Does the idea of going without your smartphone calendar for an hour give you an anxiety …"Have you ever noticed how busy everyone always seems to be," my friend Micki asked me a year or so ago, "and how eager they are to tell you all about it?"
You know what she's talking about, right? You'll ask an acquaintance how she's doing, and get this missive: "Well, I'm fine," (pause for heavy sigh,) "but you know, I'm so busy. The kids have soccer, ballet, and violin lessons, and I'm running the school fundraiser, teaching Sunday school, and I have to make dinner for my sister-in-law, who's visiting from Ohio. I guess I'll have to put aside the whole afternoon to clean that day, too." (More heavy sighing).
Hey, life happens (as do blown tires, sick kids and last-minute work deadlines), and it's inevitable that every mom will sometimes find herself in a more-busy-than-she'd-like-to-be phase. But some of us have turned being too busy into an art. They're suffering from what I call "busy-itis," and the condition presents in a few different ways:
Some moms believe a constant flurry of activity proves their worth as mothers, wives, PTA members, career women, volunteers and overall overachievers. The more this mom piles on her plate, the more she thinks others will perceive her as hard-working and worthy.
Then there are those who use "busy" as an excuse for not doing the things they really want-or need-to do. "My jeans are so tight! I really need to start exercising, but I'm way too busy," says Ellen-and then spends the evening catching up on Glee with a bowl of chips.
And some women use "I'm SO busy" as a way to one-up other moms. "I'd love to be able to join a book club, but between the kids and my church duties, I'm just too busy," says Una with an air of martyrdom. Read between the lines, and you'll see what Una's really saying: "I'm so much busier than you."
Are you an Irene or Ellen--or even an Una? Is feeling too busy getting in the way of you being a happier mom? I've got a few tips for helping you move past busy-itis so you can be only as busy as you want to be…doing the things you really want to do.
Prioritize. On a piece of paper, jot down 5 - 10 things that you really want to make time for in your life (and your kids' lives.)
After you look at your list, think back to an average week. How often do you actually do the activities that are most important to you? If "never" or "rarely", what are you spending your time on instead? Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think suggests keeping a time log so that you have a very clear picture of where those moments, hours and entire days are going. (You can download a template at www.my168hours.com.)
Scale Back. This is the hard part. After taking a hard look at how you're spending your time, decide what has to go (or at least get cut back.) Maybe you'll learn that TV is sucking up all your reading time. Or perhaps you'll realize that a weekly activity calendar including Mini Monet, Junior Chess Champions, karate, soccer and Future Presidents of America isn't leaving enough time for those family bike rides you all love so much.
This step should look different for every mom! Some might be willing to drop an activity in order to make room for nightly dinners as a family. But if sports rule in your house, it might be worth squeezing in a drive-through meal on the fly to get the kids to soccer and football practice. Whatever your top priorities are, make sure they're not getting squeezed out by the B-list.
Embrace Your Busy-Ness. If you've scaled back as much as you can and you're still feeling overwhelmed, it may be all in the perception. Do you feel like you're in control of your schedule…or do you feel like your schedule controls you?
Take the lead in your life! For example, instead of saying "I wish I had more time to bake, but I always work too late," you could think "Right now it's important that I work extra hours so we can save money."
Once you recognize that you have some control over your busy-ness, you can figure out creative ways to fit in things that are important to you. Maybe you'll have a big family breakfast on the weekends or do a yoga DVD before the kids get up. Or maybe you'll realize that you just can't fit in one more thing.
Either way, the choice is yours-and once you kick that nasty case of busy-itis once and for all, you'll be a whole lot happier.
--Meagan Francis is a mother of five and author of four books including One Year To An Organized Life With Baby and The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets To Enjoying Motherhood. Learn to be a happier mom at her blog, www.thehappiestmom.com.