The Illusion of Free Time

When I was a college student I thought when I graduated I would have so much more time to do the things I really wanted to be doing. Then I graduated, got a job, got married, had responsibilities and wondered where that illusive “free time” I’d been looking for went. Then I thought, when I have kids at least I can stay home with them most of the week and be free to have play dates, stroll the neighborhood, nap, and make my own schedule. Then you actually have kids and realize they make a lot of your schedule; yes there are play dates and some nap times but oh for the love, keeping another human alive and fed, well cared for all while keeping your home, marriage, and maybe a fitting a workout in every so often, while working part time, punches your illusion of “free time” in the face once again.

We survived and even loved much of the time my littles were at home but when school was in the future I once again said, “Oh I can’t wait for all the time I’m going to have on my hands when they are in school!” I told all my friends, “Soon we can hang out, we’ll have lunch and coffee dates and I will be oh so free.” I thought I’d drop Isaac off at kindergarten and be a little sad but revel in the days of freedom to do more or not do more if I chose.

But friends, here’s how it really went down that first day I dropped Isaac off. He clung to my waste. He didn’t want to let go and he kept saying “Don’t leave me. Please stay here with me.” as he looked pleadingly into my eyes. The school had sent a letter to the parents letting them know they didn’t want “that mom” making it harder for her child to be dropped off so keep your tears for afterwards. By the grace and strength of God I didn’t cry until he finally was pealed from my leg, handed off to a teacher, with his head hung low in sadness and walked into the school. I then proceeded to cry. As I relive it even now, I cry. I made it home before I really cried, like puffy face, snotty cried. Matt came home at lunch and I had an icepack on my face and retold the horror that was my morning of being the worst mom ever to leave her young 5 year old at kindergarten and clearly I had made the wrong choice and was a terrible human and he should stay home another year. I did not do back flips with my new found free time and once I finally pulled myself together (two hours later) I put on sunglasses and went to run errands because the silence of my house was actually deafening.

I’m happy to say that the drop-offs got easier and Isaac loves school and has done fabulous (minus one run in with the principal but that story can wait for another day.) However, the first question that I get from others and even ask myself now is “What are you doing with all your new free time?!” And as experience usually does, it teaches you a lesson, not a new one necessarily, but in a new way. Yes I definitely have more kid-free time. But there are no more hours in the day, there are still 24 of them and now I just have to choose how to rearrange them. Now there is carpooling, two kids schedules to juggle, two teachers who need help in the classroom, two field trip schedules, I am working more hours, I took on a new assignment of writing for the Portland Moms Blog, I go to the store more because I cannot keep enough food stocked for the amount of food my school going children consume, and I now get to go to the gym (oh sweet glory I’m rediscovering muscle groups) which is the biggest blessing but it still needs to fit into the schedule. And all those friends I want to hang out with, well, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Here’s the obvious conundrum. We all have some free time, some more than others, but it usually never looks like what you think it’s going to, at least it doesn’t for me. Seasons change, how we use our time has to change and although I often live in the illusion that when this_____(whatever this is)______ happens, I’ll have more free time.  Although I could choose to sit on my couch and read books all day, I choose not to (also I have a job that I’m paid to do). I feel very strongly that I’m accountable to God for how I use my hours, my so called free time. I definitely want to relish some of the time that I do get, to go to the gym and during my lunch break sit and read a book (without feeling guilty) but I want to still use the hours that I have, to make a difference, care for my family, invest in their schooling, work with young people in our ministry, serve at church, love my neighbors, etc. I am fully aware that this is a privilege that not all people in the world get and I’m grateful that even though my “free time” has felt not so free and VERY full, it is good. I still miss the cute curly headed side kick of mine and feel teary when I think about that chapter closing. When I’m home alone the silence can still feel incredibly loud somehow but I’m adjusting to my new “free time.”

What about you, do you ever live in the illusion that in the next season you’ll have more time and find that once you’re there it’s different than you expected?

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