Ask any one of your friends with kids how they are doing and they will most likely say “Busy.”
But what is “busy” really, why are we so busy, and why is thinking we’re busy actually harmful?
When we say we are busy, what we mean is we are having thoughts that make us feel overwhelmed and busy. When we have a to-do list as long as our arm, we think we need to get it all done. It is a THOUGHT, not a fact, which is good for us parents who think we never have enough hours in the day! We have the thought that we are busy and so our emotions are created by that thought – emotions of frustration, fatigue, overwhelm – negative emotions. But why would we want to create unnecessary negative emotions in our lives?
Partly, we are encouraged to be “busy” by our culture and society, and by our friends and family. When you’re busy, people think you as accomplishing a lot, and they sympathize with you and your plight, which feels good. They commiserate and relate and act like it’s normal and useful to be busy. Everyone is in the same busy boat. In addition, we have so many more choices in today’s world that we ever have had in the past which is compounded with the expectation that we can be and do anything that we work hard for, so if we’re not busy, it is seemingly like we are not doing our best to be our best.
However, I want to propose that we take another look at “busy” and not just take for granted being busy is just a fact of life.
In fact, “busy” is a thought, not a fact. We think we’re busy because of the thoughts we are having about what think we need to accomplish, not because we have a lot to do on our to do list. We actually have a choice about whether or not we think we are busy. And once we stop thinking we are busy, we can also feel better, which is a wonderful thing!
But why is everyone so busy? There are many reasons why we feel overwhelmed when parenting. Let’s talk about your to-do list. We all have one, whether it is in our heads or written out on paper. But really, who writes your to-do lists? Who decides what’s important enough to be on it? You do! And how many of us feel guilty when we are so busy doing all the things on our lists that we are not spending enough time with our families or taking care of ourselves? I certainly don’t thrive without those things.
When I had my third baby, my to-do list got longer and harder to accomplish at the same time. I started to feel like I was spending all my time cooking, cleaning, and reorganizing, and even though I was home all day with my kids, I felt like I never spent quality time with them. I would get frustrated when I was cleaning and the kids would interrupt me because I felt like I had to get it all done. It was making me crazy! What was happening was that I wasn’t even questioning my to-do list and it was wearing me out and making me feel like a failure as a mom. I couldn’t see that I was the one pressuring myself to complete my list and in reality, it was all optional.
Like me, you may think that you have to do everything on your list. But after I really looked at it, I realized it wasn’t true.
So, I decided to focus more on what I believed was important in my life, like spending time with my family and friends, exercising, and coaching with my clients. Think about your own to-do list. How could prioritizing and letting go of some to-do items on your list help you spend more time on what you want in your life? Do you really need to say yes to all of the invitations you receive so your weekend ends up being packed? Does your house need to be perfectly clean all the time? Or is time enjoying your family more important? Or getting outside? Or spending time with your spouse?
Remember, YOU MAKE THE LIST. You can make it shorter.
Recognize also all of the mental to-do lists you may have running in your head. All of the little requests people make of you, that you don’t question and just say yes to. Or another busy trap is that you think it’s your responsibility to solve everyone’s problem, even if they don’t ask you to. It’s a habit parents get into that is not good for the parents or the child. Does your child actually want help? Or do they just need a listening ear?
Pause and ask yourself if you’re on autopilot when someone asks you to do something for them and decide if you really need to jump or if it can wait or if you can delegate it to someone else.
When your child yells from another room that they need something do you jump to get it for them? When they ask you to give them a ride or make them a snack to you stop and think whether you really can at that moment? Real life doesn’t work this way, and it’s never too early for your kids to learn that most people won’t bend over backwards immediately when requested. And you will be less stressed if you decide to say no or make it fit into your priorities.
One way to get out of busy-ness trap is to make a list of your top 5 priorities.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time to think about it, just quick write them down. You can always change them later. And the top priority doesn’t always have to get the most time, just enough time. These will help you decide whether or not to say yes to things. For example, if my top priority is self care, and my to-do list includes exercise and cleaning the floor, I might exercise first if I’m short on time. Putting yourself at the top of the list might also make sense. But that’s another topic for another post. Question your to-do list using your priorities and also ask yourself if you can remove anything or delegate anything and do that.
As you start to do things that you need and want to do, instead of have to do, you will feel so much freer and as a result you will also be encouraging your family to take on more responsibilities. When your kids come to you with a problem, ask yourself (and them) if they really need help. Most times, handing the problem back to your kids while being a supportive parent if needed will help them become great problem solvers.
We realize that we are just trying to be the best parent we can be when we take on all of the responsibility, but in reality, taking a step back and thinking before you automatically say yes and do everything and handing your kids problems back to them will help you feel better and less busy. You will feel more in control of your time and your life and your kids will be more responsible and better problem solvers. And do your best to not think yourself into “busy” or encourage others to be “busy” too.
Together we can stop the glorification of “busy” and be happier while actually getting more done!
Are you ready to get more done while feeling less busy? Schedule a FREE 20 minute mini-session with me to see if coaching is right for you!