Is Your Time Your Own?


And now for something completely different 🙂

I’ve noticed lately that I spend much less time than I used to on “random nuisances.”

  • Cleaning up after spilling coffee down my shirt
  • Going back to the grocery store for something I forgot
  • Dealing with the bank because I paid the amount for the electric bill to the phone company

I realized that more and more of my time is my own, and fewer unexpected things happen. As an “empty nester,” I am no longer managing kids’ schedules or coordinating family activities. My spouse and I cooperate to get things done, but we’re on the same wavelength most of the time.

At the simplest level, there is less chaos around me. I live in a world of adults now. How many times in the past was I dressed to leave the house, and had to start over, due to baby spit-up? Or my best laid plans for the day were derailed by a child who woke up with pinkeye! No one lays blame for these things; you just have to take them in stride.

Kids can introduce unwanted spontaneity into your day sometimes! For example, I drop my child off at school and I’m suddenly told there’s an extra band practice today. I decide to run home and get my kid’s gear. Or I’m called in the middle of the day because my child is in the principal’s office for some misdemeanor. I think there’s a limit to how many of these interruptions we’ll tolerate before putting our proverbial foot down and demanding that the other person “improves.” No matter how young they are!

Then there is time used to “control” other people’s actions. I can’t even imagine the time my parents spent intervening in spats involving my brother, sister and me. We were constantly taunting each other, claiming injustice, demanding priority or seeking favour. And that’s among kids who actually got along fairly well and liked each other! Half of the time, we were just trying to liven things up. Not very rational from an adult point of view! Similarly, think of all the time spent on “making” kids do their homework, do chores, or practice something (or better yet, trying to make them do things without reminders – ha!)

All of the above are just part of child rearing and they come with the territory. It’s shocking how much time is freed up when you are not doing those things!

There are other things not claiming my time either. I am not troubled much by favours, either things asked for, or things offered. Within my family, I am always happy to drive someone to the airport or look after their cats while they’re away. A few things I might resent, such as when someone borrows a power tool and I have to call 2 or 3 times get it back. But we’re quite a low-maintenance crew. Not much time or stress in that category.

One problem I do have, time-wise, is <ahem> needy people. Perhaps because I am quiet and a good listener, I tend to attract people with very limited resources who need a lot of personal assistance. Any time I attend a public or work event, I seem to be cornered by someone who wants their life managed. It might start with someone who begs an invitation to lunch, or wants a drive to an appointment, and it can easily escalate to outright dependence. I want to be charitable, but not to have all of my time hemmed in by obligations. I have had to set firm boundaries on my time. As someone who works in public service, I really need a lot of my off-work time to be truly my own.

Because I have fewer claims on my time now, my life is going smoother. I can mentally track my calendar and to-do lists, keep my appointments, run my errands, and plan for the future without worrying about potential conflicts. I can take my time getting ready for work, provisioning, making meals, paying bills and making travel arrangements. I am rarely interrupted or distracted by anything except my own thoughts (which, admittedly, can be pretty random!)

Do I like it? Yes and no. Having children at home is rewarding and it keeps you on your toes! And it certainly gives you a ready-made sense of purpose. It’s hard to replace that – the answer, I think, is not to. Adult kids need their parents in a different way and I have to let that happen. Do something else. Give myself some space. Don’t take on the role of momma everywhere I go for the rest of my life. Step back and let someone else do it. Find another role. Who will I be?

I am fortunate that I have so much time I can defend. I know people who work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet, and couples who work opposite shifts so they barely see each other. I am happy that I don’t have obligations like business entertaining or working “on call.” I also don’t have much family drama to deal with: I don’t get messages saying, “Just wait until you hear what your father did this time!” or desperate requests for loans. I know so many people who are drowning in family drama every day!

I also think about how incredibly kind and caring people can be with their time, doing whatever is needed for others, whether it’s shoveling snow from a neighbour’s driveway, taking someone to pick up their car from the shop, going out to look for someone’s mom who has wandered off again, dividing up the hostas and day lilies that a friend admired, or making an extra casserole for their freezer. I aspire to use some of my new-found time just seeing what needs to be done and not begrudging my time to do it.

I am fine with the time I put into my job, which is in the field of my choice, and has ample rewards. And I was happy to put decades into child-rearing, nagging and all – how else do you raise a child?:)

Now I have a rather zen-like existence in comparison, and it takes some getting used to!

I like thinking about how much time is my own, how much I give up willingly and how much seems to be taken from me. Luckily the proportions are working in my favour right now. How about yours?


  1. I think this post speaks to me from the other side – the pre kids side. I often feel life isn’t ‘full’ – and when it is, it’s trivial to the load of others. Actually, I went to a Postsecret event last night and someone shared that they feel… weird, to not be “BUSY” like everyone always is. Anyhow, for this reason, I acknowledge that life will be so much ‘fuller’ with kids, and that I will have so much more to do – I’m not 100% ready or sure what it’ll entail, but I can’t imagine life without that depth of insanity/crazy/fulfillment.

    As for me, this week isn’t working for me. I realise I need one FULL night at home – from after work to bedtime, alone. Monday I went to a short meeting. Last night I went out for an 8.30pm show (too late for this sleepy head), tonight I’ll be home but with company, Thurs at my parents and Fri at the pub. It’s just a touch too busy, but almost right!

    • I know that having kids isn’t for everyone, but I did feel I had a lot of time on my hands before Link arrived, and parenting was a good choice for me. When I am out 2 or 3 evenings, no matter whether it is for work or personal reasons, I always feel a need to be home and have time for myself. I went to a Postsecret show once before, too!

  2. I too am an empty nester but never have much time for myself. I can cope with working almost full time during the week but for us it is the lack of weekends to ourselves as we are always going on a visit to my mum or my husbands mum or my mum is coming to stay or we go to the cottage or visit the girls. I am trying to get the house management simplified so it almost runs itself as we come and go.

    • I am fortunate that my parents live nearby and don’t need care, so we can just visit them whenever. Rom’s parents are in the UK and sadly we can only manage an annual visit. And Link is 1800 km away too. Sometimes I envy people who are surrounded by family, but I know it can be an effort, too!

  3. Lately my time isn’t my own to schedule. My son’s dryer has quit and getting back on his feet after being out on medical leave he doesn’t want to repair it now. This has resulted in his wife and children visiting me nearly every day to dry their clothes. Problem is they stay the entire day. I have begun to start doing some of the things I want to do while they are here to get the message across that I do have things to do as well.

    • That’s an unusual situation! I like your strategy!

    • And to think, us Aussies don’t really use dryers, eventually things get dry hanging out around the house… Still I think there’s no shame in getting what you need done whilst they are there!

      • It cracks me up that they won’t use a clothes line, especially since there is one right outside their back door. I’ve even suggested I would give them clothes pins, but my dil doesn’t like the feel of clothes off the line. Uggh.

        The clothes line came with the house and my son wants to take it out to add a larger deck. I’ve claimed it as mine, it’s hard to come by good solid metal clothes line posts.

  4. I also think that this post is interesting from the pre-kids side, at least it lets us know what we’ll be in for! This week definitely hasn’t been working well for me. I have a huge data set that I wanted to get done by the end of this week, but have also had work, five hours of marking, blog posts to write and something extra on every night this week (band practice, meditation, dinner out – all good things but they add up!). I’ve now accepted that it just won’t get done because there aren’t enough hours in the week!

  5. I’m an empty nester and dare I say: I love it (especially the peace!)
    In a way I’ve spent the last few years preparing to have my time back and now that I have it, it’s great. 🙂
    I still have demands on my time, mainly jmy Dad, who needs a little care, but it’s nearly always on my schedule – the big difference to the child rearing years 🙂

    • Ack, your comment was sent to the spam box 😦 For the most part, I do like being an empty nester too. I felt that Link was ready to live independently, and less parental scrutiny is always a good thing for a (now) 20-year-old! Funnily enough, I like having the ability to work more flexible hours on the job (not tied to children’s activities or transportation), to cook and eat leisurely meals in the evenings, and not having to nag/remind about anything! I feel like a less stern person 🙂

  6. Well, speaking from the “never had kids and don’t intend to” side I sorta can’t imagine the life of a busy parent. Actually, that’s not entirely true. When I lived with my Ex we had his daughter on weekends and I got a pretty up close and personal taste of the all-encompassing nature of parenting. That was one of the things that made me decide against having any of my own. Not that I didn’t love her tremendously, it just became abundantly clear to me that if you’re gonna have kids, then being a parent is pretty much gonna be what your life is all about for at least 18 years.

    I fear I’m sorta off the deep end in terms of jealous guarding of my time. I can’t imagine how I once tolerated a 65 hour work week… I feel put upon these days if I have to spend more than a few hours per week on money making endeavors! Actually, I tend to feel put upon if I have to do ANYTHING that wasn’t my idea! Guess I’m a bit like my cats in that respect. 🙂

    When I first quit my job I was really afraid that I would feel bored and isolated, but if anything my true introverted nature has blossomed. And the more I slow my life, the more I’m just in awe at the amount of stuff I used to cram into a day. It sort of exhausts me just thinking about it!

    • I am at work or commuting 50 hours a week, so it’s fortunate that I think of my job as part of my life, rather than something that’s keeping me from my life (not that there aren’t bad days). But I definitely value lots of unhurried time to myself.

  7. Fiona

    I do love reading the “post-kids” side – it’s great to see people coming into their own again with hobbies and interests once children grow a little older and more independent. Like you, I also want to find roles other than “momma” one day (not forever reinventing that role in new guises) – but it’s still a bit of a bitter-sweet thought!

  8. My kids are all older (25,18,18) but I am still in that phase where my life is not really my own. I still have the drive to and from school, dance classes and church activities )for the two younger ones, non-drivers). And I can be called midday and informed of a change in their schedules, necessitating a pickup at a time I hadn’t planned for. I do keep reminding myself that my time in this role is limited, these are the last several months of this. So I savor my time to do things for them. I will miss being so needed and will be reassessing my life, very soon, and the direction it’s heading.

    • I do feel envious of parents whose children live at home during university, or they live nearby, because then your separation is more gradual. But no matter what, it is still a huge adjustment in roles. I suppose the best preparation is knowing that you have done your best to get your kids ready for adult life. And when they are busy with activities and friends, you get to practice having some time to yourself!

  9. We live pretty quiet lives, and we’re actually pretty lazy in our downtime. It still seems damn near impossible to find balance and keep a clean house and cook. That’s as DINKS. I do not know how those with families manage!

  10. dmt331

    I stumbled upon your blog while looking for comments on Menu Planner. Funny how you can find birds of a feather on the internet. I fit your tagline to “An Exacting Life” exactly. Anyway, I hope I feel the way you do when my nest is empty. My first will be flying out soon … have a way to go until the last, however, time flies and every change is an adjustment. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Thanks! I adore Menu Planner but it’s a lot of work to keep it current. I’m sure you will feel very proud of each of your kids as they head out on their own, and you can look back and see how well you prepared them for adult life. Hope to hear from you again!

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