Sorry if the following is a bit rambling, but it's the best I can do this early in the morning. "Anyone else out there experiencing this?"
I'm not. My in-laws are just amazed I can play anything at all on their POS upright in the sitting room. "I spend so much time on my lesson pieces and studies that I’m not spending much time except for trying to sight read"
It's all a matter of priorities and what you want to be able to play and when. One of my goals is to eventually be able to play a dozen or so popular and Christmas songs from memory. Another is to be able to sight read simple block chorded pop songs.
While I enjoy playing classical, the Rach 3 is never going to be in my repertoire so my goal there is to learn only the pieces that I sincerely love that are doable.
To meet my goals, at this time of year, I'm limiting my classical work to a couple of pieces (the Fur Elise that I started in September and the Scarlatti K32). Starting in October I focus on learning two Christmas songs at a time. The first two I learned this year were "Christmas Time is Here" and "Do you Hear what I Hear"; two of my favorites. I'm now working on very, very challenging arrangements of "I Wonder as I Wander" and "Oh Holy Night".
I spend about 20 minutes on each piece a day. Sometimes I have to skip a day on a particular piece and sometimes I can spend two or three 20 minute sessions on different sections of a piece. If I had less time available for practice, I would focus on one classical piece and one Christmas carol.
If learning Christmas music isn't one of your goals and you just want to be able to sight read them, then explain that to your friends/family. In three years, you should have at least two or three solid classical pieces in your repertoire though. If you don't, then I would recommend memorizing several pieces so you have something to play at any given time."seem to think that it doesn’t take that long to “just play” I’m a little discouraged by this"
Don't be discouraged. Can they "just play" the music??? If not, then you're still ahead of them. If they can, then they've probably been playing since they were a child. Playing by ear or even from a fake book is NOT easy and it takes quite a while to be proficient at it. And even then, it has to be one of your goals and you have to focus time on acquiring those skills.