“…I don’t hear about it often, it’s called… Me Time. I’m talking about rejuvenation time, quiet time, alone time, personal time, self-care… Me Time! Two times a week I drive away from my adoring husband, three little bright and loving faces, and a messy house. I leave my neighbourhood and suddenly, I’m not a wife, a mother, a housekeeper, author, business owner, assistant, daughter, sister or employee... I’m just Roz,” writes Rosalind May, author of The Real Deal on Telecommuting.
So, “when was the last time you were just “you”, asks May. Prakriti Mukherjee, 25, (name changed on request), a housewife, married to a businessman, loves to puff away at her cigarette in her chilekothar room, laugh aloud, crack PJs when she gets to be with her friends and heads towards Michael’s momo corner on Camac Street to relive those college days — these help her to “remain sane”. The me-time smoke breaks happen every two days and she gets to see her friends once in two months.
Public relations executive Somini Sen Dua, married to entrepreneur Sanjiv Dua for 12 years, can be seen at Park Street Barista, sipping coffee — alone. It helps her to “sort things out”. This happens twice a week.
Prateek Ghosh, 38, screams his lungs out watching an English Premier League match on TV if his wife is at her baaper bari. That happens once a month.
For the rest of the 350-odd days of the year it is making breakfast for hubby as he hurries off to attend an important meeting, making time for routine family functions, instructing the cook what phoron to add to the dal, fighting with spouse after a bad brawl with the boss… you are reduced to a helpless spectator as your precious personal time — “me time” — slips through your fingers. After a point you just stop thinking about it.
Marriage does things to you. “Me-time definitely shrinks after you get married. It happens more if you are married into a joint family and are a housewife,” says Prakriti, who lives in a joint family. “Looking after your spouse may not take more than two hours in the morning and then the rest of the day you have for yourself, if in a nuclear family. But if you are in a joint family, there are other people to think about,” she adds.
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Subho Gupta, 38 (name changed on request), cribs about not being able to meet his friends from para, a bunch of once-inseparable buddies.
“Previously we used to meet up every day. Now I get to talk to them only over the phone and that too once in a while. My wife doesn’t have this problem because she is not from Calcutta. It is just not fair!”
Besides the new relationships that have to be nurtured, marriage means the couple adjusting to shared physical space, which is often not enough.
Though there is “enough space” between 25-year-old ad-copywriter Pallavi Banerjee and her schoolteacher husband Bhaskar Bhattarcharya, speaking metaphorically, me-time becomes a problem sometimes. “I like getting drenched and lying under the fan. I can’t do this often now. Being me is doing nothing. Being me is not thinking what is going to happen the next moment. Being me is partying till late hours. Being me is getting a little tipsy and enjoying the high,” she says. So, when was the last time she was herself' “I came back very late last Saturday and just went to sleep,” she chuckles.
Prakriti is resolute too, to find me-time. “If I had 12 hours to myself before I got married, now I can manage only six. I have divided it into two-hour slots — two in the morning, two in the afternoon and two in the evening. But I just have to have it,” she says.
Common friends help. “My wife and I have a lot of common friends. It saves at least some part of me-time,” says freelance fashion photographer Kaustav Saikia.
Keeping your priorities — making sure that you get your me-time without fighting — is another strategy, say the married. For example, if you are reading your favourite Agatha Christie thriller and your husband asks you to get ready for a dinner at his boss’s place, keep reading. At whatever risk.
“My husband goes to play golf every Sunday for five hours. Just like he needs those four or five hours, I also need mine. I have also started taking lessons in music again,” says Somini.
For some, me-time is about pampering oneself with gifts, going on a shopping spree or a trip to the parlour. Sujata Mitra, 29, employed with Globsyn Technologies and married for one-and-a-half years, loves to “reward” herself, when she feels that no one is really bothered about how much she contributes to the family. “I pat my back and say, “you’ve done enough”. A few days back she went shopping because she was feeling bored and bought herself a lipstick.
Pallavi says no one disturbs her when she is taking a massage.
That was the good news — you can squeeze out me-time from marriage. The bad news is personal time becomes an impossibility when kids are born. “Everything has to be planned according to my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s schedule. If I have to plan an outing with my friends, it has to be done at least two or three days in advance,” says Archita Dutta Majumdar, a public relations professional.
“Now that my wife is expecting, I have to give her more attention,” says 36-year-old Palash Basu for whom me-time meant spending the whole of Sunday at an organisation that works for the betterment of thalassaemia patients. “I used to be there every Sunday between 10am and 2pm. Now I can hardly manage two hours on Sundays,” he rues.
It helps when the child grows up. “I don’t have to sit in a separate room. I can read a book or listen to music, even when my son Ujaan is around,” says Malini Mukherjee, who started working from home after her son was born.
The wisest convert family time into me-time. “It is nice to see children grow up and spending time with them is a great stress-buster,” says Prateek. A lot of Somini’s me-time is watching TV between 9pm and 10pm. That is also her daughter’s dinner hour. “While I feed her dinner, I also watch TV,” she says.
So when was the last time you were just “you”' Don’t panic — you are not alone. And perhaps if you had too much me-time, you would be lonely!