Free Time

Please excuse this post whilst I make as ass of myself. My use of ‘whilst’ underlining the statement. The post will be filled with hypocrisy and advice that can’t help but be taken as foolish.

I was watching daytime television the other day. It might have been a replay of the Marilyn Dennis show on a Sunday. Or it might have been on a day off or sick day or something. Doesn’t matter. It was about people, women really, making sure to take some selfish time. Some time just for themselves.

Really?

The wisdom being that you need time. Time to exercise. Time to de-stress. That your health and wellbeing depends on it. They literally say it is OK to be selfish because it will pay dividends later.

Here is what I think. It never pays to be selfish. I mean, obviously it does. You can get ahead. You can make money. You can be successful. But you can’t be a decent person.

But does the advice hold if they had just used words that didn’t irk me? (That I didn’t find irksome? That might be a better sentence.)

Free time is a luxury.

A luxury I take full advantage of. (Thus the hypocrisy I mentioned up top.) I’ve always needed free time. As a child I liked some time just to myself. As a teen I made sure there was always one day I avoided all my friends. As an adult, I’m not as formal about it, but I still manage to get the free time quite easily. At work, I always try and get out of the office at lunch just to get a breather.

So I get the urge. But it is a luxury.

And a fairly recent one. Not that long ago only the rich had free time. If you live on a farm there is always something to do even now. 14- 18 hour work days – 6 days a week. 1872 the 54 hour work week became law in Canada.

How did/do folks get by? Probably not as well as we do. We lucky folk. But they did indeed get by.

8 hours work. 8 hours recreation. 8 hours rest. In theory, but our days are still so full that we need to be advised to be selfish.

Parenting is the real issue here. Kids don’t understand the 1872 legislation. Or they ignore it. Or maybe they just hold it in contempt. But parenting is a 24×7 job. And thus the advice to be selfish. Selfish parents. This is really what the world needs. Gah.

Now a parent in a couple can often foist the kids off on their spouse and get some of the cherished free time. Unless their spouse works out-of-town or shift work. Or unless they are a single parent. 1.1 million single moms in Canada in 2006. (StatsCan data) 2.8 million couples. (2010 data same source). There is no parent to hand the kids off to.

And we are so busy. Busy. So many activities. Mostly the kids schooling and sports and clubs. But also our own clubs and organizations.

So here is my unasked for advice:

  1. Suck it up princess. The main issue isn’t that we don’t have free time it is that we have an expectation that we should have free time. You can deal with things being hard, but things being unfair eats at you.
  2. Get up 15 minutes early. Ooh, really get enough sleep. The world works if you are well rested and sucks if you aren’t. And then get up early.
  3. Do less. I’ve heard unstructured play is good for kids. Boot them into the backyard. It is probably good for you too.
  4. Need exercise? First I’d hazard that home cooking will likely help more (course that takes its own time.) Next, exercise with the kids.

Don’t be selfish though. That can’t be right. That is what I do, but I’m pretty sure it is wrong.

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