90 Minutes Free Time?! by Liza Mundy

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The following is a fantastic response by writer Liza Mundy to British researchers who claim that the average working mom has 90 minutes of spare time a day. I could so relate to Mundy’s description of the non-stop life of a mom of young children, though I personally take refuge not at the pool but at the gym (which, among its abundant positive qualities, also has free babysitting)… Every time I leave my kids at the gym babysitter and pass through that beloved turnstile I feel like Atlas putting down the Heavens for the 1st time since, well…the last time I was at the gym…Enjoy! (Thanks to my buddy Chaya Houpt for sending me this article!)

The Strands of Time by Liza Mundy

Over at Motherlode, Lisa Belkin highlights a British survey which found that “working parents have 90 minutes” of spare time, each day, to themselves. The study for some reason was done by a supermarket chain–perhaps wanting to know how much time busy customers have for food-shopping and cooking. Or maybe the store just wanted to perform a public service. Maybe some parent in management was curious. Who knows?

Anyway, 90 minutes sounds generous to me, unless you count things like feeding the cats or taking out the recycling as “spare” time. But the piece got me thinking about how the time and place of parental free time changes as kids’ needs evolve. When my children were very little, and being at home meant for me (or my husband) that some small body was constantly needing to be lifted or put down or herded or rescued or fed or bathed or clothed or ferried, the only place I remember experiencing free time was in the shower of the public indoor swimming pool near our house. I would slip out to do some laps, then luxuriate in that crummy collective shower, where there was no privacy and the water was never quite warm enough, but on the other hand, there was nobody who needed anything and I could just stand there and exist, amongst strangers and running water, without any limbs being tugged. Showers in general are one place I think parents often escape for a small window of free time, though even there, if you are at home, you are never safe. I know one woman who–on a particularly excruciating day when her 5-year-old son was following her around the house singing some kindergarten song at the top of his voice while she tried to get her house ready for a dinner party–attempted to lock herself in the bathroom for a quick shower and some peace and quiet. Her son picked the lock with a hairpin, flung open the door, and announced “Great news! I am here!”

In fact, so little free time does one have, when the kids are little…
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