Become a Lady of Leisure


At five o’clock in the afternoon, it’s not uncommon to walk by the Café de Flore in Saint Germain des Pres in Paris’s Left Bank and find women doing nothing but sitting at a table staring out at the world passing by.  Across the city in the Right Bank, you’ll discover a woman lying on a blanket with a book in hand in the Jardin des Tuileries.  Along the Seine, women will stroll (not power walk) with no apparent purpose other than to enjoy the moment.

Changing the gears (into overdrive)…

Across the Atlantic, American women are going to gym classes they loathe, writing newsletters they dread sending out each week, heading up committees that are uninspiring, eating foods that don’t nourish them, taking little Johnny to his SAT prep at twelve years old, staring at Facebook or folding mountains of laundry from clothes they don’t enjoy wearing.

We wonder why our culture is full of women who are uninspired, exhausted, struggling with her body and depressed?

However, to suggest to a woman that she takes some time for herself seems as unacceptable as picking her nose in public.  “I can’t do that. I have too much to do,” she’ll reply.

Personally, I’ve discovered that underneath the endless checklists and mindless doing are women living in fear, mostly the fear of the future.

What if little Johnny doesn’t get into an Ivy League school?  

What if I gain weight?  

What if I’m not on Facebook and the world forgets me?  

What if my business fails?  

What if people judge me?  

Sadly, these false fears keep women on the treadmill of life, running them ragged.

Therein lies the big difference between French and American women.

French women are ladies of leisure and the present moment is where they live.  They view time very differently than their American sisters.  Time is not something to fill with mindless doing to avoid future calamity.

Time is something to fill with pleasure to enjoy that
which you have in this moment.  (Click to Tweet)

This is why you’ll find French women lingering over long lunches, taking a little (or a lot) of extra time to finish a project or spending her evenings luxuriating in a bubble bath.

She’s not in a race to get “there.”  She desires to maximize “here.”

I’m convinced that this is one of the French woman’s secrets to that je ne sais quoi we often speak about.  She avoids the constant state of tension caused by bracing herself for an unknown future.  Instead, she’s relaxed, fully engaged with the mystery of life. She understands that life is a big unknown.

The only thing she can control is herself in this moment.

As a woman who used to fear leisure time, my French sisters showed me that my home will not fall apart if I choose to skip folding laundry to read Proust, or my business will not crumble if I choose to take a mini-sabbatical.

A woman that carves out time for pleasure is a woman that creates space for inspiration, connection and love.

Now, you may or may not know this about me, but I am a huge fan of leisurely hustling.  There are seasons in our lives (or hours in our day) that we hustle to make create a life we love.  And, equally, we must create space to nourish ourselves, be inspired and to enjoy the fruits of our labor, to savor this moment.

This isn’t a black and white concept. It’s not a perfect science.  Instead, it’s about an awareness of how you’re living your life and if you’re happy with the results. I suspect many of you need more leisure in your lives.

I challenge you to test drive this French feminine secret:

Spend twenty minutes each day doing something just for the sheer pleasure of it – no goals or agendas other than your own enjoyment.

Want more French inspiration?  I created a fabulous ebook with 15 nuggets of wisdom that will elevate the quality of your life.

It’s called:  An Insider’s Guide to the French Way of Life:
How to Live with Elegance, Style & Joie de Vivre.
You can grab your free copy here.


I’d love to hear your thoughts around leisure time.  I promise you that becoming a woman of leisure will make your more powerful and impactful than ever.  French women know this.

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21 Responses to Become a Lady of Leisure

  1. I love this. Over the past year I’ve taken a sabbatical from life as I had known it and had struggled for years to live to spend time dismantling everything I was not to uncover all that I was and give birth to my truth. Surprisingly when I made the decision to take my sabbatical it had been a month after I returned from my first trip to Paris. I haven’t made the connection however for many years I felt off and I just knew that my life was meant to be much different. I am in a place where I can say that last year has been an incredible and beautiful experience for me and I am now ready to be in this world as the woman I meant to. It is so liberating! During this whole process of my own unraveling Paris has definitely been calling to me. I am reminded of one line in a book I read…”Paris is a place where woman are truly liberated”. When the time comes I look forward to an extended stay in Paris and allow the city to show me what I am feeling for it deep in my heart.

    • Jeannette,

      I agree with your comment. Paris liberated me and introduced me to a way of being that felt true!

  2. This post is such an inspiration. It reminds me of my cruise to the coast of France last year and, yes, how the French women did seem unhurried and leisurely. They have a wonderful sense of self and belonging in the world and the striving due to fear is not there. Somehow 20 minutes does not seem like enough – I want an hour!

    • Pam, my dear, I’d LOVE for you to take an hour or more. And, I agree, we need more than 20 minutes of leisure per day. However, for some women, it’s a great place to start.

  3. So so true! Thank you for the reminder to slow down. Living for the here and now doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it out to be. And living for pleasure, not fear, should be a no brainer! xo

  4. Tonya, what a gift you are. Your words, the way you live and what you share with the world. I’ve posted, reposted, and shared some more, that is how much I love this article. Will be featuring it in my ‘share’ section of my August newsletter. Thank you!

  5. Oh I love this! And who wouldn’t want a little more French in their lives?!?! This is going to be my project for the next week. Question: can I drink expensive French champaign whilst doing it??? x

    Vari x

  6. Such a beautiful and thoughtful post! I make an attempt each day to take a few minutes to just sit back, relax and enjoy everything that I have, but I admit, every now and again I do feel a tinge of guilt. There’s a lot I could be doing during those leisure moments.
    Ultimately, I always remind myself that when I am happy, relaxed and at peace, that energy translates to my family. I am a happier, more relaxed and peace-filled mama, wife and friend. And they love me best that way!
    I think I’ll go spend a few minutes right now and enjoy the sun in my backyard. Hope you are doing the same!! xoxox

  7. This is one of my greatest challenges. I used to think that I didn’t even HAVE any leisurely activities, that my leisure was work – but that, of course, is farce. Better to just find something that I enjoy doing and do it! Thank you so much for this beautiful article.

  8. Great post, as always. As a “Charleston lady of leisure” I went to the beach after work yesterday, all by myself. It was absolutely delicious! After playing in the water I just sat on my towel and watched everyone else, especially the dogs! xo

  9. Hi Tonya, your article reinforced my conviction that being a lady of leisure (I don’t know any of my friends or colleagues who are) keeps me creative and productive, at peace and inspired. Thank you!

  10. What a lovely inspiring read. It took me back to my first visit to Paris, a culinary focused week that I’ll never forget. Upon my return to the US, I remember having this strange sensation of “homesickness.” But how could I be homesick for a country I had only briefly visited? I realized sometime later that the longing was for the leisurely paced, more sensual life I had experienced in Paris.

  11. For the past month, I’ve been feeling like a lady of leisure. I find myself in a gym class laughing and dancing, or lingering in my favorite department stores looking for something special. I’m not rushing, I’m not feeling pressured. I teach a class, go home grade papers but I’m not in a panic. I stop and get a mani pedi and keep my days moving. I wondered what was happening to me, a lady of leisure. That’s me. I love it. And so I wanted a definition and thus I stumbled upon your website. I new Paris was calling my name.

  12. Dear Tonya,
    The most wonderful and special moments of my life have been when I was “forced” to slow down and enjoy the life around me. I knew in those instances that is how I wanted to live…in a state of being relaxed and joy for the simplest of things. Thank you for reminding me again how precious time is and wasting one moment is so very wrong. Leisure is not a waste but a “hug for your soul”. I plan on doing a lot of hugging on myself in the months ahead.

  13. I am allowing myself to unabashedly love my leisure.. this is a big transformation from a former work-aholic. There is still a struggle in ‘doing enough to pull or inspire my work forward’ vs ‘having enough inspired down time to provide for me and others.’

    • Great article and great wake up call to women of the West, although can’t help but think a balance is better than too much either way. The French way seems a little too selfish or self indulgent, and their culture is different toward marriage and family, and work actually,so perhaps meeting halfway would be better.

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