The Exponentially Increasing Value of My Time


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.

2 thoughts on “The Exponentially Increasing Value of My Time

  1. I have So Many Opinions about artists and time and babies! The most important though, is that pre-baby you should know that her time was just as valuable; she just had more of it. Your art has value, and society does enough to tell us we should do for free what takes time and skill without selling ourselves short from the get-go.

    I could write all day, but instead I’ll say your sister is right, focus on the babysitter. You need to carve out that space for yourself before you can decide what to do with it. If we let others decide what that time is, especially two adorable little girls, it’ll never happen.

    • That’s true–my time was valuable before, but I didn’t have the same urgency about it. Babies do have a way of forcing you to prioritize. Incidentally where does this blog fall on my list of priorities? Apparently pretty high. Higher than I ever would have thought. It’s a space to do some writing, some art. It feels like time for me. I was also reminded, as I was writing this, of this Op Ed in the Times.

      How do you organize your time between baby, work, and writing? It’s not easy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s