“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau
A wise woman, my mentor Gina Devee once told me “busy is boring.” That really struck me. As a busy mom, I had prided myself on all the shit I was juggling at any given moment. I wasn’t a mom who had balance or time for myself. I was a “good” mom who did it all, and therefore, was proud of how busy I was. My busyness was proof that I was working hard. And yet, her words stayed in my mind. Busy is boring.
The more I thought about it, the more I came to understand her point and the damn brutal truth of it. We like our busyness because it makes us feel important, but all that busy motion mostly makes life boring, repetitive, and anything but interesting. Busyness keeps us from what matters most. Busyness is running, and ruining, our lives.
Busy is Boring
Being busy doesn’t leave us any time or energy to actual do anything worthwhile besides just shuffle from one demanding thing to the next. I’d bet most of the things that keep you really busy aren’t particularly exciting or interesting, right? I mean, if you’re busy because you’re working on your novel, while planning your next kite surfing adventure, while opening an organic, gluten free bakery…I’d say you’re anything but boring and this post is not for you. But for the rest of us, we know something needs to change.
Daily life is so demanding, there’s always somebody who needs to be somewhere. There’s always another meal to make. There’s always one more thing, one more load of laundry, one more errand, one more glass of water at bedtime, always one more. You’re a super mom, juggling the nonstop demands, getting shit done, but isn’t the hamster wheel living getting old? I mean, when is the last time you felt in charge of your schedule or had time to yourself? When is the last time you did anything interesting?
Your life is good, it’s full. You have so much to be grateful for, you’re not even here to complain, but the reality is, it’s still probably pretty fucking mundane. I mean, if I try and do the math on how many bedtime battles fought, minivan miles driven, or bites of broccoli negotiated, I’d lose count.
There are divine moments in the space between of course, but mostly you are a slave to your schedule. You’re too busy to get together with friends. You’re too busy and tired to have sex with your husband. You’re too busy to exercise. You’re too busy to read that book you’ve been meaning to start for 6 months. You’re too busy to explore your passions and interests. Busy is robbing you of your entire life! Busy is taking all the fun, all the good, all the connection out of your average day. Busy IS boring!
Where Are You Even Going?
Amidst all the busy, we lose track of who we are and what we want. We aren’t moving towards something anymore, we’re just moving in circles. Remember the excitement you felt when you were expecting your first baby. The future was wide open and ripe with possibility. You had dreams and goals for your family. You let your values be your northern star and you made parenting decisions with intention. But as the years pass and life picks up speed, we spend more time reacting than acting in line with our values.
Chronic busyness is a sign that what we’re doing is completely unintentional.
When you are moving through life without a clear purpose or intention, when your only goal is survival, you have lost your way. That feeling of spinning out of control, juggling and rushing and hustling, is a warning that you are totally out of alignment. It means that you have taken on too much. It means that you aren’t clear on what you want or where you’re going, that you have lost your northern star.
We are such a slave to our busy schedules that we start eliminating everything we actually need. We eliminate rest and self care. We eliminate time with friends. We eliminate exercise. We eliminate date nights. We keep cutting away parts of our life, slowly dismantling who we are and wonder why we feel like robots.
You feel it don’t you? You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s like waking up in the middle of an average week and thinking “how the fuck did I get here? When did life get so busy? When did it get so hard? How do I begin to turn this ship around?”
Making real change feels impossible. We don’t want to settle for life this way but we do not have one ounce of energy to solve another problem.
It’s simpler than you think.
When you stop believing you have to do everything, you can do anything.
Getting Back on Track
First we need to acknowledge our busyness is crushing our spirits and stealing our joy. Somewhere along the way, we traded who we are and what we need for everything everyone thinks we should be doing, and then wonder why we’re fucking exhausted and burnt out. We need to go back to basics, back to the beginning of our parenting journey and remember what matters most to us.
I’ve heard it said, “if you want to know what’s important to someone, look at their calendar.” Are you dedicating your time to your values? Is your schedule full of stuff that brings you closer to the woman and mom you want to be or making it harder to connect with her? What do you want for your family? What do you want for yourself?
Successful bosses and CEOs know their companies can’t grow into their potential if they’re scattered and pulled in a hundred directions. They set specific goals and laser focus their energy. They know they could do more but that it’s better to do one thing well than 10 things half ass. So as total #mombosses, why don’t we adopt this way of thinking?
In order to break up with the busy, start by getting really clear on what you value, then set one specific goal for the month. Accept the wild idea that you actually need to slow down to get ahead, that doing less, better, is actually the key to personal growth.
Once you’ve checked in with your values and set an intention for the month, now it’s time to take some action. Let’s say you want to spend more quality time with your kids, ask yourself, “what can I do each week, over the next 4 weeks, to bring me into deeper connection with my kids?” Pull out your calendar and see what can be done. Maybe there’s an obligation you can cancel. Maybe there’s a few open hours you could plan a family activity. Maybe you could order carry out one night and save an hour and commit to family couch time instead.
Start making decisions about how to spend your time with intention. The more you do this, the more you’ll start using this as a filter before taking on more obligations. Maybe your son wants to join the baseball team, but perhaps that commitment is too much for your family right now. Maybe it will take too many hours driving him across town each week or occupy too many weekends or evenings. You do get to decide what’s best for your family, even if it is in conflict with what your kid want. I think as parents we often make decisions about our kids from a place of fear. We’re afraid to tell tell them no. We’re afraid if they don’t start something at 6 years old, we’ll ruin their opportunities for the rest of their life. We’re afraid they’ll feel left out if everyone else is doing something and they aren’t. We’re afraid they’ll be mad at us. We’re afraid we’re being selfish. We’re afraid we’re bad parents if we don’t give our kids everything they want. And so we do so much for our kids out of fear, even to the detriment of our family, potentially to the detriment of our relationships with our kids. We sacrifice time we could be deepening our connections with them for something we THINK is best for everyone.
I’m not saying don’t put your kids in sports. I’m not saying activities aren’t good for your kids or your family. I’m simply using this as an example. I’m here to remind you that before you take on more commitments, take a few moments to question your whys. Make sure you’re yeses are in alignment with your values, that they move you and your family closer to your goals, and that they aren’t made out of fear.
Like everything, awareness is the first step. Start paying attention to where all your damn time goes and start asking the question “does this obligation move me and my family closer to (or farther away from) where I want us to be?” Set monthly goals that align with your values and start taking baby steps towards creating space for what matters, letting go of busy for busy’s sake.
Check in with yourself, keep your intentions front and center, and know you can decide how your time is spent. You are absolutely in control.
My new motto, “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no”. Agree?