the first 10 minutes trying to decide “the best” way to proceed. Sleep? Read? Write a blog post? Call a friend? Go for a run? Get a massage? Clean my closet? Watch an episode of Girls? Make a photo album?

As the clock ticks down, I realize that I have wasted 20 minutes whittling down my list.

On and on, my brain does this annoying thing where it convinces me that it would be sinful to squander my one precious hour so I have to get it right. After all, I have no idea when I’m going to get another one. I try to eliminate possibilities. I decide to screw sleep, because I usually get at least a few hours at night. Then, I decide I’ll call a friend later while I am cooking dinner and the kids are playing. The massage is out because it would take longer than an hour and I need more lead time to make it happen. I ditch the idea of watching TV because I could do that with my husband later.

But I still have to decide between reading, writing and exercising. As the clock ticks down, I realize that I have wasted 20 minutes whittling down my list. If only there were a way to combine exercise and reading. I decide to sit on the stationary bike and read my book. I feel a twinge of guilt for opting not to write, and for a second I consider typing on my laptop while cycling. I realize that’s a crazy, and possibly dangerous, idea.

So, I take a deep breath. I pick the best I can. I try to concentrate on the pages of my book while my legs go around in circles. Luckily, all the fretting and perseverating amped up my adrenaline so I get my endorphin rush.

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When the hour is up and I am back on duty, I curse myself for turning a delightful treat into torture. I promise myself I won’t do it next time. Next time, I swear I will just pick the first thing that comes to my mind. And if it happens to be running while online shopping and talking on the phone, well, so be it.

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