Woe Is Me! “My Family Doesn’t Let Me Have Leisure Time. How Do I Get Some ‘Me Time’?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
I am a 25-year-old single woman. I work five days a week. During weekends, I do outside work that includes grocery shopping, vegetable shopping, printing out bills (as my father thinks he would lose otherwise), going to the bank to transfer my uncle’s cheques as I pay his bills online (he is old school), etc. The more I try to finish all these tasks as soon as possible so I can have some “ME TIME,” the more people around me allocate tasks. Late evenings during weekends, when I try to watch a movie or read fiction books, my family will interrupt me every five minutes. I end up waking up more tired on Monday morning rather than refreshed and enthusiastic. Whenever I plan to take a leave for my mental wellbeing, my mother expects me to finish all of these tasks in the morning, and then I can do whatever I want to do. They just don’t understand. Today is Tuesday and I had a long weekend, but I am crying since I woke up as it is taking a toll on my mental health.
— A plea for leisure
DR: Well, that sucks! But… you said you are employed, so I’m inclined to advise you to move out — preferably in a different city, so that you’re not plying around town doing everyone’s chores in your free time while paying rent elsewhere to avoid precisely that. However, if there are financial constraints to moving out, maybe, spend some time looking for an opportunity that will allow you to? If you keep running errands when you should be resting, you could end up burning yourself out, which would make it difficult for you to even be productive at work, and possibly, cost you your financial independence. On the other hand, if you’re staying with your family because of emotional attachments, or because you feel you owe it to them, then fair, but I’d suggest you calmly sit down with them, and try to explain your woe. If they understand and change their ways, great. If not, well, care and respect is a two-way street. And if you can’t get them to understand where you’re coming from, prioritize your mental health, and well, move out as soon as you can.
RN: This sounds exhausting, and it is really unfair for your family to not recognize your boundaries and impose so much on you without any consideration for your time and well-being. Is there a way you can delegate all tasks that are not related to your parents to someone else? Can a cousin or another relative look after your uncle’s bills? As somebody doing all of this work, you also have the right to put your foot down when some tasks are unreasonable. You don’t have to print your bills and can try explaining to your father that it isn’t necessary. If you live in a city or town where this is possible, can you try ordering groceries online to save you some time and energy? Basically, are there ways to optimize things such that you spend the least amount of time possible on your family’s work and draw some firm boundaries? If not, please consider moving out to another city. But I understand that this is rarely feasible, so one other option is to let your family see the toll it is taking on you — don’t hide when you feel like breaking down, and tell them that you are exhausted and cannot physically manage so many redundant tasks anymore. If that isn’t an option either, maybe you could pretend to fall asleep early during the weekends so that they don’t disturb you and you can have some uninterrupted time to yourself. I’m really sorry that this is happening and I hope you find ways to feel less exhausted very soon.
PR: My take on this would be if there is an option for you to move out of your parents’ place. Take it!
I am hoping that your job is not in the same city, and on account of everything being WFH, maybe lie to your parents about the office calling you in for work and make a shift.
If that isn’t the case, then maybe try looking for a job in another city or planning for education outside your city and the country. I can understand all of these things can seem so far-fetched, especially when your mental health is taking such a big toll on you, maybe taking the help of your friends to look for opportunities can be a way to at least start this process. I started to lose my mental health too when I stayed for too long with my parents in the first lockdown, in a way I got lucky my workplace forced me to move back. After that I felt, I could’ve even lied to them earlier to move back. And it’s not cause I don’t love them or that I won’t be there for them. I feel sometimes staying away helps make it easier to dissociate and maybe even have a better relationship with your parents because of the distance. Also, check out this online counseling space. Their approach to therapy is really nice, maybe try it out and see if it works for you?
BG: Oh man, that sounds so exhausting! I suggest you sit down with your family and have an honest and open conversation about this and how you cannot over-exert yourself on the only two days you get to yourself. Be patient as they might not understand it instantly but I think telling them your side to this situation is the best way to go about it.
SK: Hello, I hear you and I respect the courage you’ve shown in realizing your personal boundaries. It is especially hard while living with families — anything assertion of wanting space is either deemed as disrespectful or ungrateful. Leisure has nothing to do with either, really. People you love will need you and make asks of you, and that’s great if there’s a limit to that. If you think your family doesn’t respect your time and energy, I think the most direct and immediate action is to speak to them. Tell them (or anyone you’re close to in your family) that you have your routine to follow, and you need some time off in the evenings and the weekends where you can unwind and relax. Make a schedule, make to-do lists about when to cash cheques or buy groceries, and slot those activities in those durations.
Then there’s the idea of financial independence. If you’re in a position of sustaining yourself, the chances your family will listen to you are much higher. If not, try to get your footing, find a job away from home, and start afresh. Yours is a situation a lot of people will relate with, especially those who had to move home during the pandemic. The best any of us can do is realize our bandwidth to do things for other people.
And lastly, while you try to tell others what you deserve, I also hope you internalize some part of it. Wanting “me time” or distancing yourself from your loved ones is beautiful and much needed for self-growth. Hell, it’s what keeps us happy. Any form of guilt, internal or external, has little credibility to it, please remember that. Learn to say no, prioritize yourself, and even seek professional help if you’re in a position to. I hope you read books, watch movies, listen to songs, and do absolutely nothing. You’re entitled to the freedom.