The Myth of My Time

 Is your time truly YOUR time?

In the classic scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Sean Penn’s character Jeff Spicoli reminds dour History teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) that the time the stoner is wasting is not just the teacher’s, but his as well.

“If I’m here and you’re here, doesn’t that make it our time? Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with a little feast on our time,” Spicoli says. 
“You’re absolutely right, Mr. Spicoli,” agrees Mr. Hand. “It is our time. Yours, mine and everyone else’s in this room. But it is my class.”

So when is MY time just my time?

Last week, my younger son started preschool three days a week, from 10 am to 3 pm. Everybody asked me, “What are you going to do with all of your free time?”

Great question. I was nearly giddy with possibility.

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A list immediately formed in my head: I will write. I will clean my house. I will meditate. Do yoga. Run. Lift weights. Paint the bathroom. Clean my closets. Clean the pantry. Take a nap. Read a book with no pictures. Bake. Go to museums. Get a pedicure. Shop for grown up clothes for longer than 7 minutes per store. Sew Halloween costumes. Relearn how to knit. Dust everything. 

I started off with a bang: I aggressively scheduled a full day of activities for Monday. I went for a run with a fellow Mom, got coffee, came home and attacked my house with a vengeance and a mop. I set a timer and when it was done I wrapped up my chore, took a shower, and ate a leisurely lunch in the sun with my book.

But then on Monday night, it hit me: Time guilt. All this time… wasted on myself.

Even as I write those words, my feminist-voice is screaming: NOT WASTED – INVESTED! After 6 years of running on Kid time, here I am. Facing the uncharted horizon of actual ‘free time.’ See, even a few paragraphs up I wrote that I ‘took some extra time…’ Took it from whom?  Free from what?

With these words still ringing in my ears, I ended up staying up well past midnight several nights that week because I couldn’t get everything I ‘had to do’ done during the day.  Somehow this made me feel less guilty and selfish – after-dark labor is somehow fine if I’ve managed to carve out a few minutes of so-called MY time during the day.

As a mom, there’s no such thing as My Time. It’s all OUR time. Their time. Least of all, my time.

I was lamenting this pattern of night-tasking with a friend (before Preschool dropoff, after first grade dropoff and before a run and before I went to the grocery store), and I hear myself say: “The worst part was, that Monday I had a great day - I literally scheduled everything, including time for myself.”

She smiled and mentioned that her entrepreneurial husband advised her to do the same.

“Put it all on your calendar. Every minute. Carve out time for you to do what you need to to: Take your vitamins, read emails, take a shower, whatever. It’s the only way to ensure you make it a priority. And let the rest go.”

Just like it’s your job. Because it is. And it’s your time.

There are multiple iterations of the poem, “If You Give a Mom a Moment,” a parody of the mouse/muffin book and they are funny because they are true. Heaven forbid Mom stops for a moment. At least not during daylight hours when someone could see her. And the thing is, nobody ever GIVES Mom a moment - she has to wrestle it away from all those who want it like prying a 3-year-old’s fingers one by one off of a Paw Patrol toy in Target. No easy task.

My husband asks how my week is going, and I complain that my Free Time is already full of things that I feel that I need to do, mostly for other people. And the time I thought I’d had for me is less abundant than I thought.

“You need to be more selfish,” he observes. 

He’s right, I do. We all do.

So I am calling on Moms to let go of Time Guilt. Can you do it for a week? Put one activity per day in your calendar that’s just for you. 15 minutes. Literally schedule it and be ruthless about defending that time. And make it during daylight hours when you need it most. Try it and hashtag it #takebackmomtime and tell me how it went. I’m going to do the same.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the world will not end if we spend a few minutes on ourselves everyday. Maybe it will even become a habit, one that we so richly deserve. It’s not selfish, it’s an investment in your sanity that you have earned. 

Sometimes even Moms get a moment.