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Take Full Advantage of Limited Free Time

By Rachel Meeks

Some days my lists of plans and projects is a mile long. It reminds me of all the activities and clubs that Max Fischer leads at Rushmore Academy during the first minute of the movie Rushmore (watch the movie clip by Wes Anderson).

Flashback nearly six years ago: I was a brand new mom who started staying at home with a baby who slept five hours each day. I left a corporate job, and I was enjoying free time the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in years.

I could read. I could daydream.

While my baby took naps I had time to cook meals, clean the house, and I still had lots of time to read. I like to learn how to make and do things, and not only did I have time to read about it, I could do it! I had free time and plans to fill it.

The internet gives me more ideas to try. Baby pants! Knitting! I made soap. I sewed. The only thing stopping me from starting an urban farm with chickens and bees was the fact that we had no backyard at our apartment.

My first child had been a champion sleeper, but my second child never wanted to sleep.

I changed from being a stay-at-home mom of one baby with loads of peaceful quiet time to a mom of two little kids who would not nap nor sleep at night.

I’m an introvert, so I become recharged by having quiet time to reflect. I was starved for peaceful quiet time. My brain was tired. My body was tired. My list was long, and time was short.

When once in a while someone would help me with the kids, I was surprised by the result. I finally had some coveted free time, but I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.

The babysitting time never seemed quite long enough to really get into something, so I often found myself doing what I normally do: I looked at the mess and started cleaning up. For a few amazing minutes the house was clean! It was a relief, briefly. And then the kids came home, we lived life, and the house went back to its usual state.

I finally started learning not to clean during the small amount of time that I have to myself. I don’t get very much of it, so I use it to concentrate on quiet work such as writing. Sometimes I just lay face-down on the floor and absorb the silence. Last week I paid my thirteen-year-old neighbor to come over and babysit for an hour so I could be in a room by myself and paint my nails. It was the most frivolous use of time, and I mean that in a good way.

I don’t try as many hobbies as I did a few years ago. Now I’m more inclined to focus on few selected projects for work, though my list is still long. Sometimes I trade childcare help with a friend, or once in a while I have some babysitting help during the daytime, and I’m getting better at using that time in a restorative, purposeful way that will recharge me.

I save the cleaning for when my kids are with me, and I make them help. They can talk away while helping me fold laundry, and we’re better for it.

Do you wonder about how to best take advantage of limited free time too?

Published May 1, 2012. Last updated May 2, 2012.
About the Author

Rachel Meeks

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to b...

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to be a parent when you’re not surrounded by a ton of stuff.)

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