By Katie Hellmuth Martin
The concept of “me time” was introduced to me in college by a fellow student whom I worked with on the college newspaper. Her name was Tracy and she was older than I was. This was her second time through college, and she was divorced. By the time I knew her, she had a boyfriend. Sometimes on a Friday when we were talking about our weekend plans, she’d smile peacefully and say she was having Tracy Time.
Tracy Time, she explained, was when she did things by herself, her moments of calm. By the time I was living on my own in a New York City apartment, I’d adopted this concept. Every so often on a Friday night, I’d stay in, do my nails, order Indian food and coast through the night.
By Saturday morning, I’d leash up my dog, Gerdy, fold up a section of the Wall Street Journal, and walk to the middle of Central Park to sit on flat rocks overlooking fields where children played soccer while their parents watched. It was serene.
Today, my Fridays tend to involve three children dancing and playing dress-up, sometimes neighbors, a pizza delivery man, and a demo song — usually the waltz from The Nutcracker — set to repeat from our electric keyboard.
Saturday mornings are the scariest of all. We have to be out of the house and at the soccer fields by 8 or 10 a.m. Like clockwork, we frantically search for two socks, two pairs of cleats, two shin guards, clean shorts and a shirt, and snacks.
One Saturday morning, I got a break. My friend in New Jersey had a baby shower brunch in Hoboken. I wasn’t looking forward to the two-hour drive. My husband would be on his own with all three kids for the day.
Some women at the brunch marveled at my commute and took pity on my two-hour drive back. But the women who had children looked at me with hungry eyes: “Are you kidding? She’s in heaven! Two hours in a car alone?”
This was true. My husband and I are drivers. We do our best dreaming in the car, alone in wide-open spaces of the highway, or exploring backroads.
Two toll violations later (Forgot the EZ Pass and had no cash!), coupled with a New Jersey parking ticket (What? No free parking?), I was on my way home, luxuriously stuck in traffic.
As I sat waiting to get on a ramp, I noticed a woman in the car next to me with children in the back seat. An idea for a short-story hit me, and I started exploring it. Then I started exploring the feeling of crafting that short-story idea, and how that impulse hadn’t happened to me since my creative writing class days in college. I’d forgotten that I’d even wanted to write a short story.
Back in the present day, it should be noted that I wrote this column during my morning Quiet Time. I get up at 5 a.m. each day to have coffee in a quiet space and meander through my creative wish list. My 8-year old daughter has caught on and asks to be woken up as well. When she was younger, she’d want to cuddle and do things with me. Now she smiles and waves as she scuttles off into her own quiet place to do homework or have device time.
Nothing lasts for long. I know these days of limited Quiet Time are but moments in the parental journey. I’ll have plenty of time when the kids are older. Meanwhile, I try to appreciate the blips in between.