People, in general, are a good use of time.
For Off the Clock (my next book — out May 29!) I asked 900 busy people to track their time on a normal March Monday. I asked them questions about how they felt about time. I found that people’s time perception scores — that is, whether they generally felt in control of their time, and relaxed about time — rose in direct correlation to how much time they spent with family and friends.
Time spent with friends and family tends to feel relaxed and good, and hence makes people feel like they have more time.
It makes sense, although I should say there is a major caveat here. Some time with family does not feel relaxed. I feel like I spend a lot of time refereeing sibling battles. I know it is not actually a lot of time (per my time logs) but it expands in my mental reckoning because it is so unpleasant. I feel like we’ve had a rough past few weekends, partly because of the sheer volume of hitting, yelling, etc.
This past weekend, though, had a few more good, almost off-the-clock feeling moments. I think that’s because I got to do something relaxed and enjoyable with each of my kids, one-on-one.
Our karate school had a train-with-mom thing going on Saturday morning, so I took class with both the 6-year-old and the 10-year-old. It was definitely fun to hold the punching bag for each of them (and them for me!)
My 10-year-old is doing a big end-of-year art project that involves re-creating a major work. He’s doing one of Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits. We spent about 90 minutes on Saturday with me supervising him sketching out Kahlo, and her monkey, and her necklace of thorns. This involved some intense coaching (“don’t just draw your idea of a monkey. Think of it more abstractly as lines and shapes, and look exactly where they hit…”) but I think the sketch really looks like her. He’s now painting it in with our new acrylic paints (this involved a lot less oversight).
Later on Saturday night, I found the 10-year-old doing puzzle games on his new phone he got for his upcoming 11th birthday (yep) and so I suggested we do a real puzzle. We whipped through a rather difficult 200-piecer in about 40 minutes. It was really fun!
I took the 8-year-old for a little combo bike ride (him)/run (me) around the neighborhood on Saturday. We also spent close to 2 hours working through the various Cub Scout badges he missed because we’ve had a hard time getting to meetings this year (but he really wants to progress — he’s decided he wants to make it to Eagle Scout!) This involved all sorts of activities, from playing catch, to spotting animals in the back yard, to drawing a map of our neighborhood, looking at old maps of Lower Merion Township, doing somersaults, and listening to him perform a dramatic reading. The sheer variety was entertaining.
Of course, for me to spend intense, one-on-one time with the big kids, someone else had to take the 3-year-old. My husband played with him in the yard and took him to an art museum. But I still spent some semi-relaxed time with the little guy too. In particular, on Saturday night I could tell he was melting down around 7 p.m. So I just took him to his room and we read story after story. No clock, nothing else on the agenda, just reading until I could tell he was really calm. I looked at the time when I left his room and found we’d been reading for an hour straight.
It was definitely a reminder to think through how to get these one-on-one moments with the kids. It’s never easy with four, but anything that moves time from enduring to enjoying is probably a wise investment.
Note: Off the Clock will be out in just about two weeks! If you enjoy this blog, please consider pre-ordering a copy. Pre-orders assure booksellers and publishers that demand is strong. I also appreciate your spreading the news on social media, and to any other book lovers in your life. Word-of-mouth remains the absolute best way to sell books. Thanks so much for your support!