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You’re doing time management wrong too

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“The math is straightforward. There are 168 hours in a week. If you work fifty and sleep eight per night (fifty-six hours per week in total), that leaves sixty-two hours for other things. The time is there to have what matters.”

Internet, let’s discuss this article. I read it and it annoyed me, not because it’s not a nice idea or because I want to be an angry feminist at all times, but because it assumes that all things that aren’t paid work or sleep are leisure, and that every non-sleeping hour is capable of being a productive hour.

Children are work. They are wonderful, but they are motherfucking hard work. And not only that, but they have a timetable. Removing work and sleep hours doesn’t leave a collection of wide-open hours for me to fill with childcare and leisure in any order I like: it leaves me with a baby who needs three naps a day, no more than two and a half hours after the previous nap. He needs three meals in between those naps, and five or six breastfeeds, occasionally still including at least one while I’m getting my eight mythical hours of sleep.

Sometimes we also need to go places and do things, and those things usually have start and finish times to adhere to. We try to go for a walk every day, and I’m trying to meditate and do a quick yoga class in the lounge after he goes down for his first nap. Those are my “leisure” moments. In between, we cram in feeding me, and housework, and the odd shower. Oh, and work. You know, the rest of my whole life as it was before o bebê, only with six times as much laundry.

So yes, I can find leisure time, but the fact that I made a loaf of bread today and meditated for six minutes doesn’t mean I’m relaxed and on top of things – it means I jammed them in around the sides of other things, sneaking moments wherever they appeared. Usually, my “leisure” is stuff that benefits the household: cooking, gardening, cleaning (which benefits my mental health and thus the household). And usually that leisure is done at a run, while also making baby food or listening to him screech for me to come back or with a baby monitor in my pocket trying to finish before 45 minutes ticks over and he wakes up.

The article seems to assume that fitting something rewarding or relaxing into your “mosaic of time” means that the simple act of doing it was relaxing or rewarding. I’m happy I got to do those things, but I’m not sure they counted as either.

“Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.”

(There’s an article I liked a bit more. Laura Vanderkam can feel free to tell me that’s “limiting my stories”.)

I also waste a bunch of time. Brazil keeps threatening to take my phone off me, because I’m spending way too much time on Facebook. But after four hours’ sleep and then struggling to entertain a five-month-old for two hours, shoving some food in his face, wiping his bum and getting him into bed without a meltdown, I don’t have the energy to sew a casual kaftan or whatever it is my mental self thought she’d get to do at naptime. By the time I’ve made some toast, done the wee I’ve been putting off for three hours and collapsed on the couch to stare at nothing until I get my breath back, the baby’s up and it’s time to start again.

There are holes in my mosaic, but maybe, in the circumstances, I’m cool with that. There will be time enough for casual kaftans once this child-induced chaos calms down. (It does eventually calm down, right?) And in the meantime, there’s people being wrong on the internet.

Until next time, digital friends.

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Writer of things. Annoyer of cats.

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