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"Leisure" Time - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
"Leisure" Time
I was reading a post over at Here Be Hippogryffs that linked to a funny article on working mothers and time management. I say funny because I while the sociologist the woman writing the article consulted may just be epically clueless to suggest that all the time she was spending with her children was leisure time, it’s pure comedy when he classifies the two hours she spent trying to distract her young daughter while waiting for a tow in the middle of nowhere as leisure time. I mean, you have to laugh because otherwise you’d want to shoot the guy on this woman’s behalf.

I don’t care what the Peace Corp says, parenting is the toughest job you will ever love. Parenting time can be wonderful and rewarding if you’re watching your kid blow through milestones as she builds her epic tower of wooden blocks, or it can be a tad tedious as you speed-read Goodnight Moon for the two millionth time, or it can just plain be a drag if you’re up at 1 am with a sleepless toddler who is cutting two new incisors (at last) and is understandably cranky on account of the pain. I knew this going in, and not only did I sign up willingly, but I put a hell of a lot more effort into landing the job of Mom than I ever did or will on advancing my career as a nerd for hire. I love being a Mom, but time spent playing with the girl is not leisure time, it is parenting time. After all, Jomkwan gets paid room and board and a weekly stipend to play with Margaret for 45 hours a week. If it’s a job when she does it, it’s a job when I do it or when Warren does it too. I put a bit of thought into it, and I came to the conclusion that time doesn’t count as leisure time unless I could have spent it playing World of Warcraft. Leisure time is time where I can give my full and undivided attention to a pleasurable activity of my choosing. This means I have very little actual leisure time in my week, and I’m OK with that since this is what I signed up for, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be epically miffed if someone dared tell me about the hours of leisure time I have every day.

I think morons like Clueless Time Management Guy are the reason why you occasionally still hear tell of internet fights between working moms and stay at home moms. Ye gods, what a stupid debate. In the past I’ve thought about posting about it, but really, what I have to say on the matter is pretty simple. There is no one right answer about whether it is better for the woman to stay home and care for the kids or go to a paid job. Every family is different, with a complex set of variables unique to that family. People make the best decision that they can based on their understanding of their own unique circumstances. Outsiders who second guess the choices that others make are probably being morons since it is unlikely that they have a better understanding of all the factors at play for a given family than the members of that family themselves. Sadly, it’s a common failing for people to presume that they can make better decisions for others than those people can for themselves. This is a bit tangential to the whole parenting time is not leisure time thing, but I bring it up because it is such a common sin to imply that what SAHMs do is not work and thus they should get "real" jobs.

I don't really have any particular bee in my bonnet about this other than to shake my head sadly at the cluelessness exposed. I’m pretty lucky that I have a husband who understands that kid care is not down time. We both enjoy spending time with our little girl, but he doesn’t count it as down time for him when he does it, and he understands that it is not down time for me when I do it. Warren is sympathetic and understanding on the Sunday afternoons when I start counting down the hours until bedtime. Two fourteen hour days of being the point person on childcare (not to mention being on call every night) do take their toll even when the child is at her most delightful. I look forward to spending time playing with Margaret, but I also look forward to Monday mornings when I get to work and can use the toilet in privacy. I don’t feel conflicted at this, and the high availability/disaster recovery parent understands the load on me and understands that I do not, in fact, have oodles of free capacity. My goodness, was that a nerdy metaphor or what? Anyway, as I am about to have my second child it is good to know that the work I do, both paid and unpaid, is appreciated by the person whose opinion in this matters the most. Likewise, I appreciate his contributions, especially taking extra parenting duty so I can get in some much needed exercise and dealing with all the accounting, taxes and financial stuff.
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jaedian From: jaedian Date: January 24th, 2010 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I keep seeing reference to a study that says parents are less happy than people who are not parents. And I don't think that reflects all there is to say about the matter. I think if you question someone who is a parent in a moment to moment comparison with someone who is not, then they seem less happy, as they are working so much more and have so little leisure or free time as it is a hard job. But I feel more content overall then pre-kids and I feel that as an average over my lifetime this does make me much happier. But if you ask me on a Monday afternoon when three kids are whining about all sorts of minor things, it would appear I am less happy ;-}

As a stay at home mom, I have never in my life worked this much or this hard. It isn't like I can get much done when the kids are home, it is almost like trying to do two jobs that conflict simultaneously. You have to make the dinner, or fold the laundry, while also entertaining the kids. (up to three for me) So I really get very little done during the day, and it can be so frustrating to be constantly interrupted. I do occasionally think about going back to work so I can just go to the bathroom alone, or have a conversation or phone call without interruption. ( I don't think I can make enough money to make that equation work anymore, not with the economy the way it is. And I just find it so hard to leave little kids with anyone else. )

I also thought once they all go to school things would be easier. But it gets harder the further in school each kid gets. Staying on top of their schedules, and their work and assignments. With an organizationally challenged older child I have to deal with the school on her behalf as well as organize her stuff. Not to mention PTO and other things that don't happen without some moms volunteering. Or the after school shuffle of getting kids to and from their activities and playdates.

I thought maybe I would have some time once Juliette went to school, she is going one morning a week now and it will be 3 next year. But I find that is my mad dash to get all the errands done that a 5 person household necessitate!

To say any of that is leisure time is crazy! I would love to curl up with a book, preferably not getting interrupted every 5 minutes, or bead just for myself (not to make things to sell). This doesn't really happen for me at all during the day. I usually get a few hours in the evening if I am lucky, but I am often too fried for anything more complicated than TV. It has actually gotten worse as the kids got older, but that may be because there are 3 of them now. That isn't to say I don't get to do things with the kids that I enjoy, I do. Or that I don't get snippets of things I enjoy, reading LJ and facebook I manage in small bursts throughout the day.

And to me, leisure time is something that could easily be punted if you have a deadline, or some other concern. You can't just skip entertaining that toddler in tow for some other purpose. Or not deal with the kids one day so you can get something else done!

One of my friends husbands just asked her what she did all day! I couldn't believe it.I don't think he was being mean, I just don't think he understands. While both her kids are school aged (Alex and Sara aged) she is a our head Girl Scout Mother, and I know she does a lot with the school by way of volunteering for things. (with the budget cuts, they really NEED parents to be volunteering) Not to mention all the errands for their household.

I always thought once the kids were school aged, I would have more free time, but it is not the case. They just need a different type of effort. I am impressed at the working moms. But I also think the working moms benefit from the stay at home moms who are volunteering at the schools and at various activities.

Sorry to rant!
psychohist From: psychohist Date: January 24th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
To be fair, the leisure time expert switched the "flat tire wait time" from "leisure" to "child care" when he realized she was entertaining the child during that time. The article makes it sound like he counted child care as leisure, but that's actually not the case.
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