I had to cross-reference and semi-memorize all sorts of calendars and schedules for multiple people from just as many sources. That meant keeping tabs on my paid time off (PTO) balance at work and repeatedly checking in and verifying the amount of vacation time my husband had available, too. Not only did I need to run a tally on how much time off we’d earned over weeks and months of uninterrupted productivity on our jobs, we needed to account for any major projects, upcoming deadlines and the prospect of a colleague or peer having already submitted a PTO request for the same time period. If the latter was at play – a co-worker had already requested the same, or overlapping, days off – the situation could become like a diplomatic duel in which we’d lock eyes and put on a smiley face for our manager, clutching onto an uncertain victory.
The dynamics of children’s schedules can be similarly fraught, especially if the kids are in different private schools or in different school districts, though often with less ambiguity. The school calendar lays out all of the planned and scheduled off days, breaks, half-days and so on for the entire 9-10-month academic year. So negotiating times when the kids will be free and clear is easier to discern, especially if they are in the same school district and, therefore, tied to the same calendar.
As a Housewife By Chance, we benefit from the freedom of being bound to no single employer’s schedule or power to deny us a break. Reporting to a supervisor, bugging the HR department about PTO balances and trying to guesstimate how much PTO you’ll have left to deal with the kids’ school holidays, anticipated sick days, needed personal “mental health” breaks and your spouse’s potential work-related travel are no more. Sure, we have our own time-oriented benchmarks and to-do lists for various errands, chores and long-delayed tasks, but these are largely of our own creation and timed according to standards and expectations we have of ourselves, rather than the other way around.
Those of us who do work as freelancers, consultants and part-timers frequently still enjoy a great deal of autonomy over our schedules, and can embrace a similar level of scheduling fluidity as long as we manage our deadlines and projects effectively, or alert our clients or employers ahead of time. As a result, women in these positions are better situated to enjoy their time off without obsessing over workplace politics, looming deadlines, being retaliated against in a job culture bent on presenteeism, or even just getting their pants and blazers out of the dry cleaners in time.
I am the de facto household vacation planner – always have been and apparently always will be. I look at everyone’s schedules and determine where we’ll go, research where to stay, decide how we’ll get around and come up with ideas of activities and outings in which to partake when we get there. That can still be a monumental burden, even for people like me who actually enjoy comparison shopping, getting a good deal and leaving little to chance.
Not needing to monitor my schedule with a fine-toothed comb provides invaluable relief in what can still be a complicated, time-consuming process. The psychic scheduling burden has been cut by one-third. And while that can be quantified and measured, the simultaneously reduced mental stress absolutely cannot be.
It is, yes, priceless.