"Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."
--Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
Last night a friend called me lamenting this phenomenon. A teacher who is raising two children on her own, she was upset because she can’t fulfill all of the demands on her time, even during a weekend, which one might think offers a wealth of free hours. "How am I to be a good friend, a good parent, and a good teacher?” she queried. I couldn't offer apropos words of wisdom except to remind her that she could only continue to do her best and to reassure her that friends would forgive her if she didn't call us back immediately or get together with us every weekend.
This past Friday I had a day “off,” but found myself spending over five hours in Starbucks grading Beowulf essays. (Mid-day I switched from caffeinated beverages to water to avoid heart palpitations.) Late that afternoon, I decided to squeeze in a trip to the movies before attending my older son’s evening football game. When I arrived at the theater, I realized that the show time posted online was off by twenty-minutes, and that I had arrived early. I sat in the parking lot fretting. Should I go in and be away from my 13-year-old son and husband at dinner time, before rushing to my older son’s football game? Was I a bad mother yet once again indulging myself? (I had, after all, spent two weeks away from my family this past summer.) The movie I really wanted to see was only playing at one theater in the entire Charlotte metropolitan area, and the length of its run time was dubious. After driving out of the parking lot to forgo the movie and head home, I decided to let go of my guilt and ended up as one of only four women in the theater, where I laughed my head off at farcical Austenland, a film whose heroine is a kindred spirit—a Jane Austen fan obsessed with Mr. Darcy.