Parents laugh at the the idea of free time. Yes, kids cost money, but the resource they use the most of is time. And that is fine. Spending time with your kids is why you become a parent. However, you still must use time for yourself – to improve yourself, to grow yourself, and, as Marcus Aurelius says, to free yourself.
There is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.
Time is our most limited resource, though unlike a bank account, we have not balance sheet. There is no way of knowing if we have an abundance of time left, or if we are down to our last second. So much of this precious resource is wasted, and we don’t even realize it. How then do we use it to free ourselves, and what are we freeing ourselves from?
I think the Stoic would say we need to free ourselves from the distractions that prevent us from pursuing a virtuous life. What uses your time and leaves you with too little time left in the day to pursue wisdom? I find myself trying to set time aside every night to read, but by the time the kids are asleep I watch the last This Is Us, or stay up to see the end of a baseball game, and then I’m too tired to focus and absorb the information. Sure, I enjoyed watching the baseball game, but would that time have been better used on wisdom than entertainment?
What about the time I spend with my kids? Am I using that impart – and gain – wisdom? Do I rush through explaining something because I say I don’t have enough time? I know I have. Have I lost patience with my kids because they are still learning how to do something and it takes them more time. Time that I don’t think I have to lose. Time that I could spend doing something virtuous, like watching baseball. When it comes to kids, I don’t think it is doing the annoying, or the boring, or the difficult things that we need to be free from. Time with our kids is the virtuous thing, it is the things that distract us from our kids that we need to be free from.
Do I want to read the same book for the hundredth time? Not really. Is that time well spent? Absolutely. If I slow down to explain something to my kid rather than rush through it, am I saving time or am I using my time wisely?
My kids are a little young to understand justice. Anything beyond why one of them gets ice cream and another one doesn’t is a bit over their heads, but when they get old enough to understand the need to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing taking the time to explain that to them will be time well spent. Time spent freeing them ignorance that breeds injustice, and time spent freeing my self from worrying if I have prepared them enough for life. For not I’d settle for them doing something because I told them to.
And what about temperance? How much time spent devoted to excess or addiction would be better served else where. Better served freeing you what whatever stops you from whatever keeps you trapped. Do you really need to stick around the bar and have one more round when you could go home and help put your kids to bed? Do you really need to buy your kid every new latest and greatest toy? I am sure your kids would appreciate time spent with you more than they appreciate your commitment to consumerism.
Time is limited, especially time spent with your kids. I think I’d rather use it to free myself than waste it on a treadmill.
Today’s takeaway: Maybe not as easy as it sounds, but figure out what I need to be free from.