I’m Busy, Busy, Dreadfully Busy
People love to talk about how busy they are, as if being busy were a means of quantifying worth or success. Dreadfully Busy, like the song from VeggieTales many years ago. Busy doesn't mean successful. It's not a virtue. But everyone is busy. Retired people are busy. Unemployed people are busy. Er-rybody is busy. Who am I to judge, I mean it’s biblical.
Remember in the Beatitudes where Jesus said,
"Blessed are the Busy for they run with their hair on fire."
Yeah me neither.
I don’t really care how any one busies themselves but many moms are living everyday in constant motion and going to bed at night feeling like a failure. The belief seems to be that being busy means you are accomplishing good things. I don't think moms intellectually connect those dots but I think if you look at the end result it's hard to deny that it appears to be the case. I mean, people do what works for them in some way no matter how bad it really is. Being busy makes us feel productive.
The downside is aftermath of a busy day, a busy week, a busy life. Those feelings of failure that whisper in our ear that we are not enough haunt us. How many times have we laid down or sat down exhausted only to have all the things we haven't done begin to prick at the corners of our conscience?
It isn't good to be busy.
Three Serious Pitfalls of Being Busy
Sacrificing Your Health
Women often forsake sleep to stay up and do all the housework they can’t manage to attend to during the waking hours because they are going full speed, all day, everyday. They get up before everyone is awake to get some traction on the day and they collapse worn out in bed at night. Sure, sometimes we do what we must to keep our home in order but if you are keeping a manic pace as a way of life, believe me when I say it will catch up to you.
Maintaining a life of constant motion and endless activity always catches up to us. It can take 10 or more years before you begin to the see the effects of adrenaline fatigue, poor diet and lack of rest.
Busyness prevents us from keeping a proper diet and regular exercise. The standard response to suggestions to work out is always a lack of time. We eat on the go, we opt for convenience foods, take out or we have half our meals in the car or at the soccer field.
This is not living well. Children's activities can never come before the wellness and peace of the family. No matter how much they enjoy it or how much we believe they will win scholarships and make it to the big leagues.
Our brains need quiet time. Our bodies need time to restore and recuperate. When we keep a harried pace we are often far too busy to notice subtle changes in our health that can indicate a more serious condition. You cannot sacrifice your health for the sake of the color coded calendar of events on the wall.
Going On Auto-Pilot
The second pitfall in my experience and observation is even worse than being over-tired. When the schedule begins to lead the family we find ourselves on auto-pilot. A family can never run for very long on auto-pilot. This is how disaster creeps in.
Most families do not recognize that there are serious issues at work in their kids until their children enter the tween and teen years. Until then no one has the time to see it coming. By this point families are left only to wring their hands trying to figure out how they ended up with kids who won't talk to them or who internalize their pain. Kids who are experimenting with drugs, sexually active, suicidal, choosing friends poorly, disinterested in life, abandoning their faith, dropping out of things they once loved.
Sometimes there will be serious challenges and some of them can’t be prevented. Other times what really happened is the family was on auto-pilot for many years and it took a nose dive while no one was looking. It takes a great deal of bravery to acknowledge this. It's much easier to blame the child, the culture, those video games! But family issues mostly flow from family dynamics. Knowing and understanding this is how you can repair them.
Marriages fall apart when no one is minding the course. This might be the area that is most obliterated by Auto-Pilot. One spouse often feels resentment when the children’s busy schedules consumes life and attention. Dates, quiet times, long weekends and a healthy sex life, all the things that keep love alive don’t make the priority list when mom is exhausted and the family is dashing here and there. Couples drift apart, grow apart. This is why we see couples divorcing after the children reach high school or college. They look at each other and they discover there is nothing left. They lost one another.
Shifting the Focus from Family to Friends
When we busy ourselves with too much work and too many activities we switch the focus of our lives from faith and family to peers. Somehow we have gotten it into our heads that our kids need to be involved in scouts, music, dance, sports, school clubs, drama, community organizations, church organizations and every other thing imaginable so that we have well rounded children we can brag about. We no longer scoff at those people who ask about socialization. Instead we VALIDATE their concerns by rattling off all the activities our kids are involved in to prove they are socialized. (I'm face palming right now) No. That's not how we want to respond to the socialization question.
The investment of time and money to participate in these activities sends a strong message. It tells the children these are essential pieces of their lives. Pieces that outweigh other pieces, like ordinary family time. They become more important than staying home and having dinner around the table every night. More important than a Saturday gardening with mom or throwing a football in the yard with dad. We have young adults depressed, failing to launch into life and clinging to the apron strings into their 30's.
Could it be that we spent their childhood convincing them that life is an endless sea of busyness and activities and now ordinary life is depressing? Friendships, outings, banquets, contests, camps and stimulation wire them to expect an unending stream of entertainment.
Parents as well as children become deeply invested in the friendships and social time spent. Done in balance, the attachments can be positive, over-scheduling however, is a pitfall to avoid.
Resisting the urge to be busy is counter-cultural. You will be swimming up stream. The most important component is to understand that the most important things we do with our kids will never be considered urgent and they will never be on the schedule. If you are on the front end of this journey, consider this advice from someone on the back end.
The most important things we do with our kids will never
be considered urgent and they will never be on the schedule.
Inoculating them against future problems involves so much listening. Talking with them about your life, your childhood. Snuggling. Reading. Exploring and going on adventures. Allow me to clarify Adventures. The Adventures I speak of don't include 19 of your closest friends. They don't involve schedules or uniforms.
The Adventures of an Ordinary Life means hobbies. Interests. Being Outdoors. Appreciating nature, the seasons, your family. It means coming up with an idea and making it happen. It's not an organized event. It's a rabbit trail event.
The most important thing you can give your child is what Matthew Kelly calls, Carefree Timelessness. The kind of time that isn’t about “quality” time (a perhaps too convenient way for parents to spend less real time with their kids) and instead giving them quantity time. Not looking at the clock, not wrapping up to get to the next thing. Unplugged from phones and fully engaged in them.
The people who are happiest, put first things first, schedule only the things they cannot avoid and keep their hands on the wheel, never allowing their family to go on auto-pilot.
Time can't be wasted or saved, only spent. Don’t spend it being busy doing things that won’t matter in the long run.