And today? We have been catapulted into a 24/7 world marked by the death of distance, where work and family demands never cease, and where, in the time it takes us to answer one e-mail, ten more e-mails arrive in our inboxes.
It is no wonder that a new study conducted by my organization, Families and Work Institute, in partnership with Real Simple magazine, reveals that almost one in two women ages 25-54 (49 percent) feels that we don't have enough free time. Although the finding that women are feeling a time crunch is not a surprise, this study is filled with many other surprises for me -- even after years of conducting research on our changing lives at work and at home. Here are some of my major surprises.
Why are these findings out of sync with reality? Because when we do get help and take some time for ourselves in the midst of our busy lives, we feel much better about ourselves. We are better wives, mothers and workers.
But what about the free time itself? We can substitute one schedule for another -- the laundry for the free-time schedule. I was struck, however, by the 77 percent of women in the study who said that they spend some of their free time "just relaxing" and by the 71 percent who say that really enjoy this a lot. The times when I am the happiest are when I drop any semblance of a schedule and simply putter around. For me, it is among the most restorative times.
And it seems this desire for unstructured time starts young. In my Ask the Children study, young people made it clear that they would like to replace the quality time versus quantity time debate with the notions of "focused time" and "hang around time." Hanging around time is when we drop the schedule for a little while and go with the flow, live in the present, act spontaneously.
So here is to adding some guilt-free "hanging around time" and "puttering time" to our lives --not as another to-do on our busy schedules, but as a restorative time for rest and recovery.
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