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Redefined roles mean less free time


People don't go on vacation as much these days. Instead they "travel."

Many women, when asked what they do with their leisure time, will say without a blink that they clean, do laundry, run errands.

If someone stops to smell the roses during the day, you can bet it was scheduled last week and noted in an appointment book along with the meeting that follows it.

"Traditionally, we call the part of the day that isn't work time or sleep time, 'free time' or 'leisure time.' But the 'shoulds' -- 'I should do this, I should do that' -- are creeping into our leisure. You can even say the 'gottas' are taking over," says Jim Spring, president of Leisure Trends, a licensee of the Gallup Organization. Leisure Trends polls Americans to report on what we do with leisure time, what we want to do with it and how much of it we have.

"Today, we manage our leisure time," he says. "There's very little spontaneity in how we conduct our leisure, and that's contrary to the definition of leisure."

In addition, says Mr. Spring, those polled who say they feel time-poor has increased immeasurably.

"In reality," he says, "there's only seven minutes' difference between how much free time" people said they had in 1990 and how much they report having now. That means Americans have changed their perception of the concept of leisure. And that started happening when women and men started redefining themselves as a result of their changing workplace roles.

Most women used to define themselves as housewives. Now that a majority of women are working outside the home, they define themselves as men once did: "I'm an attorney," or "I'm a sales person." Therefore, they're redefining what they call leisure time. The "gottas" consume time not working or sleeping -- the definition of free time. What women used to call their work -- washing, scrubbing, caring for children -- has now become their free-time activity.

And it isn't just women who are experiencing this free-time identity crisis. Men, who have traditionally defined themselves by their occupations, today feel more vulnerable, less secure in the workplace. So rather than risk the full ego-crush of losing both a job and their identity, men are starting to redefine themselves by what they do with their leisure time. It's safer, more consistent. "The conversations you hear among men now have an awful lot to do with how they spend their leisure time," Mr. Spring says. But that places a whole new set of burdens on them. "Now they feel they must become Renaissance men."


What do you do to save time, to make life easier? What have you cut down on or cut out to make more time for yourself and your family? Have you found a way to simplify your lifestyle? Call the Sundial number that follows to tell us your tips and thoughts. Future columns will feature your ideas. Be sure to leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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