I don’t have to tell you you’re doing too much—we all are. If you’re feeling unfulfilled it’s likely because you’re spending time on things that don’t bring you true satisfaction or joy. According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009 American Time Use Survey, women are more likely to care for children and clean the house, while men spend more time nourishing their careers and leisure pursuits.
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Excuse me? Yes, we heard right. Men spend 56 more minutes a day at work than women and almost an hour a day more than women in leisure activities like exercise and recreation. It’s not fair, maybe never will be, and entirely possible that women will continue to bear the load of home and hearth for the foreseeable generations. This may not be a popular stance, but sometimes it’s simply not worth the effort to negotiate for the help we need—for all those things we have to do.
That said, there are a lot of things we do that we don’t have to do—things that fall under the precious “leisure time” category, but actually aren’t much fun. Why do we do this? Why do we say yes to parties and volunteer commitments that suck the life right out of our tired veins? Why do we waste valuable time, energy, and money we could use to pursue the things that truly feed our souls? Let’s just stop. (See also: 10 ways moms can find some 'me' time.)
Don’t let your precious time and disposable income slip away so easily. Here are five things you can drop today. You DON’T have to:
1. Lose the last 5 pounds. Seriously, what is the point? Do you have a centerfold shoot coming up? If so, great. Trust that they will airbrush everything but the nipples. Losing twenty or thirty pounds to get into optimum health is one thing; obsessing over the final five clicks borders on eating disorder. I won’t admit how much time I have wasted tracking the circumference of my thighs on a spreadsheet, or my caloric intake on the LoseIt app. And who hasn’t bought the latest magical potion, scientifically measured food portions, or a scale that measures your body fat percentage? Lose that instead, and save more of your cash.
2. Recycle every gum wrapper. Scandalous, I know. Certainly I don’t advocate driving a Hummer full of plastic packaging, virgin forest paper, and aerosol cans out to your local land fill and killing a few baby seals on the way. I’m all for nurturing Mother Earth, but we can take reasonable steps. You don’t have to save the world all by yourself. Same goes for pricey ecologically-friendly brands. I don’t discourage environmental awareness, but challenge you to keep it in perspective. You need to protect your own natural resources too! [8 Easy Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money]
3. Overachieve in the kitchen. For my son’s 1st birthday I baked three different cakes from scratch, following recipes I had carefully researched to delight his baby friends and their parents alike. I piped the frosting and whipped the cream. This was foolish and wrong. You think babies don’t remember these things, but to this day that child scoffs at store-bought cake. Not a precedent you want to set. And while cooking from scratch can save money, some Domestic Goddess-worthy recipes call for exotic (and expensive) ingredients.
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4. Be friends with your family. You have to be family with your family, but you don’t have to force a friendship where none is meant to be. How many hours have you spent looking for just the right gift and then had your feelings been hurt because a family member did not notice your gesture? Time suck! Get over it. Just think of the money you’ll save when on gas and parking when you switch to an all-gift-card approach.
5. Say yes to the PTA. You do not, I repeat, do NOT have to cater to the whims of your local PTA. Same goes for the teacher, overbearing neighbor, or your mother-in-law. Getting blacklisted from the PTA is one of the easiest ways to recoup some of your precious time. And don’t get pulled in by flattery. Just because they need you doesn’t mean you need them. Don’t say yes just because they ask. Focus your efforts on things that make you smile and choose your contributions carefully.
Lela Davidson is the author of Blacklisted from the PTA and Managing Editor of ParentingSquad.com. Her writing is featured regularly in family and parenting magazines throughout the United States and Canada.