Friday, March 26, 2010

"But don't you get bored?"

One of my internet-buddies, Terry Border (wire-manipulator-extraordinaire), published an interesting discussion on his blog about a phrase he finds to be particularly annoying : "They must have too much time on their hands." You see this line pretty regularly in response to interesting pieces of art, video, and music people post on-line. I hadn't really noticed before he pointed it out, but he's right - it's everywhere. I don't think it's usually meant as an insult, but it does have some pretty sad implications. Terry challenged those of the "too much time" declarations to try using some of their own passive-entertainment time (be it watching tv or surfing online) to create a little content of their own instead of dismissing the work of others.

In response to Terry's post, I wanted to write a little bit about a phrasal-pet-peeve of my own - one that I think comes from a similar mindset: "But don't you get bored?" During the past nearly-three years that I've been a stay-at-home-me, I've heard this line at least once a month, if not more. Each time another friend or acquaintance finds out I don't have a job, this is the response I get. "Aren't you bored?" "Don't you get bored with nothing to do all day?" "You must be so bored - have you had any luck looking for a job?" Each time I hear one of these variations, as well-meaning as I think they are intended to be, it surprises me all over again - the implication being that if you're not working, there isn't much of anything else to do. When did this happen?

I've found the past two years to be much more fulfilling than any in my working life. I now have the time and, even more importantly, the energy to explore things that interest me and to develop my hobbies. I have time to keep up with the chores and errands so C doesn't have to. I have time to focus on our meals. We both have more time for relaxing, we are under much less stress than we were before and we're the healthiest we've been in years. I don't understand how that can be seen as boring.

Despite the recent renewal of interest in craft and cooking and all those other grandmotherly skills our generation shunned just a few years ago, it still seems like most people have few or no hobbies that they pursue on a regular basis. I'm at a difficult point in this post now, where I don't want to come across as smug, but someone's going to think I am anyway, so here we go: more people need to turn off their tvs and step away from their computers for just a few hours a week and spend some time for their brains and bodies. (I'm sorry!) Once you get used to entertaining yourself, I think you come to find it a much more enjoyable way to spend some time. I'm not saying to never watch tv, to never use your computer (pretty sure a certain someone would consider kicking me to the curb for that kind of remark) but I do think it's far too easy to get in the habit of plopping down in front of one (or both) at the end of a long day or in a spare moment and lose yourself. A little tv is fine, a little computer time is good, a few video games are great, too. Sometimes, though, it's nice to do something else.

Confession time: before we moved here, C and I had quite the World of Warcraft habit going. We told ourselves that it was okay because we played together, so it was bonding time. We played with our friends, so it was social time. More than anything though, it's escape and it shouldn't have become nearly as much a part of our lives as it did. If I had spent half the time I spent playing that game practicing my banjo, I would be able to play that thing by now. If I spent half that time writing, I would have a passel of stories in my hands. If we spent a quarter of it exercising, we wouldn't recognize ourselves. It went from an occasional diversion to our only diversion... and ultimately, for us the only answer was to quit entirely - it isn't one of those games we could play casually.

So now, in the wake of my gaming addiction, in the aftermath of employment, what do I do when I'm feeling bored? Here's a small section from my 'always something to do' list:

Food stuff:
  • Cook something to freeze
  • Look for new recipes
  • Read about new ingredients
  • Send a favorite recipe to family and friends
Creative stuff:
  • Draw a picture
  • Sew something
  • Knit something
  • Crochet something
  • Take apart something you made but never used - arrange materials for reuse
  • Write a story or a joke or a list - anything
Social stuff:
  • Write an email (a long one - not just a couple lines)
  • Write a letter
  • Write a postcard
  • Ask random questions: learn new things about a friend or family member
  • Browse online and start bookmarking gifts for future birthdays and holidays
  • Play with your pet or pets
Healthy stuff:
  • Go for a walk
  • Stretch
  • Do a fitness dvd
  • Eat a piece of fruit
  • Go for another walk
Indulgent stuff:
  • Take a long bath
  • Take a nap
  • Sit in the sun and relax
Random stuff:
  • Learn a new skill or relearn an old one(think girl scout/boy scout stuff you know you forgot - knot tying, cloud identification, first aid etc)
Stuff you'll be glad you did once it's done:
  • Deep clean one small thing
  • Quick clean everything (I'm a big fan of putting a cd on and spending one song per room seeing how much I can get done)
  • Go through a cabinet or closet and find things to give or throw away
Sorry to have gotten so long-winded on this... turns out I had more to say than I thought! Anyway, I'm done now but would love to know what you think about it - and if you have any suggestions for the "always stuff to do" list, I would love to see them in the comments. I'm going for a walk.


niamh said...

I get that all the time. Even when I had three kids under five. Only boring people get bored.


Jaffer said...

You shouldn't say 'sorry' in these kinds of posts - it only makes your argument 'softer'.

I go to college over the internet - people just want to assume that it's not like a "real college" - so I have more time on my hands.

Video lectures are just as long as class-time, and I get just as many assignments and tests and exams.

Duh ! Welcome to the 21st century !

Miz K said...

Having done some online courses as well as "real life" I have to say they're both a ton of work and anyone who thinks the online version isn't probably hasn't tried it... in some respects you need even more self-control because no one else is going to force you to get your work done. Thanks for your comment!

Miz K said...

I don't think it would ever be possible to be bored with your awesome kids, Niamh! Agreed on the "boring people get bored" part.

PS Watch your mailbox! ;-)

missingheart said...

Amen! Especially on the quitting WoW.

-Sarah (and scott, too)

Katie said...

think i will send this to all those people who constantly ask me "so what do you DO all day???" when they find out i am an at-home mom.... love it!!!! glad you wrote it!