Magazine article U.S. Catholic

I Break for Me

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

I Break for Me

Article excerpt

Toys are strewn across the living room, the sticky remains of morning snack and lunch coat the kitchen floor, and a writing deadline looms. I take a deep breath and ... open a novel. I tell my kids to join me, and for the next hour we snuggle on the couch reading. I'm not shirking the chores here--which still need to get done--rather, I am intentionally pursuing leisure.

As a mother of young children, there is always something that needs to be done. But I have noticed that if I am not careful, I spend my whole day "getting things done" only to feel at the end of the day that I haven't actually done anything.

Research has found that women, particularly those who are mothers, experience numerous constraints on leisure. Whether or not they work outside the home, women may wonder, "Who has the time?" Leisure is hard to defend in the mommy-war culture that puts us on the defensive about the value of work inside the home in the first place. But leisure is not just another thing to squeeze into an already busy schedule, nor a luxury that calls for an apology. It is an integral dimension to flourishing.

In his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture (Liberty Fund), Josef Pieper observes that the word school comes from the Greek word schole, which originally meant leisure. Leisure in this sense is not an absence of work, but a disposition of the soul to "perceptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion in the real." Pieper contrasts this understanding of leisure with the frenetic activity of the modern person who does not know how to achieve internal stillness, even during breaks from work.

Pieper warns against the workaholic who not only overly extolls the value of work, but also tends to view all of life, even people, with regards to usefulness. He offers leisure as an antidote to such materialistic and utilitarian thinking as a habit of mind that opens one to the giftedness of reality. …

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