Trapped free time

Now that it’s summer, meaning the kids are done with school this year, that brings a whole new level of schlepping kids here and there for the next couple of months. Day camp on weekdays, swimming on weeknights, and soccer one weekend morning, repeat. What that means for me, in addition to making my brain melt in terms of logistics, is that I have a bunch of trapped free time.

I remember a book I read a few years ago – ETA okay, fine, I googled it and this is it – that talked about how little free time American moms have. Part of the book went into time studies, where women were asked to track their every moment and it turned out they actually had way more “free” time than they thought. I can’t fairly recall the exact details, so do not take this as an attack on the specifics of that argument, but there’s different kinds of free time.

There’s true free time, where you get to decide what out of everything in the world you want to do with that time: read, watch tv, go swimming, get a pedicure, go hiking, whatever. Then there’s paired free time, which is only slightly less awesome, where you and your partner determine together what to do with that time, a subset of the first category. You probably would go out to eat, go for a bike ride, go get a beer, or watch a movie, go to a concert, etc. In other words, if given all options, you might prefer to stay home and sew a bag, but because you’d dedicated this block of free time to your partner, you have a slightly smaller subset of options (because you’re excluding individual pursuits, since it’s not very team-building-y to go off in your own corner and write while your partner works on their yoga or whatever).

Then there’s what I have in spades right now: trapped free time. All of these moments of otherwise free time. This happens when I’m

 

  • usually by myself,
  • but at a specific location (i.e., soccer), *not at home*,
  • where I cannot leave, or even when I’m allowed to, there’s literally no point because there’s nowhere I could get to and back from in time, so errands are out,
  • and have a limited amount of time.

 

I have tons off these blocks of trapped free time. 25 minutes a weeknight at swim lessons, 50 minutes every weekend, and then, of course, the periodic 2-hour drop off birthday party or playdate. With the 2 hour blocks, that can be a lot easier, although to be honest, it depends on the location of that. I’ve been to birthday parties where there’s nothing within a 10-15 minute drive, and so by the time I got to Target or wherever, I would have so little time to browse that I just don’t find it worth it. I personally don’t find it relaxing to look around or shop with 30 minutes or less. But at least with those, I can at least get my groceries or something where I have a very routine and rote thing I need to get done. Still I wouldn’t call that free time, as if it’s some kind of leisure.

The weeknight and shorter blocks are what I think of when I think of trapped free time. Sure, I could bring a book, but given my budget and self-imposed library-only policy, means that I have to also have time to plan in advance. To get to the library, browse for something, and get back out without my kids losing their minds or, (GASP!) if I’m on my own, before I’m late for kid pick-up. In other words: oh so rare! That leaves magazines, which, again, I don’t subscribe to because money but am wondering if they would be worth it for this very reason. It comes to my door, it comes with a variety of topics to read about, and I just stuff it in the car and have it at all times. But for the moment, I don’t have any subscriptions.

There’s always podcasts. That’s oh-kay, because I do love podcasts, but I already isten to them at specific times and most of them, I can’t keep up with. Plus it would also require me to have the time and forethought to plan in advance, because budget precludes me from walking around streaming cellular data at all times, so I download for offline or at-home-wifi listening only. So, a possibility, but meh.

So what’s left? Cute little mobile games that I download and require no cell / wifi data. Those are always good when I find a great new one, but I don’t know where / how to find new ones. I keep asking my tech-savvy friends where do you find new games and they just blink at me. Maybe they don’t play them? Or maybe they just scroll endlessly through the app store and pick ones at random? I can’t deal with the choice overload there. Having to specify which category of game I like gives me hives. I have no idea what those categories mean.

I can use trapped free time purely as down time, meaning time to just *be*. To sit, relax, listen to the kids play and eavesdrop on the parents over there and hear myself think. That’s totally an option for at least a night or two, but I can’t help but be irritated at me having “free” time that I could be putting towards my own sanity, self-care, and/or personal goals, but that I’m not using for myself because it’s usally the only time I get to myself. To me, there’s a major distinction between down time, in which you are intending to do nothing at all, and free time, which you choose to fill with something.

By the way, I totally recognize that this is a privilege in the first place: to have free time OF ANY SORT, EVER. Parents who work a very demanding schedule, multiple jobs, or have so many responsibilities they can’t even breathe, I get that my problem is really a non-issue. But still: trapped free time. Driving me. CRAY CRAY.

Unfiltered thoughts: Nina Garcia

Me, explaining why Nina Garcia just plain sucks: She’s just so bitter. I’d be surprised if anything makes her happy. Ever.

My Better Half: I can guarantee you she finds contentment & joy in *something*.

Me: Oh yeah? Like what? She scowls at & finds fault with absolutely everything.

My Better Half: First, she’s *supposed* to find fault with everything. But I bet she googles videos of sad crying babies. That’s the sort of thing that brings her warm fuzzies.

Me: Good point. About the sad baby videos that is.

Colbert’s gain, my loss

Breaking news this morning is that Stephen Colbert is leaving Comedy Central to take over CBS’ “Late Show” from David Letterman.

Sigh.

I wish I could get on board with this. After all, America’s funniest comedian is going to get a wider audience, and undoubtedly, boat-loads more cash. So, good for him, I guess.

But I worry that he won’t have the comedic freedom, I wonder whether he’ll remain in character (answered: no, so in and of itself that’s upsetting), and, I guess the biggest elephant in the room is the question of did CBS even consider anyone other than a white man? Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson, I mean c’mon now. The only woman in late night is Chelsea Handler, and that’s on E! (though not for long). Sure would be nice to see more diversity in late night comedy.

Look, I love Colbert and will follow him wherever he wants to go. Maybe Comedy Central can set an example and fill Colbert’s void with, I dunno, someone who is perhaps not white and/or not male.

Nananananananana

It has long been clear to both My Better Half™ and me that Batman is the best superhero ever. It’s not even up for debate. I don’t think it ever has been. At this point, it’s been a fact so long that I don’t know the origins of this truth. Did we come to establish it as fact through conversation one night? Or did we each have the same feelings about the pantheon of superheroes prior to meeting one another and discover our similar views one night? No clue. But it doesn’t matter since we know this truth to be self evident.

We have different reasons for believing that Batman is the best. And they’re both equally valid. I think Batman rules because he has a sidekick, Robin. Whether you’re fighting crime or just going about your day, it’s always better to have a sidekick at your, well, y’know. My Better Half™ says it’s because he’s merely a mortal, just a regular guy. He’s not relying on supernatural powers or alien traits to help him in his quest to redeem Gotham from crime & corruption. It’s purely motivation and hard work.

We’ve discussed this many, many times. But only yesterday, when we were talking to the Toddler about superheroes, a topic she is starting to gain some awareness of thanks to daycare friends sporting “Piderman” shirts, did we realize one other thing that fuels Batman. It’s still mostly motivation and hard work.

But also ungodly sums of money. Let’s not forget that. Minor detail.

At Least I’m Not the Only One Uninspired

Earlier I posted about how I haven’t been writing because I’m just so damn worn out. And while I try not to be too hard on myself about that, that itself is…well, hard.

I mean, all it takes is one sideways glance at my feeds to see that they are clogged with new blog posts, updates, follow-ups, and news items that get updated by the hour moment to prove that only I’m to blame when I find myself staring at a blank screen. Obviously I’m not creative enough. Or the ideas I have are bad and not worth exploring. Or the writing I am producing is crap. Pick your flavor – I’ve got 31 ways to blame myself. On really bad days, my efforts to shoo away my internal critic is so hopeless I’m left alone with “I’m not cut out to be a writer.”

When I get some space and take the time to cross examine my own worst critic, I realize how ridiculous that line of thinking is. It’s also reassuring to read something like this to see that I’m not the only one caught up in a tug of war between wanting to write and insisting that what I write is the BEST THING EVER PUT ON PAPER (or, ahem, screen, in this case). I loved the advice she gives her students going through “Bad Brain Days”:

I tell them that they are feeling this way not because they haven’t learned enough, but because they’ve learned so well. They understand how hard what they’re trying to do is, and know that they’re not there yet. I quote to them from Wallace Stevens, that the difference between a good poet and a great poet is that a good poet reads his work and is satisfied.

So as I slowly build up my motivation and inspiration again, I will be trying hard to take her advice and be a little less hard on myself.