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Twenty Minutes
By Dee Ryan

I've wandered for far too long through Larchmont Village looking like the Billy Goat Gruff. So I'm paying a stranger to smear hot wax on my face and rip off my facial hair. This cosmetic torture is the closest I get to a spa moment these days. I close my eyes and take in the moment. Peace. Quiet. Heat. Pain! Then she says it -- the birdlike co-ed with the spray-on tan. "It only takes twenty minutes a day to take better care of your skin. You can find twenty minutes!?"

Excuse me? What do you know about me? What do you know about my time? Who are these people that have "twenty minutes every day to apply a thin layer of cleansing soap, facial scrub and night cream…gently moving your fingers in a circular motion… all over your..." Just the pace of her instructions is a waste of my time. Nothing is gently manipulated or achieved in my new life as a mommy.

It only takes twenty minutes a day to take care of your hands, feet, face. To work on your sagging abs, hips, bust, buttocks. To read more fiction, to keep a dream journal, to improve your world-view, to learn how to knit, or play the guitar. The secrets of origami can be yours in just twenty minutes.

Be a self-starter, they'll suggest -- those people with all the time in the world. Start a book club, babysitting co-op, mommy group, cooking group, neighborhood watch, political action group.

I want them to know that I already have a small start-up company called My Family and like eight out of ten small businesses, it's a losing proposition which will surely end in bankruptcy and disgrace.

Twenty minutes to focus on your goals, increase your typing speed, love your children, have sex with your partner, examine your life choices.

Let's see, there are 24 hours in a day. There are three twenty-minute segments in each hour. That's 72 segments of twenty minutes a day. Let's assume I get seven hours of sleep (if I'm lucky). That leaves me that the baby? I think I heard the baby.

What do I do all day? I haven't seen a movie or gone to the theater or listened to a new band in months. Thank God for TiVo. Reading a novel is a rite of passage worth bragging about at the co-op. "Guess what? I read a book without pictures to myself!"

There's precious little Me time in Mommy world. One doesn't find twenty minutes; one has to take it. And the best-laid plans get changed. There's always a 104-degree fever on the weekend you've made a reservation at a Bed and Breakfast. Get a babysitter and you'll discover a sobbing child who needs you. Mommy time always trumps Me time -- which is why the airlines have to tell you to put your oxygen mask on before you put on your child's. The children always come first.

Something's got to give and let's face it: it's me. My hair? A mess. My toenails, with the remnants of last summer's polish, poke through the holes in my socks. I've pubic hair down to my knees. I have to reach down, wrap it up and tuck it into my bathing suit when I swim -- which is always now with children jumping off my back and lunging into me full force. Before children, swimming was a joy -- a meditative return to the womb floating in the flotsam with all the time in the world. Now, I'm a pool toy.

I tried keeping a daily journal of how I spent my day. Maybe I'd find twenty empty minutes.


5:30 AM - Wake out of deep REM sleep to wailing baby.
5:35 AM - Change screaming baby's diaper. When did she eat that?
5:40 AM - Feed baby Right Breast, try to slumber.
5:50 AM - Shift to Left Breast, try to slumber.
6:00 AM - Watch another perfect sunrise with fussy baby.
6:15 AM - Solid food time, get hose, mop and protective eye-gear.
6:30 AM - 7:30 AM - Rest of house wakes, eats, starts their day.
7:30 - 8:00 AM - Clean breakfast dishes, while outlining the great American novel I will write someday -- when I have the time, of course.
8:00 - 8:10 AM - Check e-mail, send messages to people I haven't seen in years, but once knew BC (Before Children). "Hey, I'm still here. I still matter. Remember me?"
8:10 AM - Announce to children it's time to go to preschool. Can't be late today because the toddler reminded me that today is the most important day of the week. Today is share day at the pre-school co-op.
8:15 AM - Demand children get into car for preschool.
8:20 AM - Scream at children to get into car for preschool.
8:20 - 8:30 AM - Struggle to put now crying children into car seats.
8:30 AM - Drive to co-op preschool still in pajamas -- hope the other mother's think it's a fashion choice.
8:40 AM - Arrive at pre-school late.
8:50 AM - Finally release children from the prison restraints known as car seats.
9:00 AM - Realize I forgot today's share toy. Panic.
9:15 AM - Console inconsolable toddler.
9:20 AM - Have toddler use the baby for share toy.

Or maybe I wouldn't find twenty extra minutes. But the next time someone tells me I should, I'll shove my journal in their puss. "Here, you're so good at organizing my schedule -- pencil it in!"

Alas, vengeance takes a low priority to the obligatory twenty minutes of gossip at the pre-school, or Mommy's high priority twenty minutes of wine time at the end of the day.

So, I may not have the empirical evidence to prove to you that I can't find twenty minutes of my time for Iyengar yoga, or transcendental meditation, or strengthening my vaginal muscles, or actualizing a better tomorrow. You'll please forgive me as I roll my eyes and bite my tongue at your scheduling suggestions. In the future, save your careless words for someone without children.

My twenty minutes are up.

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