Women and Time

I was flying home from from Seattle last month and picked up the April edition of Real Simple Magazine. I love that magazine. I feel like it’s so authentic. Anyway – there was this big article on Women and Time, and it struck a massive chord with me because I never feel like I have enough. Ever.

I often feel guilty for lounging about.

If I’m not working I feel obligated to call friends or family, or respond to emails I haven’t found the time to be thoughtful about.

My to-do list is constantly active, when I cross something off I add 3 more. Even after working, 4 out of 5 days I run home to multi-task. I’m either cooking and washing clothes, or I’m back on my computer with 5 tabs open doing a dozen different things.

When I go to bed, I mostly feel like I haven’t accomplished enough. I feel bad about the things I haven’t completed, and I feel too tired to think beyond pillow-head-sleep.

So, I started reading the article with the attitude of, “yeah yeah yeah, women need to make more time for themselves, blahblah, heard it all before.” Because the flip side to this is that I don’t feel like Kamel has as much going on as I do. Which is mostly true. He has the ability to come home and sit around if he would like. His day job is also his career, his other passions are things he can do on the weekends. I’m the one who (right now) is juggling too many things and trying to eeek ahead by racing towards the tiny crack in the wall I think I can maybe break open. I have many different to-do lists running through my brain every day: work to do, home life to do, bloggy to do, social to do, and then the giant looming to do of things I cannot yet share here. So yes, I started the article thinking I’d heard it all before. We should all go get a massage or something once a week, right? Yeah… sure.

But then I started reading some stats from a giant women vs time survey the magazine had completed. Did you know that:

  • 52% of women say they have less than 90 minutes of free time a day? (that would be me, unless you count my time on the train, then I have about, oh, 60 minutes?)
  • And 46% say they are constantly interrupted in their free time (Hello. Yes. And most often, I’m the one interrupting myself. Fuck.)
  • And then! The things that women listed as activities they do in their free time included: cleaning/laundry/planning family things/grocery shopping, etc.
  • Also, it turns out that we’re might just be control freaks, with 45% of women polled saying they don’t give up control of household stuff even though they think their partner will do just as good a job as they do.

And this is where I started to feel a little blush creeping up. Because although Kamel is totally capable of cooking dinner and and picking up the bedroom etc etc etc, when he offers to do these things so I can take a minute to breath, I mostly say no. It’s not because I don’t think he can, it’s because I don’t want to not pull my own weight. If he cooks and washes the dishes, and allows me to sit at my computer and figure things out for the next day, or – god forbid – allows me to sit on the couch doing NOTHING for 30 minutes, then I’m a bad partner. Although, I have no problem telling him, “oh no, it’s cool, I got this.” (Except when I do have a problem with it and I dissolve into yelling tears about how he isn’t helping me… not my finest hour(s))

But then, as I read on, some other  things popped out as being important. Did you know that you need time before bed to calm down and begin to relax? That jumping into bed after mentally exhausting yourself (myself) isn’t a good thing? A study published in 2011 where sociologists followed 30 couples (who both worked full time) and took samples of their saliva every ten minutes showed that the couples who spent their evenings doing chores had maintained higher levels of cortisol, which is released in response to stress (and has to do with the adrenal gland, blahblahblah). And this makes it more difficult to sleep, and wears down our bodies.

So there are things right now I’m trying to figure out how to do (and maybe you are too, and maybe you have some tips?). I can’t really change the fact that right now I’m working a lot monday-friday. These are the scramble years and I’m down for working harder to get the prize (god, let’s hope) at the end. But! I’m attempting to stop feeling guilty for having moments, hours, days of doing nothing. Which means I’m not socializing, I’m not working, I’m just… lounging around. And it kind of kills me, but I need it to be ok. I’m trying to not have guilt when Kamel offers to take over a household task, and have the ability to say, “That would be awesome, thank you.” Instead of, “No, it’s cool, i’ll do it.” I’m trying to figure out how to be efficient so I can get things done and still have an hour of downtime before bed.

I refuse to believe I can’t do it all. I will do it all, I just have to figure when to push through things, and when to say no. When do I throw away the to-do list and when do I scramble extra hard? I haven’t figured it out yet.

20 thoughts on “Women and Time”

  1. This:

    “Because although Kamel is totally capable of cooking dinner and and picking up the bedroom etc etc etc, when he offers to do these things so I can take a minute to breath, I mostly say no. It’s not because I don’t think he can, it’s because I don’t want to not pull my own weight”

    I feel so guilty whenever I am too tired to do any of the above, the boy offers to do it, and still I make myself do it. Why ?

  2. Hell. Yes.
    And also, I absolutely HAD to let Joe take over the household tasks this last month, and the guilt was excruciating. I can’t count how many times I apologized that I wasn’t pulling my own weight. BUT. He’s awesome, and told me to shut up. What really counted was the “thank you.” And that I told him I’d do laundry this week, after I finish just.one.more.thing.
    I have no tips for you (I’m in the same boat), but it sounds like you’ve got the mental part in place. Good luck learning to relax into your lounge time — I bet it will make such a difference!

  3. I totally agree with everything that is stated here…. and I love the statement.

    “I refuse to believe I can’t do it all. I will do it all, I just have to figure when to push through things, and when to say no. When do I throw away the to-do list and when do I scramble extra hard? I haven’t figured it out yet.”

    This is my scramble extra hard week and then next week I see a light at the end of the really long tunnel.

  4. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately–getting the most out of my leisure time which includes really relaxing when I’m relaxing and finding “productive” things to do while I’m really relaxing. For instance, not mindlessly searching the depths of the internet or glazing over while the television is on (though some of that is cool too, especially with a glass of wine), but reading an enjoyable book or going for a bike ride or taking time for something I never feel I have time for…with a glass of wine.

    1. I have trouble too with the line between straight relaxing and “productive” relaxing. I sometimes fold laundry or iron while I watch TV. Instead of thinking of it as “making chore time more enjoyable” I think of it was “making relaxing times more productive.” But relaxation SHOULDN’T be “productive.” One does not, actually, need to do all the things at the same moment.

      I’m trying to work on just doing one thing at a time. Need to fold laundry? Fine, fold away, in the bedroom, thinking thoughts. Want to watch TV? Ok, pour yourself a glass of lemonade and get cozy with your blanket.

      And finally, I’ve really noticed how even 30-45 minutes of down time before going to bed helps me sleep better. Even if its just reading or giggling with Chris in bed. Helps prevent the “ships passing in the night” feeling of two busy schedules too.

  5. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to simplify my life lately, because I find a lot of my “free time” (psh) is sucked up by things that I don’t really enjoy AND REALLY AREN’T NECESSARY. Only I’m not sure how to do it! I’m so used to doing all the things that I don’t know how to eliminate anything that doesn’t benefit!

  6. With the housekeeping stuff, I am still learning to let a simple “thank you” be enough. I have to make sure that I am not thanking Kelly for HELP, but that I am thanking him for doing his share. Full stop.

    1. The full stop part is really important. This has to be a throw back from olden times and the stupid pervasive attitude that it’s my job to take care of the house – this feeling that it’s not Kamel’s job and that I’m slacking if he runs the laundry to the wash, or picks up the piles of stupid mail we have in the living room. I don’t expect him to do it all, so why do I expect myself to be capable of carrying all the un-fun tasks on my back?

  7. This is hard! And points for you for taking charge of getting better at it. I dont have as much going on as you do, so I think maybe I come from a different perspective, but I struggle with this also and have learned SO much, specifically over the last 2 – 3 years, about how so insanely crucial this is to my well being. Like if I’m going go-go-go for a day or two straight, literally all I can think about it is going home (or to a park or a coffee shop) and doing something completely frivolous, reading, napping, TV, walking – completely for ME. And I had to give up on wanting to be at every social function (although sometimes i think i still say yes to too much), and I dont feel bad about it anymore. I’m not missing out, the people will still be awesome the next time I see them, and I will be happier 🙂

    So go YOU for slowing down. I like productive lauren, I really love her, but I also love “lets watch the entire season of obsessed on netflix instant” lauren. And you deserve both!

  8. I think I’m just a jerk because I have no problem pushing everything off onto Stephen. I’m the oldest child and he’s the youngest so I think that plays into our dynamic a lot (ie. I’m bossy and he just wants to make me happy). I’ve tried to get better about helping out and doing my “fair share” around the house but it’s hard when he’s always offering to do everything.

  9. YES. Definitely struggle with this one.

    This past week, I purposely “booked” a nothing-on-the-calendar weekend. Absolutely nothing I HAD to do. Zilch. Nada.

    And it was effin’ HARD. Like, as I was there relaxing, my brain kept thinking, “Oh hey, you should write those thank you notes, and reply to those emails, and OMG THE FLOOR IS FILTHY GO VACUUM NOW!”

    I forced myself to relax, but it didn’t feel entirely relaxing. So, clearly. I need more practice. We decided that *at least* once a month, we’re going to block out a “nothing” weekend. And guard it against ANYTHING that comes near it.

    Oh, the chores thing! Fiance works an afternoon/night shift, so cooking dinner has always fallen on my plate. About 6 months ago, I told Fiance “I cannot make dinner every night, it is driving me insane.” So, we started planning meals that he can cook in the morning that we can both reheat later. It now ends up being I cook dinner about 3 nights, and he cooks dinner about 2 mornings. Working out well so far!

  10. I rarely feel stressed or pushed for time. There are days, yes, but it’s no longer the vast majority of my life as it used to be.

    I found that things got easier when I didn’t just make To Do lists, but made daily To Do lists. You might have a big goal/project in mind, but breaking it into little pieces really helps. Today I will finish my short story. Tomorrow I will edit the short story. This weekend I will research where to submit it. Next Monday I will submit it to three places. Tuesday I will submit to three more. Etc etc etc. You’ll actually have even MORE on your list, but broken down makes it seem much more manageable.

    Be realistic with what you can accomplish each day, too. I used to load up my list and push myself until I finished it all – or feel bad I couldn’t finish it and beat myself up. Now, if I can’t do something today, I just roll it over for tomorrow. No sense in stressing.

    I try to go to bed at least 30 minutes before I think I really want to sleep, and read those 30 minutes.

    I don’t intend for those tips to sound preachy – just what I’ve found really works for me. I don’t know your details, what your job is like, etc etc. I work 10+ hour days, but when I leave, I’m able to leave my work behind. I come home and can have dinner and catch up on my personal Internet stuff and listen to music and read. I do laundry once a week and the hardest part of my day is making myself wash dishes.

  11. I think I address this issue by staying up too late most nights. It’s not a good habit, because then I’m often bone-dragging tired the next day, but it does allow for time to unwind and lounge.

    Also, somehow I’ve inherited my mom’s ability to let my husband pick up and clean while sitting around and watching. Of course, he takes care of clutter and the kitchen — not scrubbing down the bathroom tub like I’d like (he leaves that for me). I wonder how much of our impulses to keep multitasking or take time to relax are learned by watching our same-gender parents and their attitudes. I’d assume a lot.

  12. I have gotten better at relaxing in the past year or so. My husband and I enjoy our “nothing” time together. He has more time at home than I do and we split the chores with what works for us. He does the dishes Monday-Thursday and I do them on the weekends. He does all the laundry, but I do pretty much all the cooking. I usually vaccuum and dust, but he cleans the bathroom. I’m gone from the house for ten hours a day, so when I get home at 5:30 I scramble to make dinner, make tomorrow’s lunch, and get in a shower before 7:00. That way we can spend 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed and I can relax a little bit.

    When I relax I try to really relax. That for me means putting up the reclining end of the couch, and playing some zombie video games until I don’t want to anymore. Or watching a movie that has been sitting in the Netflix forever. Once I am in my PJ’s and on my reclining end of the couch I get to zone out. I make it my relaxation spot. It’s easier for me to get into that mind frame when I have a certain spot I do it in. That way, my brain says “oh, this is the relax spot, time to shut off for a while”. It has made it easier for me at least. Maybe making yourself a spot like this would help? It couldn’t hurt after all 🙂

  13. This is my problem, too. But when I stretch myself too thin for too long then I will completely shut down for 2-3 days at a time and go into hiding. I’m heading into another few months of a really intense schedule and hopping I can manage it all. Thinking seriously scheduling lounge days every couple weeks.

    Have you thought about employing Kamel to help you? I mean like agreeing on a number–say 3–of times per week that he can veto you doing a chore. It seems to me that when you step away from it, you’re reasonable and logical. But when you’re in the middle of powering through a to-do list you can lose sight of the big picture. But then if he can pull you out of it and say, “No, Lauren. I’m doing the dishes right now. And you can’t get mad because we agreed upon this. Go sit down.”

    Also, maybe give yourself a cut off time 30 minutes before bed and establish a bed time ritual.

    Just some thoughts. Good luck lady. Balance is the damn holy grail of womanhood.

  14. I am absolutely terrible at this. And because I compare my Me of Now against the Me of Ten Years to Five Years ago (who was *insanely* productive), I continue to struggle mightily to teach myself to practice better habits and BE OK WITH IT.

    Some random thoughts on trying to find a way to make it work better:

    Find things that work with your grain, not against it.

    Example: I value my blogging time and my reading is 100% necessary so that I can sleep without work nightmares. (All other nightmares are still up for grabs.)

    Because I’m still a guilt-ridden workaholic, I justify the blogging because it is still partly work even if I enjoy it as my cheap therapy/hobby. It’s eyerollingly annoying that I’m still having to do that but *shrug* small steps.

    Health: It’s another total eyerollingly stupid thing but it took basically being crippled by chronic pain to force me to start re-evaluating how I do things. With work, I still push myself almost mercilessly but I have begun to let myself stop at a 40-45 hour work week.

    I had to let my husband do more around the house without feeling like a total worthless lump (which is, no joke, one of the hardest emotional things even if it’s the easiest physical things because I literally cannot get up). It helps that no human’s cleaning is up to his standards most days 😉 but it doesn’t help in that it contributes to my feeling like it’s hard to find a balance between my inability to help around the house and needing to protect a little time for myself.

    When he travels on the weekends, I feel like I have to stay home and cook and clean all weekend to “make up” for being useless all week. What helps is reciting my crazy list out loud to him and hearing him scrunch his face up and say, why? Why not just …?

    And then I do only about half of the stuff, and let the rest go, so I can just hang out with my computer and rest instead of driving myself into the ground.

    Honestly, it did take taking myself to the brink (repeatedly) before I grokked the idea that it’s actually smarter to take it easy at least a chunk of each day, 30 mins during the week and a few hours during the weekend even, than to just go go go. Because at some point, you may not have your health and you don’t want to go so far as to lose that to realize you’ve got to learn how to relax.

    *This isn’t really helpful. It’s really just a ramble. But seriously, it’s a vote for finding a way to make it ok for yourself. And if it’s letting Kamel tell you to siddown and shet it so he can do some of the stuff, then let it be so. That’s what your partner’s for: to carry part of the burden and let you rest. That’s what you do for him.

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