I remember a time, not so long ago, when I didn’t factor my time into the value of things. A ticket to Shakespeare in the Park was “free” even though it meant waiting in line for four hours. A shirt from Daffy’s was a steal even though it meant a walk across town to the store and then searching through racks trying on clothes in unpredictable sizing until finally hours later emerging with a pair of designer mark-down pants.
Now that the time I have available to complete tasks has been reduced to precious few ticking-by minutes per day, I find myself prioritizing tasks based on the value of my time. Case in point:
I am an illustrator. I love drawing my babies. This morning it occurred to me that painting portraits of babies might be a nice way to make a little extra money at the holidays and get some illustration work. I am a member of a few local parent list servs, and on the spur of the moment I composed an email advertising watercolor portraits of babies or pets.
At first, in my mind, the text read: “Free! Limited time only! Send me a picture of your baby or pet and I’ll send you a 5 x 7 watercolor and a digital file to print onto cards, etc.”
Free advertising, I thought. Then after about a millisecond I reconsidered. Free? Really? But it will take TIME to do the portraits. I’ll say $10, I thought. Then as I was looking at that $10 next to the flashing cursor I thought, wait a minute, it will realistically take me at least an hour to do a portrait, and I am a perfectionist no matter what people pay. I deleted the 10 and put $20. Then I looked at the $20 and thought, that won’t even really cover my materials. $50. Then I looked at the $50 and thought, this is going to take all of my available time. I have about one hour each day, if I’m lucky, in which to complete tasks; is painting baby portraits going to take priority over applying to new jobs, cleaning (so I don’t feel bad about my life), eating, sleeping, maintaining contact with family and friends, hiring a babysitter, finding freelance writing work, paying bills, writing this blog? $60. $80 $100… And then I just deleted the whole thing.
Will I ever return to that place where time feels bountiful? Maybe when I retire. Right now I am like a time-hoarding miser. This morning one twin refused to fall asleep for her morning nap. She cried and cried. I was so resentful. Go to sleep! I said out loud to myself, grabbing my hair. This is my time! This is my only time! I am a stressy mess.
Last week I talked to my sister on the phone about the list of things to do keeping me from falling asleep at night. Her recommendation, “Start with the babysitter, that’s most important.” I think she’s probably right. One thing at a time. I will get through this.