We all get worn down with all we do in a given day. In the early years, you are a triathloner: carrying children all day, cooking, cleaning. Physically the work is demanding and you crave a moment’s peace and rest. Later, the work becomes more mental: maintaining schedules, thoughtfully considering respectful disagreements from children, planning and more planning and more planning.
When I was a young mom, I was blessed to move to an area where many of the moms were older and financially better off than I. These women were the “pretty moms”; they had probably been the popular kids at school also. Slim, groomed, and often with plans to do something fun, these moms welcomed me into their group. At the same time I had joined a Bible study because I needed to meet trustworthy people who would lend me their phone number to be my “emergency contact” on forms. These were not the “pretty moms”. These were the jean jumper, long hair and no make-up moms. Very quickly, I saw that I would have to choose between the two groups since their lifestyles were not compatible. I chose the jean jumper moms.
This experience of deliberate choice has been an anchoring moment for me. I did have fun with the pretty moms and often would take their advice to get a pedicure or put the kids in hourly care so I could have “me time” to go to the gym. And sometimes, I would leave the kids with my husband so I could go take a day to shop or get away for a few hours. What I found was that “me time” made me irritable and crabby. But why? Years of observing “me time” and pondering this led me to the thoughts I’m sharing now.
Most people will tell you (or more commonly they’ll imply it) that “me time” should be something self-indulgent because you deserve it. You need time away from your husband and kids to be “you”. This could mean a girls’ weekend or a just a few hours away doing whatever you feel like. Or maybe you should buy that purse or new running shoes because you work so hard for everyone else you should do something for yourself. What I found was that doing those activities as “me time” made me exactly what love isn’t. Instead of being refreshed, I came back irritable and unhappy and had a hard time feeling settled and joyful about being with my family.
… love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. …When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. –1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 11
You should do something for yourself. It is important to have time to think in your own head about thoughts that are important to you. You should have time to go to the doctor or dentist or deliver a baby without considering that a vacation. You should have time to quietly pray. But we need to grow up and instead of “me time”, we need to make time for holy leisure.
Leisure implies an attitude of total receptivity toward, and willing immersion in, reality; an openness of the soul, through which alone may come about those great and blessed insights that no amount of “mental labor” can ever achieve. —Josef Pieper
Here is a 16 minute sermon by Fr. Chad Ripperger on the difference between pleasure and happiness which helps us reflect on the real difference between “me time” and holy leisure. The talk is called Happiness vs. Pleasure under the category “Homilies given by Fr. Ripperger in Idaho.” Please read Fr. Ripperger’s brilliant PenaceWare note at the top of the page note on how to pay 😉 for each audio file. Warning, I have paid many rosaries for these excellent talks!