My 672-hour Challenge, part 4: Leisure

photo-342There’s a popular story out there that women who work, and who have young kids, have no time for themselves. This may be true for some people, but I know it’s not true for me. I’m quite good about protecting me time. I like to think this is about knowing myself, and knowing that I will go nuts if I don’t get time for my own pursuits in any given day. There are other ways to describe this personality trait, but let’s go with that one.

Nonetheless, there are still various stories I tell myself about my leisure time. Keeping track of my time for a month (April 20-May 17) allowed me to evaluate these stories. For my next book, I Know How She Does It, I had people keep track of their time for 7 days. You can tell a lot from 7 days, but you can tell even more from 28. I wanted to see trends, and see what was true in my life and what was not.

Here’s what I discovered about my leisure time.

My reading is entirely a function of having something I want to read. I am a demand gal, not a supply gal. Weeks 1-3 I read for about 5 hours each week. Week 4? I read 0.5 hours, because I was done with the books I was reading (I probably read more than 0.5 hours – but that was all headlines on my phone while nursing. I suppose I could count that, but it’s not all that edifying). I ordered a handful of new books based on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s recommendations, so that number should rise over the next few weeks.

I’m getting a reasonable amount of exercise, though I could do more. I think of this as a solo activity, but this month it really wasn’t. I went for a surprising number of long runs with other people. Because of the length of these runs (8 miles, 2 10-milers including Broad Street), I ran relatively short runs during the week, so my total volume of hours wasn’t that high: 3.25; 4.0; 3.0; 4.25. I’m trying to go on walks with the baby in the evening when my husband is home. It’s a nice way to fill time. Also, he rarely screams when he’s in the stroller, so there’s that.

In another example of challenging stories we tell ourselves: I tell myself that I “never” eat out. This turns out not to be true. I ate out 2 nights per week each of the four weeks. Two of those were kid dinners (Legal Sea Foods and Uno Chicago Grill). These were not remotely relaxing. I held the baby during the entire time we were at the latter. But I also took my mother-in-law to a lovely BYOB around here. I took myself out for sushi once. I went on a date night with my husband at Tashan. I ate out while I was in NYC for the ASJA conference — once with colleagues, once with a college friend.

This leads to another false story: I think of myself as having a very limited social calendar. I tell myself tales such as “it’s just hard to maintain friendships at this stage of life.” And yet I had quite a few interactions with friends, from my runs, to my dinners, to going shopping with a friend at a local boutique that was celebrating its third anniversary, and then sharing a hotel room with another friend on a business trip. I had a playdate for my kids because I like the other kids’ mom, so we drank a lot of wine. There was at least one social activity with a friend every week, in addition to seeing people we know through sports and schools around here at birthday parties. I even spent time with family: my brother, my mother-in-law. Apparently I have a better social life than I think!

As for spending time with my husband, date night is probably not going to be a weekly thing for us, at least if it involves leaving the house. However, twice a month is quite feasible. Plus, he seems to like to cook special dinners for us on weekend evenings. I can send him to the store and see what random stuff he comes back with, then we eat it with copious wine at 9 p.m. It’s not jetting off to the Bahamas, but hey.

Here’s something I discovered I don’t do: watch TV. I kind of knew this. The Daily Shows and episodes of My 600-lb Life have been stacking up on the DVR. My entire TV watching during these 4 weeks was limited to watching the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness (just the taped races themselves — totalling about 3 minutes apiece), one episode of The Daily Show with my husband, and some Fox News in the background when my friend turned it on in the hotel room in Washington DC. The kids watched some shows while I was in the same area, but I was generally doing something else, like making dinner or cleaning, as a primary activity. I know there are some great shows on, and I know that my web surfing is not remotely more intellectual than watching TV. Nonetheless, it’s a good habit not to have, all things considered.

What leisure activities do you make time for monthly, if not weekly?

Photo: Reading on the porch is a favorite activity.

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