Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and friends. There are just times that I need to take care of me. As women we are saddled with traditional roles as well as the modern. We are still expected to cook the meals, wash the clothes, and care for the children. There are some exceptions to this rule but for the most part if we want to have some time for ourselves we have to set boundaries to get there.
At our house this was a transition and it’s still not perfect. Ironically, the easiest thing to transition was laundry duty. Luckily, my husband is particular about his clothes and so after a couple of times of me doing his laundry not up to his standard, we quickly divided our clothes into separate baskets and have done our own for the last sixteen years. I still remember the look on our son’s 12 year old face when we announced that he was old enough to do his own laundry with a little verbal guidance from the parents. He fussed, he got teary eyed, and conveniently forgot. Once again we learned quickly to just establish a laundry day for him and give him a quick reminder with the consequence of anything digital taken away until it’s done. He jumped at doing it and now has a routine.
Meals weren’t as easy. I had to get mad. In April of this year my husband was furloughed. After a hard day in my home office I came down the stairs to a teen and a man waiting for me to heat up their soup for them. I lost it. At our house the menu was planned and posted. Apparently that just meant a notification of what I was making for dinner. No. As I blew my top and threw things in the kitchen I announced that each one of us was assigned a night for dinner, Thursday would be leftovers or PBJ, and Friday was takeout. Saturdays are on your own for lunch and we cook together for dinner. Sundays the same but burger night. The first two weeks you would have thought I was killing them as I calmly sat my butt down on the couch with a book and a glass of wine waiting to be called when dinner was ready. Then something crazy happened. They got creative and actually planned. Now sometimes it’s a team effort with me making a salad but for the most part we all like the routine and with only one night a week to be on our own it’s enjoyable.
Housekeeping is still a challenge. Sometimes I have to announce chores. The teen does two chores when he gets home from school. On weekends I’ll announce the divided chores and who does what. My husband hates this. He’ll either get over it or choose what he want to do ahead of time. We aren’t picky at our house but I’m not living dirty either. I’m not a maid. I carry a full time job just like he does. When the teen moves away I will either campaign for a smaller house or my own set of rooms. Either way I’m not a maid.
All of these things have allowed me more time for me. Then I just needed to take that step. For years now we have sat down in the living room with our electronics reading or watching without much interaction with each other and yet my husband calls it family time. It makes me crazy. It’s a man cave down there and the silence was maddening. This year I finally got my butt up off the couch, redecorated the extra room upstairs and put a wing chair there and in the master bedroom, both with a stove space heater for cozy. Then without any announcement or discussion I started spending more time up there reading, watching the shows that I wanted to watch, and doing crafts or writing. At first my husband thought I was mad about something. With continued reassurance he has finally learned that I just need some time for me. I don’t spend all of my time away from them. We’ve structured weekend afternoons a bit with the teen playing his video game for two hours while I enjoy the afternoon sun and write in my room upstairs. Then my husband and I meet for a drink and to watch the news or a documentary that we both enjoy.
Carving out time for me has caused me to rise earlier as I’ve grown older and wiser. When you get up at 5am no one is rushing to follow and create expectations of you. I sit down for a slow cup of coffee with my two little dogs in front of my fire stove in the winter or by the window in spring and summer to listen to the birds and greet the sun. After coffee I read what I like from the digital library. I stopped reading self help books. I had enough. Sometimes it’s escape fiction, other times it’s The New York Review of Books to make me remember a higher vocabulary and a variety of interests. I don’t take part in social media anymore. It just wasn’t nurturing for me. I find I don’t miss it. Sometimes on Saturday I kiss my husband and announce that I will be back and I go to my favorite thrift store, out to lunch, or for a drive or a hike. He still flinches a little bit. As a woman that is coming into her own independence this seems like such a small thing but it’s a big deal for me. I love him dearly but I need to be able to do some things for me unapologetically.
As the new year approaches I think about what other things I want to do to create a new life within the one I have. In addition to carving out time for myself I’ll be looking at finances and creating a budget for myself so that I am paying my share of expenses. That is another story for another day though.
What are you doing to make time for yourself?