The Glorification of Busy

A theme in my world this month has been the juggle parents have of doing all that they have committed to, AND providing their children (and themselves) the time it takes to tune in.

Maybe it is on my radar because jumping through the required hoops of the Love Parenting setup phase while dealing with power outage, a defunct laptop hardrive and two children home from school sick this week hasn’t been all that pretty. The theme is also about the others flailing around in this space who I’ve come across in the last few weeks. There has been a family juggling both parents working full-time (and one of those parents also doing postgraduate study), numerous families with shoulders creeping ever-closer up to their earlobes as they’ve spelled out their kids jam-packed afterschool activity schedules …. and two families renovating and up to their eyeballs in more stress than they envisaged would be the case.

It is hard to parent. Even on a good day there will likely be moments which require us to draw on all the patience we have in us. Our parents found it hard too. They will tell us how tough they did it… probably at length and always with great embellishment … but rarely did their days involve the pace that ours do. The pace. The ‘busy’ness. The expectation. The ‘shoulds’. The comparisons. They are all in there. We say yes to more and seek out more, putting more and more into our days which we forget actually have a finite limit. We greet each other with “Hi, how are you?” and respond (with eyebrows disappearing into our hairline and half our attention on our mobile) “Busy”, “Really busy” or “So busy”.

I wonder if we have started to wear busy as a badge? If we are busy then that equates to achieving stuff, yeah? And doesn’t society love achievement? So that’s the ‘doing’ part of our lives sorted. What has happened to the ‘being’ part?

In 2000 I spent three months in Vivili, my boyfriend’s remote village in Fiji that was all simple palm front or corrogated iron dwellings, no connected power and still really traditional with most men working their patch of the plantation through the day and the women going fishing, caring for the bubs and cooking up a storm of starchy rootcrops on the fire to fuel everyone to do it all again the next day. I remember talking about the gym with someone and them cocking their head to the side and grimacing to try and understand. Then the more I tried to explain … the weirder it all sounded even to me. He completely didn’t get the concept of driving somewhere to pay money to excercise when that was something so built-in to their day. Isn’t it interesting? I wonder if we have also headed there with mindfulness. Something that until recently we have woven into our daily practices is now something that many of us schedule time for and drive somewhere across town to do in a specific mindfulness session or yogaclass.

This worries me. I saw in Vivili how daily excercise was so built-in to people’s daily lives and as a village of 60-70 individuals they were such a fit happy lot. Nobody was up in the plantation taking workout selfies or obsessing over themselves posing in a mirror. The other thing I saw them nail (and which would no doubt contribute to their wellness) was mindfulness. Nobody rushed, even their pace of speaking is slower. Did it drive me (a self-confessed ‘do-er’ more so than a ‘be-er) bananas? Heck yes. Did I start to enjoy it once I came down a few notches from racing to get over there. Yep. Did I hear a single person respond to “How are you?” with “Really busy” ? Not one.

Is Vivili utopic? No. Nowhere is. I might not have signed up to become Mrs Vakaliwaliwa – but I know if I had I would be a slower version of the Mrs Burgess I have become. I felt the slowdown happening while I was there. Big time.

Rather than chasing ideallic life- or holidays that we believe will restore our factory settings, l think it is useful to look at who around us is doing slow-time well so we can draw what we can out of how they are achieving that and put in perspective our pull to be busy, be seen as busy and to celebrate our busy.

My workmate used to signal to her kids that she was taking space by sipping a slow cuppa out on the back step in the sun. It was her time to collect herself – even before she needed to (important bit!)

Maybe you already have rituals that give you regular opportunities to de-escalate and keep yourself primed and on your game. Maybe after reading this you will be inspired to build something in. No need to run away and become a yogi.

Start small… with one ritual you know you can fit in and once it is embedded and feeling like part of your day, then throw in another one.

I type this well aware that I am a major culprit of prioritising busy. In the last 18 months I have renovated and sold a house, rented for 6 months, bought a house, renovated it, set up our grannyflat as an Airbnb and launched Love Parenting. My poor friends have hardly heard anything non-busy come out of my mouth, or they’ve hardly seen me, and I’ve had far more intention around getting off my phone and doing something fun with my kids than I’ve put into action. So – I vow here to slow my busy down. Charge my phone in the loungeroom while I sleep, run my hands under the tap while the sink fills up to wash up, and take each child on a 1/2hr walk around the park every Tuesday.

To finish, here are three things I invite you to reflect on:
– What are some of your fondest childhood slow moments? ( I can remember laying on a friend’s trampoline and spotting shapes in clouds…and walking slowly home from school each day – experiencing the sensations of warm concrete radiating up heat and getting hit by people’s sprinklers.)
– What slow moments do you think your children will look fondly back on? (maybe asking your kids will give you some more ideas for how to provide more opportunities)
– What would it take for you to streamline your life and be able to be able to share 30mins more slowtime with them each week?

Enjoy – and should the busy feel like it is getting in the way of you loving parenting, then get in contact with me. I work from the belief that every parent deserves to love parenting and every child deserves access to a connected parent.