April 17, 2020

F*ck those Facebook posts about our “Free Time.”

Relephant read: Elephant’s Continually updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

I just saw a another Facebook post (seemingly the 4,000th of its kind), outlining what we could all do with our “free time” and how it was the “perfect time” to learn a new language or take up a new hobby.

If you relate to having free time and are grateful for such posts, keep scrolling because this post is not for you. For the rest of us, f*ck those posts and what they are suggesting.

Many of us objectively do not have free time or “extra time.”

Free time assumes that your job transferred perfectly without extra work. Factually not the case for many employees (and it certainly isn’t for business owners) as many are struggling under heavy loads of extra work, saving projects, “pivoting” strategies, reinventing tasks that are no longer what they once were. Let me personally assure you that I do not have free time due to reduced work commitments in my house, as my work days have extended to consistently span almost 15 hours. No free time to be gained in this category.

Free time also assumes you have no children living with you 24/7. Children remain as strong as ever with their evolving needs—and responding to those many needs takes time. As none of them now go to school, which previously met at least some of a child’s physical, emotional, educational, and/or social growth requirements, 100 percent of these are now firmly in the hands of parents with no outside support. Personally, I have more pressures with parenting (and I also have to try to “educate” him?!), not fewer, so there’s no free time to be gained in that category either.

Free time assumes there is no additional emotional burden from forces such as relational stress, financial stress, change stress, uncertainty stress, and so on. I talk to people all day long, and this situation leaves many among us scattered, stunned, numb, lost, angry, depressed, and confused. Emotions have a weight, a cost, and take time. Gaining free time from this experience assumes that we are in vacation mode and have no negative stressors upon our shoulders. This is not a fact in my house.

To suggest we have free time right now assumes there is no extra domestic load. Being at home 24/7 seems to be multiplying the laundry, dishes, dusting, cooking, organizing, picking up toys, and cleaning, because we are now home all the time and there are no gaps where we get to leave and return to the way we left it. Personally, my domestic load is somewhere between 10 and 50 percent higher, depending on the day. Who is with me here?

Positing that this is a “perfect” time assumes that humans are able to focus, learn, or engage best when we already have a long list of new things we are learning (video conference software, where the new home office is, how to cook, how to navigate working from home, and how to home school). I personally have extremely high stress, chaos, and change thresholds and I can still assure you that this is physically and emotionally past the point where I have optimal learning and engagement capacity. I’m not alone here, as research shows that people need 85 percent sameness and only 15 percent change in order to learn best.

It strikes me that we would never suggest to someone who just moved, had a baby, or started a new business that they were sitting on the perfect time to check off their bucket list.

So why are we doing this now?

It’s not the dang “perfect” time. It’s actually a really bad time.

If you are buried under emotions, work, newness, childcare, home schooling, or anything else?

It’s not a vacation.

It’s not a mindset flaw.

It’s a pandemic.

And it’s just fine that you don’t get around to reading the 200 books you have laying around.

It’s okay to not take up yoga.

Or start knitting.

Or finally use the treadmill in the corner.

So for heaven’s sake, let’s please collectively stop telling other people how much free time is available. It’s just not true for a sizable percentage of the population.

At best, we might hope to recover some habits that were successful two months ago that we chucked in a panic.

That’s still growth.

And as for my house, a missing skill is translating how we go from weekly chores to daily ones. Maybe the art of “telling your child to do what they are told—once—and only once” is in a parenting course. But I don’t have free time to take it.


More Relephant Reads: 

How to Enjoy Life Amidst the Coronavirus Fear: Your Go-To Guide from Books to Podcasts & Wellness Practices.
What the Coronavirus is Teaching Me: 5 Lessons from Uncertain Times.
The Artist’s Stay-at-Home & Stay Sane Guide.
10 Simple Ways to Boost your Immunity without Leaving the House.


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