Time Envy

For someone who has only occasional envy issues with the mythical wealthy Jones family (i.e. keeping up with the Joneses), I do get jealous of family and friends more often than I like to admit.  I wish I could offer a solution (i.e. how to overcome envy in 10 easy steps) but I’m not quite there yet and not in any position to dispense advice.  I do know that long-term envy is not healthy for me or anyone, period.  No wonder it’s one of the seven deadly sins!  

My envy is very specific.  It’s rarely about money. Although I do want more money sometimes, I realize that most people that earn more also work at more stressful jobs than I do.  It’s hard to manage employees and answer to demanding higher-ups.  The trade-off is not worth it for me.   For me, envy rears its head when I think about people with more free time.   

Strangely, my envy is usually directed at my stay-at-home mom friends.  I  say “strangely” because I’m not under any illusion that staying at home is easy or relaxing.  No one I know well has a trust fund or are stay-at-home and childless, two groups which probably really deserve anyone’s envy.

So right now, my envy is directed at those who have quit the rat race, especially those with school age children.  While I know it’s still work and there’s a house to keep clean on top of everything else, these friends seem to have more time to work out, read books or just visit the zoo on an uncrowded day!  And if life is anything like those depicted on mom blogs, home life is 50% crazy (kid eats crayons or throws tantrums) but also 50% slower

I fully understand that a slower pace isn’t all fun and games.   A lot of that time is spent managing a household from laundry to doctor appointments to cooking 2-3 meals a day.  However,  I also get the sense that their time is less hectic overall (again, with the caveat that this is my perception once their kids or at least one kid is in school).  When you stay home, you’re the master of your own time.  You don’t often have deadline-oriented projects.  You’re not bombarded with requests and questions via emails and instant messages.   You have time to just move at your own pace.

It’s important to note that I’m not dismissing homelife as anything less, just because it’s not as busy as work life.  Obviously taking care of children is important. ( I also do not say ‘raising children’ because I believe both working and non-working parents raise their children.)  However, I think that our society has placed such importance on busy-ness that even stay-at-home spouses have to say that they’re as busy as everyone else.  I don’t know many SAHMs who would say that they have more time than those working, so my theory is based on reading blogs and personal observation.  When I’m off on weekdays, I run into calm-looking moms strolling through malls with their kids and friends.  They have downtime to smell the roses, so to speak.   I suppose that’s the benefit of not having to cram errands in between a commute and deadlines?

These feelings of envy are often followed by guilt. I know I shouldn’t feel this way and just be happy for others.  I also know that doing endless loads of laundry and household chores would make me very unhappy!

On a personal note, I’m dealing with my time envy in a few ways.  I think it was a suggestion from Tragic Sandwich but I’m trying to take at least one vacation day per month.  If I remember correctly, she uses it for organizing but I’m not that virtuous.  However, that one extra day allows me to stretch out my time and work at my own slower pace.  I’m able to get things off my to-do list and also find time for exercise and just playtime.

That’s not to say I’m not still enjoying parenthood overall.  I love watching my kids play (they’re quite close in age) and letting them discover their own games like peek-a-boo and “let’s-roll-over-on-each-other-and-laugh” plus the usual bickering and bopping each other on the head. 

Is my impression of staying home completely unrealistic or is there a grain of truth?  Do you envy those with more money or more time? 

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6 responses to “Time Envy

  1. I struggle at times with the green eyed monster. My way to try to overcome it is to say…”I am on my path and as long as I do what feels good and right for me than I should not be concerned with other people’s, (The Joneses) journey” Most of the time this makes me get back on track and shuts down the envy……but not always. I work full time and I know that if I won lotto tomorrow I would retire. I would rather not work. I have done both….fulltime stay at home and full time work and I loved staying at home. If I could wave a magic wand and had the financial means to stay at home I would….I would do volunteer work, start a gluten free cooking blog and do a I please……but I do not have a magic wand so off to work I go…..each step of the way looking for things to be grateful for with my lot….I meet new and interesting people everyday, most of my friends work…so if I stayed at home I would have no one to “play” with, I like who I work with, I can buy things, we can always pay the bills, I still get all of the chores etc done as well as work, I still fit in me time, I am efficient and productive and feel proud after a good effort at work. I saw this phrase and liked it….”Bloom where your planted” which I suppose converts to “Make the most of what we’ve got” Sometimes harder than others but let’s keep plugging along!

  2. I’m envious of people who have time to write fiction. I have time envy, but it’s my own stupid fault as I keep starting new projects knowing I won’t have time to finish them. I also envy other writers who can write a pitch in five minutes.

  3. My plan is to use those days for organizing. Sometimes, though, I wind up using them for laundry. Lots and lots of laundry.

  4. You’d probably enjoy reading up about Financial Independence. You don’t need to have kids to want more free time. Your Money or Your Life: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/pre-tenure-angst/ is a great book to help you think about how to get where you want to go in terms of time and money, but especially time.

    I envy all our high school friends who moved to Silicon Valley after college and have both more money and more free time now that they’re in their 30s and financially independent (or just working for family-friendly companies). Not sure I would have envied them in their 20s though. I do wish I had a simulator to see what would have happened if we’d made that choice instead of graduate school so many years ago.

  5. Here’s an interesting, thoughtful post about the paths we take in life from Sweet Fine Day…http://www.sweetfineday.com/2012/02/defining-success-and-contentment/

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