The To-Do List in My Head versus Leisure Time

I read a line the other day that hit me where I live: “My son has my cortex.”

This is how I feel, not just about M, but about the whole division of my labor. I don’t know if it’s a working-outside-the-home thing, or a mom/parent thing, or just a forbidden-word “busy” person thing.

I am at my desk about 40 hours a week. I usually even eat lunch at my desk. While I am sitting at my desk, I have a constant list of stuff in my head: the bills that need to be paid this week; the menu plan and shopping list for the week; blog posts I want to write; the stuff I have to do to get out of town this weekend. (Pack and clean, pack and clean. Oh, and make more soup.)

So while I am physically at my desk for up to 40 hours a week, and commuting about an hour a day (30 minutes to and from), my head is not 100% given over to the work I do. Or not 100% of the time.

My head is full of background noise. I don’t know how to make it stop. How do I make it stop?


Which brings me to the idea of leisure time.

First off, I will cop to the fact that I’m not doing too badly in this area. On a daily basis, I take about 20 to 30 minutes to read. That’s my daily leisure time. My commute to and from work would be counted by time-use researchers (yes, such a job exists) as leisure time. After all, after I drop the children off at school (taking the children to school would be counted as “child care” by time-use researchers), I have about 30 minutes of, say, listening to NPR or Chvrches.

So, yeah, I have about an hour, hour-and-a-half of leisure time daily. That’s not too shabby. For reference, according to a 2012 survey, the average amount of daily leisure time is 5.1 hours.

According to Pew, fathers get more daily leisure time than mothers. Now, here I will certainly defend my husband, who works between 10 and 12 hours a day during the week (and often 5 to 7 hours on Saturday). If you count gym as leisure time (the survey referenced above would, I believe, as it falls under “sport”), three days a week he gets about an hour, hour and a half of that. Plus, Dan is the guy who comes home and turns on the television. At 9 p.m.

He doesn’t play golf. He doesn’t have a poker game weekly, let alone monthly. If he gets anything over and above what I get, I suppose it would be his “steak night” with his buddy about once a month. And seeing as I average a GNO about that often — Dan and I are pretty even on leisure time. He may get two or three hours more a day, but that’s just because he will watch television until midnight, whereas I go to bed at 10 p.m.

Anywho, I am also interested in reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte, which parses her experience of busyness. When she kept a time-use journal and took it to a time-use researcher, he found 27 hours of leisure time in her week. She was rather surprised until she looked at what he counted as leisure time, for example, 10 minutes of laying in bed listening to the radio before she got up and the time she spent waiting for a tow truck when her car broke down. I seldom recommend Terry Gross, but her interview with Schulte is a peek into the way modern work, school, and parenthood have changed the parameters of what we consider leisure time. And how, mostly, that’s not a good thing.


And all of this leads up to me telling you: I’m off to the woods tomorrow with the family and many good friends. I am going to cram in all the leisure I can. I will be off the grid. Have a great weekend!

What do you think? Should leisure time be longer than 10 minutes? And take place outside of your car (if you’re commuting to work)?