Chunks of leisure, or why confetti is still OK

The kids are all taking swim lessons right now. Since we have a backyard pool, it’s more efficient to hire an instructor to come here and teach all three in a row. When we do this during the evening, this 90 minute extravaganza generally takes the form of me putting kid #1 in a swimsuit and sending him/her down while the other two watch TV. After 25 minutes, I start getting kid #2 in his/her swimsuit, and so on.

So I can’t just chill for 90 minutes. I like to stay out on the porch, both to experience the evening air, and to intervene if any excessive naughtiness happens (only once or twice; the swim teacher is very good at distracting the children. Sometimes the naughtiness happens inside by the TV, but I can hear that from the porch too). This time winds up being a textbook case of contaminated leisure. I’m on call. It’s chopped up. It is, in Brigid Schulte’s phrase, time confetti. I imagine that the easiest things to fill the time with would be pointless web surfing or puttering around the yard or kitchen.

But I’ve also realized I can choose not to do those things. I can relax in small bits of time. Contaminated leisure is a good occasion for flipping through a magazine — Runner’s World, for instance. I started Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart during that porch time last night and made it through about 70 pages. Apparently Murakami can be read in contaminated bursts. That’s probably the kind of novel I like best. Engrossing, yet not so emotionally wrenching or suspenseful that I can’t put it down. Those I have to save for post-kid bed time. The key is being mindful that leisure could be happening, and choosing to use the time for something that fits well with it. This is why I’ve recently been going crazy at DiscountMags.com. There’s lots of cool stuff out there that can be read in 15 minute chunks.

What do you do during your bits of leisure confetti?

In other news: The Frugal Girl had a fascinating reader question from a young man who considers frugality his major passion in life, and is worried his current girlfriend, though not horribly spendy, is insufficiently committed to the early-retirement-extreme cause. Kristen’s answer, and the comments that follow, are as fun as the original post.

I have a piece up at Women & Co on “How to Navigate Networking With Confidence.

Over at Fast Company, I’m writing about outsourcing social media, sitting less without a treadmill desk, and how to tell if someone you meet is poachable.

The YMCA is doing a blog tour telling people about summer kid food programs. I do not do sponsored posts but I’m happy to put a PSA up. If you know a family that’s feeling strapped in the grocery department this summer, there are 1000+ YMCAs offering summer food programs for kids who’d normally be eating school breakfast and lunch during the year. Food pantries also tend to need kid-friendly food during school holidays. Or cash. That always works.



11 Responses to Chunks of leisure, or why confetti is still OK


  1. Griffin says:

    Since having children, this has been a work in progress for me, and the activities I can do have evolved as the twins have moved through different stages. And sometimes, I have to just make myself sit and watch them and find joy in saying to myself “this is parenting. this is what i wanted, and it’s right here in front me.”

    • Ana says:

      Yes! I try to do this do—just watch and savor the kids playing nicely (for the 5 or 10 minutes it may last) and it helps my mood immensely, instead of frittering away time on the phone, or trying to squeeze in a chore.
      I also have to remember to try to really relax–read a magazine or part of a book, or even take a moment to talk with my husband, when the kids are otherwise occupied. Its definitely a work in progress.

      • Laura says:

        @Ana, Griffin — yes, sometimes when all three of them are squirming around together it is so cute. Like they are little puppies or something. Soon the 7-year-old will grow out of the little kid cute stage to be a big kid, so it is worth watching now.

  2. gwinne says:

    Griffin, I really like that idea. I need to try it, esp. when I’m feeling frustrated!

    I agree, Laura, that it’s valuable to make use of those small bits of time and to see them as having potential for leisure (instead of chores, say). But when your leisure is LARGELY time-confetti–as mine is!–I’d argue more like Schulte that it’s less satisfying and restorative. I’ve managed to watch quite a number of movies this summer (which is great) but it has a different effect in 15 minute chunks spread over a week than it does sitting down, with kids ASLEEP, and really savoring the story.

    • Laura says:

      @gwinne- sure, it’s not as restorative as 2 hours to watch a movie. I’m just arguing that it can be used and enjoyed for what it is. As the kids are getting older I’m also trying to consciously not work a few nights a week after they go to bed and use that time for concentrated leisure too: reading a book or watching something more involved. Doesn’t always work — we’ve been having bedtime issues lately — but sometimes.

  3. ARC says:

    I still love that list you put on Fast Company about things to do with 5 minutes here and there.

    I saw a video of Russell Simmons giving a talk at Google about meditation and while I haven’t yet committed to an official practice, sometimes just “sitting still” for 5 minutes while everyone is occupied is pretty cool.

    • Laura says:

      @ARC – yes, it’s always good to remember “hey, if everyone is happy/occupied, I don’t have to stand up.”

  4. Mary says:

    I’ve recently found myself trying to identify which of my leisure activities are relaxing and restorative vs. those that are fun but not necessarily relaxing/restorative. (For that matter, does relaxing = restorative?) One would think that by age 45, a person would have figured this out, but I don’t!

    • Laura says:

      @Mary – I think often stuff sounds like it should be relaxing, but if it’s not relaxing for you personally, then there’s no real point. It’s a personal thing, after all!

  5. Thanks so much for the link, Laura!

  6. Alison says:

    This is when I read blogs on my phone. I know that looking at one’s smart phone when around children gets a bad rap, but mine love it when I sit (underneath) with them while they watch TV. It’s nice to have the togetherness, but works a whole lot better for me if I’m reading something I enjoy.