Am I Really Busy. . . or Does It Just Feel That Way?

Any way you cut it, life as a parent is busy. Or, at least it feels that way. Some days I’m filled with a feeling that most parents have had to varying degrees at different times. There are not enough hours in the day. Weeks and months fly by. To-do lists grow longer. I’m one skipped nap away from chaos. I feel busy.

But a recent New York Times article reminded me that most of us who feel busy actually choose to be so. Perhaps, the only truly busy people are those whose days are filled with back-to-back shifts at work or single parents who are responsible for their kids 24/7. Many of the things that make me feel busy (projects, committees, etc) are things that I choose to do.

And, the truth is that if someone says to me, “I don’t know how you do it all”, the honest response is, “I don’t.” When life gets busy we all prioritize. Sometimes even without thinking about it. We make choices. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. What do I prioritize?  How can I do it better? How do I un-busy myself? How do I make space for quiet or play?

So, here are a few confessions from a “busy” mom about things I’m not really doing, and what I’m making time for.

1. I rarely floss. When I admitted this at my recent visit to the dentist, the hygienist looked a bit shocked and said, “Wow, I’m surprised you are so honest about that.” Apparently the five minutes I save every day are going to cost me in the end. This made me feel guilty enough that I started flossing religiously for about a week, and then I forgot again.

2. I rarely cook. I like to cook, but sometimes arrive home late. My husband, who gets home earlier, does the vast majority of cooking in our house. This has revolutionized our evenings. I come home without that sense of dread about finding something quick for dinner. And, he is a great cook. The three of us enjoy a healthy dinner and time together.

3. I rarely exercise anymore. This one’s hard for me to admit. Before becoming a mom, I exercised most days. I’m still active- we take a lot of walks and I rarely sit down at work. But, I miss that feeling of exhilaration after a good run or the joy of a great dance class. I completely understand in clinic when parents tell me that they have difficulty finding the time to exercise. But, we’ve gotta do it. This is one I have to figure out.

4. I don’t get enough sleep. I keep telling myself that I’ll be in bed by 10pm. . . and then two hours later I’m wondering what happened. The thing is, for most parents, the only “me” time is that window between the kids’ bedtime and our own. This is the time to talk to my husband, to write, to catch up on email, to read. It’s hard to give it up.

5. I rarely watch television. This actually happened after I started writing. I just don’t have time for much TV anymore. Phew, finally something I’m proud of.

6. Sometimes the to-do list sits idle. I am a list maker. It helps me to remember things and feel more organized. I’ve even been known to write down a task I’ve already done, just for the joy of crossing it out. But, I’m not above pushing back due dates for non-essential tasks if it makes space for doing something spontaneous or meaningful. Many of the “non-essential tasks” begin with the words “clean the. . . ”

After reading through all of that, I start to wonder what it is I am actually doing. Well, some pretty cool stuff actually.

1. I get to spend time with my family and friends. When I am with my son it is truly his time. We go to parks, we walk outside, we blow bubbles, we dance. I don’t write when he’s awake and try to stay away from the screens. If I have a chore to do, I try to have him help in some way. If not, the chore can wait.

2. I get to work. At times I may lose sight of it, but most days I have a moment of true appreciation for my job. What an honor it is to be able to care for children every day. To partner with families in improving their child’s health. To do work that has meaning for me.

3. I get to write. I continue to be amazed by how quickly this became an integral part of my life. It makes me think. It helps me learn. It puts me in touch with new and interesting people and ideas.

So, I’m doing a few things right. And, I’ve got a little work to do. . . exercise and sleep top that list. Oh, and flossing, definitely flossing. I might not be “doing it all”, but that’s okay. Hopefully I’m mostly staying busy with what’s important and feeling grateful for the choices I have.

Feeling busy? How do you save time? What do you prioritize? What falls away?


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