The Twenty-fifth Hour
What if you—and only you—were given an extra hour each day with the stipulation that you had to spend it on yourself? What if, while the rest of the world stood stock-still, frozen in time for sixty minutes, you could do whatever you pleased? What would you do? Nothing? Something? Everything? Would you read the Twilight series, or learn how to type properly? Would you finally solve the Rubik’s Cube, write letters to local politicians, research recipes, start an indoor herb garden? Maybe you would take a bath one day and go for a run the next. Maybe you would stretch out on your sofa, when the sun cuts across it just right, and doze.
At first, you might walk around aimlessly, overwhelmed by the decadence of it all. A whole hour! To myself! I don’t deserve this! The concept of not putting others’ needs before your own would certainly feel foreign, unnatural, even wrong. Like the psychological equivalent of putting an oxygen mask on yourself first and then your child. Isn’t that what selfish women with no mothering instincts do? But, you’re a rule follower and don’t want to lose this bonus hour. Gradually, you would get used to the idea and stop questioning your worthiness of such a windfall. You’d start planning.
You would recall hundreds of projects deemed not important enough, shoved to the back burner, and slowly parade them back into consideration. You’d finally organize the family photo albums which, in your haste to be done by the end of naptime, you never spent enough time on. You could design a weight-lifting regimen for yourself without worrying about what anyone thinks of your progress. You could write poetry. You may even dabble in learning a second language or a musical instrument. Or sing unabashedly at the top of your lungs without the masking drone of the vacuum.
You would wonder why you ever put off these things, now making you so happy. It’s almost as if you put off being happy.
Each day would bring the promise of an hour’s worth of self-improvement, of productivity, of fulfilling your shelved dreams. An unaccountable hour when you weren’t Momma or Honey or Mrs. So-and-so, you were just You. No longer would you tick off the countless daily sacrifices, which no one seems to notice, aloud to the dog while folding clothes. Resentment that used to build dramatically—like a thundercloud heavy with storm potential— would dissipate into sunshine. You could dance unfettered, free of the should-be-doing guilt, then re-emerge as your best self: satisfied and focused, energized, patient. By taking care of yourself, you would become a better mom, a better wife. Spending an hour with yourself would make you better with everyone—even you.
So what are you waiting for? Schedule it into your day.
Michelle Riddell lives with her family in rural mid-Michigan. She is a substitute teacher at her daughter’s elementary school where source material, both heartbreaking and humorous, is abundant. Her short features have been published in MomSense and Hello,Darling magazines.