You Have More Me-Time Than You Think

Last Updated Sep 30, 2011 9:30 AM EDT

I was over at the website of Working Mother magazine the other day when I came across a poll. "When was your last 'Me-time?'" the website inquired. Wanting to know what other people answered, I clicked on my response (That very day! I got a work out in over lunch and read for an hour for pleasure after my 4-year-old and 2-year-old went to bed). Then I looked at the results.
Talk about a downer. On the day I responded, some 8% of respondents said yesterday, 9% said today, 19% said last week, 13% said last month, and 51% answered "can't remember."

Can't remember? Maybe I can jog some memories. As far as I know, answering polls at the Working Mother website is not required for anyone's job, nor does it fit into the categories of childcare, housework, sleep, eating, etc. Indeed, I'd go so far as to classify it as "leisure" undertaken for one's personal enjoyment. Or, in a broad sense, me-time.

But we tend not to think of our little online distractions that way. Nor do we think that way about other things that are clearly personal pursuits. I highly doubt that 51% of working mothers can't remember the last time they turned on the television. Indeed, according to the American Time Use Survey, the average married mother who has a full-time job, and kids under age 6, still watches close to 10 hours of TV per week.

This is probably not all Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street. Watch Mad Men or Jon Stewart after the kids go to bed? That's me time.

I think what's happening is that we tend to view me-time as something elaborate and consciously chosen -- like a full day at the spa. For logistical and financial reasons, that's not going to happen for most of us too often. But humans don't function well with no decompression. We sneak it in one way or another -- hitting the Working Mother website (or BNET for that matter) to read posts and polls -- but because these things aren't planned and consciously chosen or announced to the world, we don't view them as me-time in the way that an afternoon out shopping might be.

If you think about it, though, this is kind of silly. If we're going to spend hours watching TV, surfing the web and puttering around, why not redeploy that time to things we really would enjoy? Time is time, and if you'd enjoy giving yourself a pedicure, there's nothing more noble about checking Facebook late at night (when, in theory, you could be responding to work emails) than locking yourself in the bathroom and breaking out the toenail polish. The latter simply requires accepting that you control your time, and can choose what to do with it. Personally, I find that epiphany far more fun than wallowing in the martyrdom complex that some 51% of Working Mother readers seem to be clinging to.

Be honest: when was your last me-time? I mean really.


Photo courtesy flickr user Dennis Wong