Blogger and writer Jessica N. Turner offers an empowering account of a woman’s liberation from societal expectations and pressures to be perfect. In My Fringe Hours: Discovering a More Creative and Fulfilled Life, a follow-up to winter 2015’s The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You, Turner more fully fleshes out the concept of fringe hours: the hours that are just for you.
As a writer who established herself on her blog, themomcreative.com, and has also contributed to HuffPost Parents and Parenting.com, Turner speaks to wives and mothers who feel tapped out or overwhelmed by the expectations placed on them.
Turner’s “Fringe Principles” include “I believe in giving thanks and choosing joy” and “I believe that I can make time for myself.” The exercises she weaves throughout the book can be straightforward questions and answers or extremely detailed time-tracking sheets and ways to record commitments, priorities, and passions on a scale. Turner is no doubt creative; the guided exercises are varied enough to engage the reader who might feel nonplussed by conventional fill-in-the-blank worksheets.
The book is visually appealing, too, with bright but not too-harsh colors and a welcoming art direction that speaks to Turner’s warm and encouraging message. Full-page quotes on self-worth, empowerment, courage, and faith are generously — and strategically — positioned through the book, supporting Turner’s accessible prose and somewhat subversive message.
Indeed, even in 2016, the concept that a married woman and/or mother might need to claim time for herself amidst the pressures of kids, housework, career, community obligations, and a partner is a little subversive. At one point Turner writes, “You don’t have to be bound by unreasonable expectations of what you ‘should do’ anymore. And you don’t have to appease an imaginary Pinterest-perfect persona that doesn’t exist. Let those self-imposed pressures go. You’ll find that it’s more than enough to be just who you were created to be.”
Though women might have made considerable strides in feminism over the last fifty years, new pressures to be the perfect wife and mother have crept up in turn. Some of the pressure to perform is in fact online, on Pinterest and elsewhere. According to 2012 statistics, there are 3,900,000 “mom blogs” in North America. This does not include the competition on Pinterest and other social media sites to create shareable crafts, recipes, and blog posts on food, faith, frugal living, and family.
In 2016, moms are under more of a microscope than ever, given the expectations to live a fulfilling life that can be captured in high-definition photographs and potentially lead to a book deal. In other words, it makes total sense that Turner’s concept of fringe hours would apply now more than ever.
Turner’s argument sometimes seem alarming — after all, do women really need to be told in 2016 to “Post a note somewhere visible reminding you, ‘I am worth it. I matter. I am valuable?’” It seems they do. Even if the stereotype of the 1950s housewife might be the spiritual ancestor of some of Turner’s audience, at least that 1950s housewife did not have to maintain an active social media life under pressure to share her day with other women, whether it was glamorous or wholesome or not. Though uplifting, Turner’s book ultimately speaks to the encroachment of new pressures on women.
My Fringe Hours will help many readers, especially married women with children who are religious (something Turner implies when she speaks about faith). Turner’s book does not lean on superficial exercises but rather on ones that are comforting yet challenging and that lead to substantial self-reflection. One closes the book hopeful that contemporary women will identify with Turner’s message and start practicing self-care and bolstering self-worth.
My Fringe Hours: Discovering a More Creative and Fulfilled Life
Revell, December 2015
Hardcover, 144 pages