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.