Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Grocery Shopping is Not "Me" Time (Unless You're Tina Fey)

With my kids in school all day, you'd think I'd have plenty of time to myself. I mean, come on: seven hours a day of kid-free time should mean plenty of "me time", right? The occasional manicure or pedicure (or both!), lunch with the girls, browsing the bookstore, coffee with a neighbor, enough workouts to achieve the body of a trophy wife.

You'd like to think so, wouldn't you?

No, I can count on one hand how many lunch dates I've had this school year. (Kindergarten cafeteria duty doesn't count.) I haven't had a mani/pedi since last Mother's Day. No one comes over for coffee because we're all already on our third cup by the time we wake our kids up for school. And that trophy wife thing? Well, that all depends on your definition, I guess. If you're looking for someone who's obviously popped out (and nursed) a few kids, desperately needs to see her hairdresser, and has tee shirts older than her kids, then yeah, I'm your woman.

Truth be told, these days it's all I can do to make the house passably presentable, get some food in the fridge, spend a little time on my treadmill, and do some laundry before it's time to pick up the kids from school. And we all know what the after school hours are like (lessons, practices, projects, homework, playtime, dinner/ bath/ bed, and those damn reading logs). I have four hours between pick up and bedtime, and I make the most of it.

Ask the average husband, and he has no idea what we do all day. Why would he? Sure, on some level, he gets that there's cleaning, errands, volunteering, laundry, kid-related stuff to do - but in a superficial way, much like I understand that binary code is somehow important to the inner workings of my computer, but I really don't get how it all works. And I don't have to. Someone else figured it all out for me, and now the thing just does what it does without my having to think about it. I think husbands are often like that: they don't really want to know the mundane details of our days. They just want to know that everything is running smoothly, efficiently, like my computer. I turn it on, it works, end of story. They come home; house/kids/chores have been taken care of; end of story.

So why do we feel the need to justify our time? And who, exactly, is asking us to? Is it really our husbands? When they ask, "Did you have time to (wash my socks/ buy dog food/pick up my dry cleaning/get eight 8 x 12 foam sheets in various pastel colors for the Indian Princess bottle rocket craft that I need at 6:00 tonight but I just told you about right now)?" are they making a statement about what we do all day, or just asking a question? When they ask, "So, what did you do today?" are they passing judgement or merely making conversation? Let me tell you, I'm fairly certain that my husband has zero interest in hearing how it took me 90 minutes, 4 washes, and a LOT of OxyClean to remove the fruit juice stain from my Kindergartner's favorite blue horse shirt that she wore last week on the field trip (and which only cost $8, less than I spent on detergent and water to get it clean, but hey, whatever). And while he can appreciate the adorable additions to the playroom decor, I'm pretty sure he doesn't want the play-by-play, just the highlights - like SportsCenter, but without the annoying theme music.

Or do we do it to ourselves? And if so, why do we feel the need to remind ourselves how busy we are, how much work it is to run a home and care for our kids and meet our obligations to our communities? Every mom, working or at-home, knows exactly how much time and effort it takes to be all things to all people at all times. No one actually asks me to justify my time - except for me. I have a constant conversation playing in my head that reads like a train schedule, down to the minute, what I've done, what I need to do, how much time has elapsed, how much time is left. It's mentally exhausting. It's ridiculous. And it's completely unnecessary.

(Once, when my kids were both toddlers, I actually kept a running timetable of my day. For an entire week, I wrote down every single thing I did, every single minute of every single day and night. I then made my husband read it, so that he would finally, truly understand why I was so tired all the time. He got to noon on the first day, looked at me and said, "I'm exhausted just READING this!" Exactly.)

So where does the "me" time fit in? Wherever the heck you can find it! My friend Coley eats lunch - alone - at 10:00, just to have some time to herself before preschool pick up. For Nina, it's an afternoon run - the kids have to keep up and no one is allowed to talk to her. My sister has no problem grabbing the remote from her preschooler and saying, "Mommy's shows now!" Even Superwoman Tina Fey finds time for herself: She grabs a fountain drink and wanders around Target, alone. Shoot, if she can do it, anyone can do it! For me, it's a phone call to my friend Michelle while we drink our morning coffee, right after her kids catch their bus. A few minutes of kid-free, chore-free, obligation-free time, and I'm a new woman, ready to take on the day.

Slacker Mom Says...find some time each day that belongs to you. Maybe it's a soap opera, maybe it's bad reality TV on the DVR, maybe it's a trip to the bookstore that doesn't involve a train table or a visit to the children's section. Whatever it is, whatever your status, moms need "me" time. It makes us better moms, better wives, better people. No one's going to "give" it to us; we've got to make it happen. Tomorrow, my friend Nancy and I are hitting our local taqueria for some salsa and gossip, and nothing short of a sick kid will stop us! I know I'll come back refreshed, renewed, ready to take on piles of homework and reading logs without complaint.


  1. What's that old saying? If you want to hear God laugh, just make plans? Both of us ended up with a sick kid home today. Yeah, no chips and salsa for me today. Damn kids. Damn germs. Damn "bragging on the blog about my lunch plans"!

  2. This post so reminded me of this joke that my sister sent me awhile ago. Please excuse the length:

    A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog.

    Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.

    He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened. He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls.

    As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, 'What happened here today?' She again smiled and answered, 'You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?' 'Yes,' was his incredulous reply. She answered, 'Well, today I didn't do it.'

  3. That is awesome! and so true. it's all that little stuff that happens as if my magic all day long. When my mom had a heart attack a few years ago, I went to LA and left my husband in charge for 5 days. He was exhausted. He said he didn't have time to eat dinner until 10 each night - and I'd done so much prep before I'd left! It was very eye-opening for him. He def. appreciated what I do after that.