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The Cost Of Free Time

Like many of you, I have no fewer than 3 full time jobs. Truly. For me, it’s full-time speaker, full-time parent, full-time author-preneur. I know, it’s not possible to have three full times at once, but somehow I’ve pulled it off, triple-timing through August 22, 2011 (a date etched in my mind!), the day my youngest started kindergarten.

Confession time — are you ready? Being home with my babies has been wonderful, but I can’t tell you how many times over the past 8 years, I’ve dreamily looked out into nowhere muttering, “I can’t wait until BOTH kids are in school.”

Just the thought of having “free time” made me feel tingly all over! And oh yeah… I had big (no, huge!) plans. Most of the dream surrounds a clean and clutter-free house, long showers, creating magnificent collages with all the artwork my kids bring home, organizing pictures, working out and mastering the French cuisine cookbook I got as a wedding gift — 11 years ago. And there’s more – much more!


I’ve now had weeks of “free time” since the babes entered school and I have done nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, I’m less productive than ever! Talk about twittering away your time (seriously)! What is going on here? It has been a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I’m freaking out from the quiet. Then I’m elated over the silence. And then I move on to a big dose of guilt – that I’m not doing anythingproductive. I could do something that in some way benefits my family. I could volunteer. I could work towards world peace. I could organize the garage, for Pete’s sake. But no.

Our chocolate Lab, Murphy, sits in my office and breathes on my leg, staring, telling me the least I could do is throw something in his general direction. Other parents have been the voice of reason, “Give yourself a break!” and “Let this be your FREE week.”

But I’m still having trouble, at loose ends. Where does the day go? It slips through my fingers and although some things are completed, many tasks mock me. One look at my office could easily warrant a call the police – it looks like it’s been ransacked. Yet I walk in, size-up my work space and make no effort to straighten. None.


Wait! Is being productive all it’s cracked up to be? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be “DOING” something? Why do I feel that while I Skype with my brother that I should be folding laundry? Probably the same reason I watch TV with the laptop on my tummy while simultaneously compiling the family photo album. Because a good person is productive, organized and above all else – checks things off her list!

But what about just “BEING?” Is there something productive about down time? Maybe if I had more down time, I would be more relaxed and less apt to want to strangle the  lady fishing for exact change in the check out line. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so late to things, which could (hopefully) result in my driving more slowly, resulting (hopefully!) in fewer tickets. Why should I feel guilty about a nap? Even saying that I want a nap makes me feel like a slacker.


I guess what I really want is to be okay with me…the me who’s been busting my butt, wiping butts for 8 years. I want to feel like I deserve that 3 pm margarita and matinee with my neighbor (greasy popcorn and all!), but somehow, I keep comparing myself to all those power-house high-achieving moms — as well as the OLD me, who had a check list a mile long EVERY DAY and by gum, I got most of it done!

When you’ve been on the “Jane, stop this crazy thing!” treadmill, it may take some time to adjust to walking on solid ground. Not being “productive” just may be the thing to help you be productive when it really counts. So does that mean that doing “nothing” may really be good for “something?” I’m still a bit twitchy even as I write this, but people say that will go away. Breathe deeply and count your blessings rather than your minutes.

Okay, Murphy, time for your walk — go get your ball! And, when the hubby comes home and asks what I did today, I’ll hold my head high and tell him that Murphy and I had a great walk, and I caught up with the neighbor down the street. And now I need a nap.

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