Today, on the way home from school, I stopped at the park with my younger children just because they asked. And, even when it started pouring, we remained- in our raincoats. (Yes, that was my family you saw at the park on River Road in the rain!) When do I ever have the time or inclination to just take a break and enjoy my children? Usually, it starts the day before summer vacation. No homework. No meetings to rush to. No pressure to finish dinner by a certain time. Life is good. Summer is on its way. We have all the time in the world.
In the December 20, 2014 issue of The Economist appeared an article called “Search of Lost Time- Why Is Everyone So Busy? ” The author quotes John Maynard Keynes, a British economist, who wrote in 1930 predicting that in the near future “‘our grandchildren’ would work around ‘three hours a day’, and probably only by choice. Economic progress and technological advances had already shrunk work hours considerably by his day, and there was no reason to believe this trend would not continue. Whizzy cars and ever more time-saving tools and appliances guaranteed more speed and less drudgery in all parts of life. Social psychologists began to fret: whatever would people do with all their free time?”
The author points to a “time scarcity problem” which is ever present in today’s world- especially among parents. The reality is, that there is more leisure time than there was 40 years ago. It is our perception that causes us to always feel rushed. Time is understood in relation to money. If one wastes time, one wastes money and therefore time is valuable. The more valuable something is, the more scarce it seems. Even leisure time is full of stress, as one “feels compelled to use it wisely.” He calls this “time poverty.” People are earning more money, but not more time to spend it.
Daniel Hamermesh of University of Texas at Austin coined the term “yuppie kvetch.” Well- off families complain more of insufficient time. The more cash-rich, the more time-poor one feels. This even leads to a “harried leisure class” whose leisure time does not at all feel leisurely. And, being educated is not the solution either. Today, “professionals work twice as long hours than their less-educated peers.”
This leads to the need for immediate gratification, which we know plagues our internet generation. If it takes too long- then we cannot wait and waste time. This is exacerbated by e-mail, smartphones and the necessity to respond immediately and always be on-call. Constant multi-tasking causes us to feel pressured for time, according to Elizabeth Dunn at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Nothing ever feels completely done. We hardly ever stop to consider, “Time on earth may be uncertain and fleeting, but nearly everyone has enough of it to take some deep breaths, think deep thoughts and smell some roses, deeply.” Peggy Noonan states, “Once we had more time than money in America. Now we have more money than time. That is the difference between your child’s America and yours.”
I, with all the parents of school-age children, feel intensely the harried life described in the Economist on a daily basis- including weekends! Our children are pressed for time. We are pressed for time. And, we spend not enough quality time together.
Then there is summer. The season for quality time.
When my children started going to sleepaway camp, I was excited for the once in a lifetime experience they were about to have. (Please make sure to have those important pre-camp talks with your child. As a reminder- here’s a column which outlines some essential components to this talk- http://parentingpointersfrohlich.blogspot.com/2014_06_01_archive.html)
But, I was also feeling that summer is actually the one time of year my children are not overprogrammed after school. We can just go to a movie if we want. We can go to the library on a whim. We can even go for Slurpee on 7/11 and no one is worried about all the work that needs to be done at home. Why am I sending my children away at the one time of year I can actually enjoy them and enjoy being with them?
Even if we do send them off to camp, we do have weeks during the summer when the days and evenings are more free. How can we make those days “time rich” and not “time poor”?
Today, being Rosh Chodesh, we are reminded of the Jewish value of sanctification of time. We know the first mitzvah commanded to the Jewish people as a nation was, “This month shall be for you the first of the months, it will be the first month of the year" (Shemot 12:2). The value of making the most of one’s time is at the root of our nation. But, we are to sanctify it- how? Through making sure it has true everlasting value, not monetary value.
I am the type that makes lists of things to do over vacation- I never really learned the fine art of relaxing. I, therefore, am making a commitment to not feel pressed for time, and fill that time with enjoying my family. I am going to stop at more parks, stop to smell the roses, and sanctify time.
Have a wonderful summer of time to enjoy and timeless memories.