Afternoon InquisitionParentingRandom Asides

AI: Spare Time

The concept of spare time has become relevant to my interests lately. After a [very] long stint of unemployment, I’ve secured a job which I am really enjoying so far. Where I used to have full days of spare time, doing whatever chores needed doing throughout the day at my leisure, I now have a certain number of hours before I drop Spencer off at my mom’s and go to work.

It used to be that I would waste my spare time. I would sit in a diner, smoking cigarettes and drinking bottomless cups of coffee. I would click aimlessly on the computer. I would mindlessly doodle in my notebook. But my definition of “wasting” time has changed. I wasn’t wasting time then. I was having meaningful conversations with my friends in that diner. I was using that computer to learn outside of the scope of my school curriculum. I was taking advantage of a moment of creativity in my notebook.

Now? I clean. I’m not complaining… I enjoy cleaning, these days. Between being a mom and a wife, two titles I adore owning, my spare time is well spent and never a waste.

What do you do with your “spare” time? How do you define wasting time? Is there such a thing as wasting time? Can I vacuum your house? I’m not kidding.

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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  1. Hi there!

    I usually wind up wasting a lot of time at work. I’m not a COMPLETE slacker, and I intersperse my work time with Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, TVtropes, and … [cough] SkepChick.

    When I get home, my wifey and I lounge out on the couch together and I play WoW while she watches reality TV. I guess that’s wasting time, but it’s also our valued “us” time. On weekends, we’ll sit out on the patio with 3 or 4 different types of stinky cheeses and a bottle of wine while we read urban fantasy or trashy romance novels. (respectively) Is it a waste of time? Probably, but it’s also “us” time.

    Recently, we went on a trip to England, and wasted hardly any time at all! We spent every waking moment running all over the place to see all of the sights, making sure that we got a lot of time experiencing British history and culture.

    The last day of our vacation, we spent an hour on a bench sitting in Regent’s Park, wishing that we could have spent the whole week like that. Sure we wouldn’t have seen any of the sights, but … hanging out in Regent’s Park just relaxing with the ducks and magpies? THAT’s a vacation! :D

    — Craig

  2. I am retired but have no spare time. If I am not spending 2 hours at the gym, doing pool or yard work, painting my sheds, cleaning house, cooking dinner, reading 52 blogs, etc. then I am reading books on biology, evolution, quantum mechanics, authors Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins, Alan Dershowitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Greg M. Epstein, Barbara Forrest, Christopher Hitchens, Nick Lane, Darrell Ray and others.

    I stopped watching TV because I have no time.

  3. Hmmm…spare time.
    Clean both aquariums. Check.
    Wash, groom four Shelties. Check.
    Skepchick and a few other sites. Check.
    Housework. Check.

    Hmmm….That leaves me in the negative as far as spare time goes….

  4. I define wasting time mostly as procrastination such as endless wikipedia searches when I really should be writing.

    Spare time is trickier. My job is my only regular commitment. I have no kids or affiliations that require regular blocks of time. As such most of my time is “spare”. I have a hard time not doing anything however. Most nights and weekends are spent sewing, cooking, gardening, writing code, or building something. My wife insists on some downtime, however. So most weeknights I knock off and 8:00 and watch something with her on DVD. Most weekend nights we share dinner and watch a movie. Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday we also have breakfast together. I realize this sounds very regimented, but when we didn’t make plans we didn’t spend much time together.

  5. FWIW: Just as a side note, we’re on a death watch for our ancient Siamese cat, Banzai I. He’s in the final stages of hepatic and renal failure. Given that he would be 20 years old on December 3rd, he’s had a great run terrorizing Shelties and generally reigning our various homes with an iron paw.

    I doubt he will make it to his vet appointment on Thursday…He’s slipping fast. So, keeping an eye on him has been on our minds for the last several days.

  6. Spare time – I remember that from before having kids! I used to watch TV.

    Actually, now that the kids are older and spending time with me is akin to torture for them, I do watch a bit of TV. Mostly I muck around the house, installing flooring wherever possible. I have an inordinate fondness for installing flooring. It is incredibly satisfying.

    Wasting time – that would be time spent trying to find where the last person left my iPad, then playing Plants vs Zombies.

  7. I always like to be doing something but I do spend my “spare time” playing DSI, knitting things, reading comics and watching DVDs. You can totally come and vacuum my house it needs done every blooming day.

  8. I guess I haven’t thought of time in terms of “spare” for a long time. I enjoy lots of things and have a reasonable amount of discretionary time. Last night I would usually have been at the youth symphony I help run but I wasn’t needed. It looked like an online/TV/reading evening bu8t I remembered a coworker mention a local bar that has 30 different mirco-brews on tap was having a special event involving a great Seattle brewery. I went and the place was very crowded, mostly with college kids less than half my age, my co-worker apparently stuck his head in and decided to run away. I eventually found a seat and saw a band setting up and noticed a familiar looking young woman with her violin. I went up to ask her if what kind of music they were going to play and remembered where I knew her from. She knew my daughter and wife and her parents were there who I introduced myself to and they also knew my wife and daughter. I then called my wife and said she should come down and have a beer and listen to the band and mentioned we knew their fiddle player. We ended up staying through the first set of some great bluegrass/grunge/Celtic rock music. That was a wonderful waste of time yesterday evening, and I now have another reason to listen to some live music and go out for an IPA.
    The band was Polecat and they were great!

  9. Spare time for me tends to be trying to grapple with all the books on my “Books to Read” list. To be honest I’m not too good at separating my spare time from my work time, so it’s all an inefficient blur.

  10. @QuestionAuthority: I’m sorry about your cat, he sounds like a venerable old soul.

    I play the Sims. Sometimes for hours. I have a lot of weird ideas about how I “should” spend my time, now that I think about it. I feel guilty for not doing something no matter what I’m doing. I envy @Elyse: she knows exactly what her schedule is.

  11. Hmmmm. I’m unemployed just now, which is not an unusual state, but it is dragging out much longer than it normally does….so I’m calling and emailing companies in my area and letting them know I’m available, and after that 15 minutes on monday, I clean the house, take care of the dog, (and, at the moment, take care of two other dogs whose people are out of town and I am taking care of) Sometimes I take a motorcycle ride, sometimes I go running, sometimes I just read. (Started at the beginning of Patrick O’bryans Aubrey/Maturin series again) My girlfriend is working, and I’m not, so I figure out what I’ll make for dinner ( I do like to cook) and try to time it so it’s ready to serve when she gets home. Oh yeah. I drink. I make cocktails, I open bottles of wine, etc. Keep the liver strong by frequent exercise. Thats what I can come up with for now. I’ve got two Greyhounds and a chicken and a cat staring at me and one Chihuahua sitting on my lap. I have an exquisitely mixed manhattan (up, with a twist) next to me, and chicken, artichokes, and potatoes in various states of done-ness all balanced against the GF’s arrival. That’s all for now.

  12. Spare time…is that time not at work or time that is unscheduled? I have a good bit of the former and rarely have any of the latter. Wasting time, for me, is when I am procrastinating via following mindless little trails on the interwebs. Other procrastination is totally not wasted – I cook, pet kitties, and take naps to procrastinate as well – but perhaps it is not the best use and/or arrangement of my time.

    And I would *love* for you to vaccuum my house any time it strikes your fancy. Let me know when I should get you a spare key to my house.

  13. I just bought a massive, 150 year-old, crumbling house. I don’t have free time, and don’t anticipate having it for about two years.

    You are welcome and encouraged to vacuum my house. It’s mostly plaster and sawdust right now, so use the industrial vaccuum, please…

  14. To me, time is only wasted if you’re using it in a way contrary to your goals. If one of your goals in life is to have fun and enjoy yourself, then slacking off a bit reading blogs or playing games or whatever isn’t wasted time, unless you do so much of those things it affects other things you want to do.

  15. Chelsea, with four Shelties blowing their coats out, we get drifts of undercoat fur this time of year. We’ll gladly accept your offer to vacuum. We’ll even provide the Dyson Animal. :-D

    @Madfishmonger: Thank you. He is very much the old soul – He was so weak this morning that he could barely lift his head. :-(

  16. I am rarely in the mood to clean, even when I have “spare time”. Most of the time, when I’m free, I’ll read or play video games or watch Star Trek or something with my husband. We also play D&D and a few other tabletop games, so sometimes we’ll do that or make characters for them. I also love to shop. (ETA: We recently got Scrabble Onyx edition and play it often, plus a few other board-type games and card games. yay for fun!)

    I don’t think any time is truly wasted if you’re enjoying yourself. I think, though, I often feel like I am wasting my time – when I’m working and feeling crappy about it, going to school for something I don’t care about, etc.

    You can totally vacuum my house. I can’t stand the noise and we’re barely home so the pets leave the place a mess. Our entire house could use a good vacuum!

    QuestionAuthority: You have the Dyson Animal?! Jealousy is SO mine.

  17. @QuestionAuthority:
    My best to Banzai, you and your family. It’s tough. Banzai’s one lucky cat.

    Hmmm, spare time. I do a ton of volunteer work of various sorts. I probably should back off a bit, but, dammit, the world does need saving, and Elyse probably could use a tiny bit of help. Though she’s totally capable of doing it singlehandedly in her spare time. Like last night. I was just finishing up a meeting for one local nonprofit organization when I got a call from the rape crisis center (I was on call last night). So I then spent 3 hours in the emergency room with a woman who had been raped. Mostly I kept her company while we waited for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner come. Today I’m tired. Where’s my fucking cape? I think even Skepchick hangers-on need capes!

    My partner and I are currently rehabbing 6 cats, including 4 kittens that need fluids. That is not easy! We need smaller needles, because the little darlings don’t have much of a scruff. They cry pitifully when we do this, and it makes me feel like a monster.

    I knit, which can also save the world since I donate for fundraisers and such. I read (though not enough). I don’t make enough time for exercise. I cook. I watch DVDs with my partner (while knitting). I do puzzles (mostly word based). I watch my garden wilt because I’m a crap gardener and don’t water or weed enough. I occasionally write letters.

    I agree with davew’s definition of wasting time. I procrastinate a lot. Like now! I should be grading. Or writing a paper I’m supposed to present at a conference in a few weeks. Well, I do read a bit online, then grade a question, that read a bit more…

  18. My job gives me a fair amount of downtime (especially when I’m sitting on the desk), which means a lot of internet time… I don’t really count that as “free time”, however, more like “on call”… I don’t have anything I can really do, but I need to be here in case someone needs something.

    When I’m actually away from work, my favored leisure activities are:
    1) Table-top Role-playing games (4 different groups, meeting on varying schedules from “every Sunday” to “when we can”).
    2) Computer games (I have currently sold my soul to the Citadel’s Special Tactics and Reconnaissance team).
    3) Video (either movies or TV shows, mostly on DVD)
    4) Television
    5) Reading

    It might seem that reading is so far down the list, but, though I am a voracious reader, it’s also part of my job to read, so sitting on the couch with my Walkman on and a book open is actually a PAID ACTIVITY.

  19. @CatFurniture: Thank you. He must have had great genes to last this long. Our record before him was about 13 years old.

    I also bow to your superior volunteering efforts, like your rape crisis center work. You humble me.

  20. Well, as I am still going through my long stint of unemployment, I am a bit fuzzy on what “wasting time” means for me. I suppose if I am not spending time either practicing my martial arts or looking for work online, I consider it a waste of my time.

    And yes; You may vacuum my house. In fact, bring the baby! –There’s a very friendly black lab who lives next door who loves to be petted and who never jumps up and will even play a little fetch. He’s good with toddlers.

  21. Hmm, let’s see. My time not spent at work currently involves – a bit of cleaning, cooking dinner, trying to get my mother to file her mountain of paperwork, ferrying my brother about the place and working on my thesis proposal. Usually in that order :)

    It’s a long time since I watched any amount of TV or played computer games, which were two things I devoted a lot of time to a few years ago. I don’t really miss them. I do miss reading though – there’s a stack of books beside my bed that it’s taking me forever to get through.

    I suspect when my MSc is finished at the end of next year, I will spend a considerable amount of time doing close to nothing. Then normal service will resume :)

    Oh, by the way, been reading Skepchick for a while, but this is my first comment. Hi there.

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