May 15, 2024

Time Frugality and Maternity Leave time in Weeks and Hours

I love reading The Frugal Girl blog, even though my life is definitely not frugal.  I would love to DIY more, or to thrift more (Elisabeth is an amazing thrifter!).  I know there is an active freecycle here, and I also know that the TooGoodToGo app would provide cheap bread and other products if I could use it.  However... I am not financially frugal right now.

I've been wondering whether the concept of frugality could be applied to time.  I am frugal with my spare time.  I don't want to spend more time looking for clothes at a thrift store and I'm paying a financial premium to order online instead.  There is a wooden mirror in my room which I would like to paint and put in the kids room - but I want to do this less than I want to write a blog, or do exercise, or tidy my house.  And, of course, I can only accomplish anything with focus during the twins 2-3 naps a day.

Laura Vanderkam has written around this topic and I especially liked this post on the value of time.  Maternity leave makes this time value weird though, since I'm technically being paid (and soon not paid) to stay at home with the babies.  So arguably my time is worth... nothing?  But by the same token, I am watching twins 24 hours a day.  The nap approx 4 hours and "sleep" approx 11 hours a night.  I need to be asleep by 9 to get close to 8 hours of sleep (including wake ups) by 6:30am (when some iteration of our many children will be awake).

So in potential Rachel time, I have 4 hours of naps and 2 hours (7-9) in the evening.  6 hours per 24 hours not watching babies.

And in these 6 hours I need to do the the meal prep, the misc house work, the laundry.  And any sports or leisure I want as well.  And any house projects. Any blogs or emails.  Any reading or writing. 

On weekends the other kids are home.  If I split nap time with the Andy that only allows 2 hours of daytime free time on Saturday and Sunday.  And on Fridays I watch Lilah so the nap times are Lilah times.

Adding this up, my weekly non-baby and child watching time is approx 20 hours.  The evening hours include dinner tidy up, and they day hours include all the other life logistics.  20 hours a week of "free" time may seem like a lot, but it doesn't necessarily feel that way to me.  And it's also why I would rather order clothes online in 30 minutes than try and get to a charity shop.   Or why I pay our cleaner to change the bed sheets. Why I order groceries online (if the shop takes an hour that's 5% of my weekly "free" time and up to 25% of my daily free time!).

If I spend an hour a day cleaning up highchairs, doing laundry, doing dishes, and misc tidying, that gives me 10 hours left of child free me time a week. 

And yes, I can actually do some of these things while watching babies.  But I can't do all of these things while watching awake babies. Awake babies take a lot of attention, and nursing twins takes a few hours of my day as well.

Sometimes the math helps me realise that these really are the busy times.  And that when our nanny starts (in September) every hour she is here is an hour of Rachel time.  I will be going back to work, but we are adding 30 hours of childcare and 24 hours of paid employment.  I am almost doubling my "free" time from 10 to 14 hours.  

Anyways, today Andy put the babies down for a nap and I snuck out and got my hair cut!  I love when they make my hair smooth and pretty, especially after it's been in a ponytail for the last 6 months straight. 
Also, I am going to be not a red head soon.  I've had red hair since 2006 so this is a pretty big transition. The hair dresser today asked me what I was up to for the rest of the day and I told her I'm on maternity leave and spending the day watching 6 month old twins.  A few minutes later she asked if I was up to anything for the rest of the day.  I realised that my answer did not make sense to the 23 year old, because my answer was basically "I am up to nothing" which isn't an answer a 23 year old understands.


  1. I love Frugal Girl as well - because she's a great writer! Being frugal whether we're talking about money or time just means spending in a way that fits with your means and values. I spent about $700 all told for my trip last weekend, and the enjoyment that I got out of the trip was worth ten times the money - but I only get Netflix every once in a while because $16 a month is "too much" for TV. Same with time. Time wise I think sometimes about getting someone to clean the house, but my cheap streak/interest in listening to podcasts while I clean is the dominant force right now. When I was in grad school I was shameless about putting off yard work until the end of the semester - my time was more valuable than what the neighbors thought.

    All of which is to say that I approve of Rachel time!

  2. I think of frugality as a match in priorities. I do not watch television because it's a waste of my valuable free time. I did just my hair cut and a pedicure and those cost time AND money, but made me feel amazing, so it was worth it. Figuring out what my priorities really were was a great way of figuring out how to spend my limited time (and, to a lesser extent, money).

    1. I am quite similar. My husband goes " you argue with me over canceling TV subscriptions we don't use but then you drop 5K on one of your trips!" He has a point, and I have a point.

  3. The hair looks wonderful, Rachel. I love it!

  4. I agree with Engie... money and time is all a matter of priorities and they look different for people in different periods of their lives.

    Oh, and I wouldn't call "watching 6-month old twins" nothing, but yeah, I get what you're saying... a lot of your time is spoken for these days.