I recently attended an educational webinar produced by a large sales company. Drawn to its description that advertised, “flexibility, endless possibilities, and big financial rewards,” I was curious to learn more. Within minutes, the top agents shared their “sales secrets” with us newbies. Some of the advice included, “Never miss a phone call,” “Bring your laptop or phone to dinner,” and “Work on weekends to reach the most people.” Do this, and success will follow. I watched as hundreds of in-person attendees dutifully took notes, jotting these tips down (destined to become someone’s future screensaver or motivational poster.)
On the other hand, I was left stunned. I couldn’t believe this message was still so pervasive. Did we not learn anything from the pandemic? Even if life is beginning to return to normal in some ways, didn’t we value the slower pace and balance we had come to know? Perhaps I was simply under the illusion that the world had temporarily slowed its cadence, all while busyness found a new home in the form of digital overload, social media, and endless Zoom meetings.
I promised myself at that moment I would work to combat busyness and reestablish balance in my work life. I was not ready to be busy in the same way as I was before.
Surely, having readily spotted the (re) glorification of busyness in the workplace, I would be on guard to not allow it into my home. My quarantine sanctuary. After all, I was the mom who prioritized balance and peace amongst the chaos that was raising two, tiny humans. I knew that I’m not ready to be busy like that ever again.
Despite this false bravado, I was becoming busyness’ victim once more.
This time, in the form of a blog I started as my pandemic hobby. (Move over, sourdough!) I began with this vision of connecting with other moms, curating activities with themes for them to do with their children online. I wanted it to be filled with lots of tips, tricks, and ideas for making any old day at home a bit more playful, and educational. I mean, when the entire world is on lockdown, home-based activities are urgently needed!
But, as my concept grew, so too did the pressure to perfect this model and make an impact. The idea of “growing my following” and “improving the analytics” translated into planning a daily craft/activity for my children and me to do, editing videos for hours on end, stealing moments away from my husband and me at night, all while also showing up online across multiple platforms. It was fulfilling work, and yet, it left me ragged, a skeleton of the mom, wife, and human I was just weeks prior.
It finally came to a head for me weeks ago when I was planning my 40th or so activity for my blog and realized neither my child nor I really wanted to do what I had planned for that day’s agenda. It promised to be a popular activity, full of color and excitement, and yet it represented none of those ideals to me. Instead, it felt like a lifeless and obligatory chore. This was the opposite of why I started this blog in the first place. I wanted it to be fun and fulfilling, right?! I needed a break from my hobby!
It was during this break that I recognized just how much busyness has crept into other areas of my life, as well. As the pandemic restrictions dwindled, my excitement for ‘normalcy’ returned. I was anxious to (re)socialize my children into the world, have Friday night drinks with friends, and grow my current job position. The world felt full of possibilities again, only limited by my calendar and my children’s nap schedules.
Like many of you, I am sure, I wanted to leave much of the past year in quarantine behind me: the fear; the slow, monotonous days; the lack of any social calendar with friends or family. But I failed to consider what parts I wanted to keep. Particularly, the calmness and togetherness my family had achieved.
During our long, (sometimes) repetitive days together, my family and I had many a discussion about our goals. I was reminded of why we moved to Vermont in the first place, in search of a slower lifestyle and more time together. We talked about our mission, “experiences over things,” but reflected on how this should not come at the expense of our sanity or budget. I even revisited my word for 2021, “balance,” a word that held added meaning now that it was threatened and forced out of whack.
Having succumbed to busyness, yet again, I wanted to figure out how best to recalibrate. How can I protect and maintain my family’s calmness and togetherness while also embracing the possibilities ahead? I know that I am not ready to be busy like I was before.
Here are some examples of the tough questions I needed to ask to protect my newfound peace since I was not ready to be busy like I was before:
- Work: Can I proactively talk with my supervisor about our shared goals and values? What do I have the capacity to take on right now? How can I put in place some boundaries to prevent myself from overcommitting? What can I outsource? What support do I need?
- Children: What are the priorities for our kids in their current season of life? Can those swim lessons wait another year or is it important to do those now? What about those playdates? Can I fit that in-between child A and B’s nap today? Is there a manageable balance between being active and having downtime to allow their imaginations to bloom?
- Partner: When was the last time we had a date night? What are the other things, (i.e., our devices) that make us feel busier than we really are and draw us away from each other? How can we reconnect without making our lives busier?
- Self: When was the last time I took time to “just be?” How can I return to some of my hobbies, more mindfully? How can I spend less time comparing myself to those other parents on social media who are “doing it all?” What activities feed my soul, rather than satisfying my expectations of what I should be doing/feeling/producing/creating?
Contrary to what one might think, I have learned that it can benefit me to schedule more rather than less. But, instead of overrunning my schedule with tedious tasks and society’s idea of “must-dos,” I put pen to paper and schedule time for the things that matter to me:
- 10-11 am, crafting with child A: Turns out, I still like crafting at the end of the day. Scheduling time to make things with my kids feels good, and often allows me to connect with them one-on-one. But, as I’ve learned, it’s also important for me to not overdo it. Setting some parameters is crucial for this Pinterest-worthy Mom!
- 5-6pm, dinner with my family: Sharing most of our meals together is a big way our family stays connected. It also is a scientifically proven way to strengthen our relationships, make healthier food choices, save money, and reduce stress.
- 9-10 pm, kid-free time: If I had my druthers, I would probably watch a lot more tv. But, my husband and I can rarely find a show we agree on (Except, Ted Lasso!) So, this time is often spent differently, based on our moods. Sometimes it’s catching up on the day, while other times it’s sitting silently with a good book and a hot cup of tea by my side. I like knowing that, regardless, once the kids are in bed, there is some space carved out to decompress.
Now, when I’m tempted to fill that “extra” time with another work call, a craft, or an invitation to go out with friends, I can refer back and let them know that time is spoken for. “Sorry, I’m busy (being unbusy).” I know that I am not ready to be busy like I was before.
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