Thursday, April 7, 2016

Time Poverty

It's been four straight hours that I've been trying to cross off things from my “Things To Do” list for today. So far, two- soon to be- three, are completed.

But that's only from the first page of my three-page list. And I've got to get page one finished because I will not start a page four of what needs to be done.

What holds me back from crossing off all the to-do's for today?

It begins with a huge letter “T”.



I work, doing four things at once: a head start with dinner prep, setting up the dishes on the table while I unload the dishwasher thinking You are so smart to kill two birds with one stone and in the background you hear the washer and dryer going so that I can have the laundry upstairs to be folded right before I leave to get the kids from school and then bring them home before I go to work. And throughout every day, the one thing that keeps me from disappearing, there is my writing.

I am behind, even on a good day. And when you throw in a surprise visit to the doctor or the dentist because the kids need it, a mid-afternoon call from school to help out with forensics coaching, and you end up watching your minutes blown to the wind like a dandelion. 

Last night, late, after 11 PM for sure, I first wrote this post. I started at 8:50 and finished around 11ish and hit publish. Then it was Good Night, Irene and sleep until I had to be up at 5:30 to exercise so I don't have a heart attack and then I have to pack lunches and get the kids up for school. When I came back home after grocery shopping and a drug store pick up, there was an email from my friend (bless friends who read our work) to tell me, “Hey! Sorry to tell you this, but, yeah, there's no post up on your blog. There's a blog title but no post.”

I coughed on my dry multi-grain toast that I was walking around eating as breakfast, but I call it breakfast when it's actually something I've learned to do so I don't pass out while I'm driving, and I type in my blog name and Lord help us, I see the same thing. No Blog Post.

It's gone. All that time -- the thing we fight to find -- and it's gone. The irony is not lost on me.

I should have gone right back in to the dashboard and typed the post again, but I was too spent to think. This post is different from the post that vanished because this one was created after I hit Energy-less. Reserve-less. One Mississippi Two Mississippi Done-ness. I couldn't muster up a drop of inspiration to write about what I am writing about again: Time Poverty.


For the longest time, by that I mean decades, I thought it was my lack of organization that had me flinging minutes in 50 different directions. Was it my cleverly hidden attention deficit, unable to prioritize, lack of a solid example from my single mother who had six children who never managed to finish a thing? Why can't I declutter, unclutter, organize, plan, include, deplan? It must be me.

It's none of the above. I heard on the radio this week, it's Time Poverty. And the largest segment of our population affected by needing time and finding none of it, is women.

Women, as in who my single mother managing a household of six children, was. Doing everything and swimming as fast as she can but the waters keep rushing at her. She was a juggler, with not just four or five balls in the air, but 99. I remember the moments of her while I grew up: she moved in a blur and would alternate between the state of passing out on the sofa while sitting down for the first time to angry tears from the amount of things she had to yet accomplish before the day ended.

Whether time prioritization is your strength or not, women should not have to live their lives between power naps and burning tears.

We bear the weight of this time challenge. Not to say that we are all giant messes, but I remember my mother's purse, filled with papers, receipts, medicine or things for her children, along with checkbooks and wallets and pens and all the items she – or her children – might need. The mother of six, and responsible to always be prepared. It's unforgivable if you don't have what everyone needs of you, you're the mother.

I promised myself I'd never have a purse like that. It gave me stress to witness, so I purposely choose purses that are the size of a notebook. It's that single factor that's behind my pocketbook fashion. But guess what? The papers and all the other others of being a woman spill out of my pockets, pants pockets, coat pocket, my car's glove compartment and the tote bag I finally had to give in and carry, with my purselette inside.

But I keep on trying to balance it all: running from home to car to work to school and driving while eating from an opened wax paper napkin on my lap that holds a slapped together turkey and mustard sandwich. Whole-grain again, to keep away the fainting.

I'm yelling at my children to make sure they pick up the plates from dinner while I slam the door behind me, almost choking on my food for the third time this week. I pull out of the driveway and think hard about how much this has to change. But the things to do keep coming.

Time Poverty doesn't bring so much feelings of inadequacy and failure as it does moments of forgetting how to breathe or suddenly feeling pain in your jaw because you've been clenching your teeth for the past hour.

It's going to take serious work to change what is demanded from women. It has to begin with us in recognizing that the impossible is just that, impossible. But it also has to start with seeing that we are not machines. There is so much that tells us, everywhere we look, that we need to not just do things, but do them so that they shine: organized and attractive homes, plan activities, commit to social obligations, home-spun meals, family time, all with yoga-tough physiques. We can't lose our tempers, we need to stay in control, we need to say 'yes' to requests for additional requests, and we need to be available to everyone at all times.  For anything.

You don't say no, it would be selfish. That's not what women are, you know: selfish.
We have stress. Women in their lives are stretched beyond what 24 hours can accommodate. How do we cut down this list of things that we feel we need to do, the list that we worry about, things too important to not put in front of our day? when our internal dialogue is fed by the outside -
Today I have to
Tomorrow I need to
Before Sunday, I'd better...

I'm not searching for a miracle, but I am begging for manageable. To get it down to the place where there is room for air, not just a pocket of it, either.

We read that our actions are choice. That makes everyone feel good, right? But who does the list if we're not the ones?

My life is good, so much of it is happy. But these moments, when my back feels the four pages of must-do's that sit on only my shoulders, I need to read the items marked #1 #2 #3 and see it with the truth of the 24 hours before me: Time Poverty.

As a woman, I have it. And it's time that the world sees all that we do that we don't tell anyone that we do. The standards held up to us are possible for machines, but not the living organisms that we are.


  1. Alexandra, you must read this:

    It's a bit long, but a really good read. I came here because I'm writing a post about time and creative work and wanted to link to your blog, and then I find this. Serendipity.

  2. I don't think I"ve ever read a more perfect comment. THANK YOU.

  3. I think the worst thing about Time Poverty is the "shoulds" - women are raised to believe that we should be doing this and that and all the other things. We can break this cycle. I find when I open my mouth and tell my husband - my partner - to do this and that and the other, he's glad to do it. Do I resent being the one that tells everyone what to do? Sometimes. But being the boss is better than being the eyes, ears, arms and legs for everyone every minute of the day. Solidarity, sister. xo

    1. THIS IS IT: if we don't, then we fail. There is NO room for error.



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