It is often the case that, when modeling choices involving leisure and working for pay, economists model leisure as the amount of time left over after one has chosen the number of hours to work. This sometimes disturbs me, since there are other ways that our limited time can be used, and those include such things as doing domestic work that is usually unpaid as well as volunteering, which is also unpaid in the traditional sense. I thought of this recently when I found myself part of a conversation in which one member had learned of a question posed to someone in a job interview that asked “what do you do for fun?” The group of women who were part of this conversation, all mothers with children ranging in age from grammar school to college, found ourselves laughing at that question.
After a few minutes of laughing, possible answers began to be proposed. “I drive people to places they want to go.” “I cook food for people and make sure they eat it.” Not to be outdone, another modified that with “I cut food up into little pieces so it will fit into tiny hands and tiny mouths.” It was clear that the idea of doing things for fun was not one that this group of mothers was used to thinking about. I had to wonder if any of us would have passed that interview question, if it had been given to us.
It is possible that it is not just a complete unfamiliarity with doing things for “fun” that distinguishes the world view of many mothers from that of others. Indeed, the holiday we celebrate this weekend was founded on the idea that mothers bring a particular perspective to the world, since they are invested in the future of the world and in the lives of their children in unique ways. Founded in the years following the Civil war, this holiday was created to propose that mothers would no longer sit by and let the forces of war overrun the domestic peace that we work so diligently to create. Not at all the “Hallmark” holiday that it had evolved into, the founders of the holiday, which included, most notably, abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe, proposed that women who are mothers and want the best for their children should unite to find a way to work for peace. While I will happily accept gifts of candy and flowers on this day, I always remind those around me of the original intention of the day. Indeed, I have a copy of the original Mother’s Day declaration hanging on my office door. I want to remind myself that the work I do each day is intended to help bring about a more just and peaceful world, for myself and for my daughter, as well as for the many children in my life, including the children of many of my students.
After we stopped laughing at the question, I realized that I, indeed, do plenty of things “for fun.” Writing this blog column and my on-again, off-again efforts to write a series of mystery novels certainly fall, at least for me, into the category of “fun.” There is the time I spend with my family, time that most recently has taken the form of traveling to my daughter’s lacrosse tournaments throughout Northern Ohio. And, of course, there is plenty of time that I spend with my family of origin and the various little people who are now part of that group, all experiences that would be considered “fun.” No, maybe we were a little too quick to laugh at that question. After some reflection, I am left believing it is actually a good question, even when asked of multi-tasking mothers. And so I ask my readers; what do YOU do for fun?
Wishing all of my readers who “mother” in some way a very Happy Mother’s Day!
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