Monday, October 2, 2017

Why I'm Breaking Up With "BUSY"

When I think about last spring, it makes my blood pressure rise even now. Our schedule was absolutely insane. My three daughters were participating in at least two extracurricular activities EACH and those activities required me driving all over the county. Add to that my own part time job and associated responsibilities, some school meetings and volunteering, basic homework and household chores, and other family obligations. Then, top it off with a husband who travels a lot for work which meant most of the day to day logistics fell on me. Every single day, figuring out the schedule was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I was completely stressed and the kids were, too. 

At the end of it all, I was left asking myself, "Why are we doing all this? Are any of these activities really even worth all this turmoil?" Ultimately, I decided the answer was a resounding "No!" When I evaluated the usefulness and enjoyment of each activity vs. the stressfulness of them all, the scales were tipped quite drastically in the direction of distress and aggravation. 

That's when I decided to break up with "busy." 
Did you know that a recent study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that being busy has become the newest indicator of social status? When presented with a fake social media account created by the researchers, study participants assigned the person behind the account a higher social status when the account posted updates about working long hours and a lower social status when the account posted more about leisure time. Another study done by the University of Chicago found that people actually dread being idle. Therefore, they propose that people actually expend energy justifying the need to stay "busy."

I remember just a few years ago, when I asked someone,"How are you?" or someone asked me the same, the typical, auto-response was, "Fine, thanks! How are you?" Now, the answer I usually get AND the answer I usually give is, "You know, busy busy, busy!" often followed by a run down of all the latest activities on the schedule. It seems we are always trying to let others know that our lives are full and dispel even the slightest notion that we are sitting idly around twiddling our thumbs.

But, what's really wrong with just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, or reading a book, or having a family dinner in which we don't all have to hurry to scarf down our food between activities?  Why can't we just have a quiet, relaxed evening at home without feeling like we (or our children) are missing out on something?

Many times in the past, I have found myself hoping that soccer practices or riding lessons are rained out. I've been relieved when instructors cancelled activities, even when the reason for the cancellations was something such as illness. I've put off appointments and chores because there just wasn't enough time in the schedule for them. I've longed for "down time" with unscheduled space, but, when it rolled around, I felt guilty for enjoying the calm (or at the very least, I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something terribly important becasue I was so un-used to having "gaps" in the schedule).

Look, I've got three kids, a part time job, a husband who works full time and travels a lot, and a household to run. That means that our lives are always going to be inherently busy to a certain degree and I will not deny my kids the opportunity to participate in activities they truly love that are honestly enriching them in some way. Not in my wildest dreams will I ever be able to come home every single night, have a peaceful dinner, and, then, kick my feet up until all the kids go cooperatively to bed. The thing is, though, that I/we can choose not to make it even busier and when we have "down time," we can laugh or rest and give ourselves permission to enjoy it rather than feeling repentant.

At the end of the day, each family has to do what is best for them. Maybe your kid is a future pro soccer player and all those hours of practice are worth it. Maybe dance classes three nights a week will yield a professional ballerina. Perhaps the 4:00am swim lessons will someday lead to an Olympic medal. It's possible that having an overflowing schedule invigorates (rather than agitates) you. It's also possible that your kid enjoys the activities he/she does immensely and would be very disappointed to cut them out. However, in my house, none of those scenarios are true and when the stress overshadows the enjoyment, I know it is time to make some changes. We're one month into the school year and I can already tell it's making a difference.

So, farewell "Busy." It's not me, it's you & I really, really need some space this year. 


Janine Huldie said...

I truly needed this memo this morning as the girls had picture day today, plus early morning chorus at school. Between them taking forever to get dressed up and me trying to get their hair done just so, I feel like a ran a marathon already today! But still I need to break up with busy and take your advice here now more than ever!!!

Dana said...

Amen, Lisa! I've found we are less busy with only one kid at home, but it comes and goes in cycles. I hope you are able to lower the stress level in your house now - you all deserve it!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

It's harder than I thought it would be, but so very worth it.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

It does come in cycles, for sure. I can already tell a difference in all of our stress levels, though!

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