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Midday Getaways : From exercising to idling in the park, working women choose various ways to recharge amid stress.

August 07, 1992|BARBARA BRONSON GRAY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Barbara Bronson Gray is a regular contributor to Valley Life

Gillian McDonald typically works all day without taking a lunch break. A Burbank-based meeting planner for the Pacific Coast Electrical Assn., McDonald, 50, says her work is fast-paced and often frenetic.

But she allows herself one weekly $45 luxury: an hourlong massage at Nice To Be Kneaded in Burbank.

"It really puts me back to life," she said. "It recharges my batteries. It's my treat to me."

Working women choose a wide range of midday getaways to relieve the stress of the day, from bargain shopping to full-on aerobics, from taking a sack lunch and reading a good book at a nearby park to sipping espresso at a restaurant with an outdoor patio.

Whatever the outlet, Sandra Hale, coordinator of Women's Studies at Cal State Northridge, says that women need recharging even more than do men.

"One of the reasons it's even more valuable for women than for men is that we put in more hours in invisible labor, the work we do when watching TV at night--folding the laundry, for example," said Hale. "We need to give ourselves a break and need to play, if we can, a comparable amount of time."

Hale said that as recently as a decade ago, women were doing 95% of the domestic labor in the United States and spending an average of 50 hours a week on housework, according to "Endless Day: The Political Economy of Women and Work," (Harcourt Brace, 1982).

She admits, however, that she is a workaholic and rarely takes time off. "The ways I choose to play are invariably connected with my work," she said.

She justifies even her tune-out time, she said, by her need to keep up with things. "I do watch more television than most people in my milieu--which I justify as having to keep up with popular culture," she said.

Some working women offer no apologies for their time off. Helen Buiskool, art director for the Disney Channel Magazine in Burbank, said her work pace varies from deadline pressure, no-hope-for-a-lunch-break weeks to quieter periods. On the days without a deadline, Buiskool likes to take a picnic lunch and eat by the stream at the Japanese Tea Garden at Brand Park in Glendale.

Pamela Spencer, public affairs director for Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Woodland Hills, prefers to bargain shop in Warner Center, or, on cooler days, put on a pair of tennis shoes and walk to Warner Center Park or to the nearby malls. Sometimes, she said, she'll even opt for some leisurely reading at the Woodland Hills library. "It's quiet there--away from the phones," Spencer said.

Hale said the need for women to learn to take midday getaways has political impact as well as psychological and physiological value. "It's important to show that when women play they really play. We need to be comparable to men in what we allow ourselves," she said, "and men play hard."

Hale argues that pure relaxation has its benefits. "If I can engage in vegetative activities or physical activities, that's really an abrupt change and very, very restful," she said.

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