News Flash: Working Moms Have 30 Hours of Leisure Time A Week!
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Last night at a school meeting I told a working mom of third grade triplets that I was writing a story about University of Maryland time diary gurus who insist that working moms have 30 hours of leisure time.
“A year?” she asked hopefully.
“No – they say we have 30 hours A WEEK,” I told her.
Simultaneously we erupted in peels that shook the library table.
Fortunately there is a lot to laugh about when it comes to working motherhood (to clarify, the term is oxymoronic: paid or unpaid, we are all working mothers). We’ve finally figured out our lives are comedies, sitcoms without audiences, endless crazy jokes, forgotten lunchboxes, calls from the school nurse during career-making presentations, and other tightrope acts. It is best to laugh through the chaos, right?
Which is exactly what Washington Post Magazine writer Brigid Shulte had me doing as I read her article “The Test of Time: A Busy Working Mother Tries to Figure out Where All the Time Is Going” and while joining her on Michel Martin’s Tell Me More NPR segment exploring the same hilarious topic.
I first encountered Brigid’s article on my computer at 11 pm Sunday night after the kids had (finally) gone to sleep. On my split screen I was running through emails while glancing at the article. I yucked at Brigid’s opening: “Let me tell you about a typical day in my life as a working mother. Oh, wait, there is no such thing.”
I printed out the article and stuffed it in my purse before heading to bed. The next morning I read another page at Starbuck’s waiting for a colleague for an out-of-office meeting (the only kind we have, since neither of us has a real office any longer). Over my oatmeal raisin cookie breakfast (yum) I laughed when Brigid confessed it took her a YEAR to fill out one week’s worth of time diary data.
Brigid’s Type A approach to working motherhood is clearly my own ridiculous Let’s-Climb-Everest-Without Oxygen strategy: trying to be a fulltime working mother and fulltime stay at home mother AT THE SAME TIME. In case you are thinking of trying it, high-test caffeine, Lexapro and pants with an expandable waistline are far more important than org charts or two Blackberries.
I read more while waiting for the chitchat to subside at a volunteers’ meeting at my kids’ school. “My days are chopped up like little bits of time confetti,” Brigid confided. Yep, me too. “Check this out,” I couldn’t resist saying out loud to the other moms. “She says we act more busy than we are because ‘busyness’ is the new status symbol!” I chortled. “Moms think we need to EARN leisure time by working and doing laundry and volunteering too much…”
Silence around the table. The other moms looked at me like I’d stolen their Halloween candy. Oh well.