Wearing the Badge of "Busyness"
I made a mistake.
That, in itself, is tough to write.
I would love to say that it’s the first time I’ve made this mistake; it’s not.
See, I habitually over schedule, overdo, over work, over commit, etc. In the wake of my over-ing, I leave a trail of frustration, anger, anxiety, grouchy kids, a confused husband, quiet friends and a depressed me.
Yet, I do it to us – my family included, because I am not the only one affected – over and over again.
This post examines the guilt that I – and a lot of you – feel and why we have a need to fill every moment of our lives with things to do. (Y’all, I actually feel guilty if I have spare time, and I know there are others like me.)
Several months ago, I applied to a writing position at a local company, and I didn’t really expect to hear from them. After all, my resume read like the former public school teacher I was, not the content writer I have recreated myself as.
Several weeks went by, and I heard nothing…not surprising but still a blow to the ole ego. Then one day out of the blue, I got an email stating that they would like to speak with me.
Fast forward through three interviews, and I was hired. As a part-time - 20 hours a week - content writer.
Shame on Me
I applied to this position during the summer, when the demands of homeschooling my two boys were, well, zilch. We read a few books here and there, and for math, I taught them the power of 1…at the Dollar Tree. (Now that’s a math lesson that really stuck with my 6 and 4 year old! You mamas know how their eyes light up with every toy they yank off the shelf. “Is this one dollar too?!”)
But, there’s the whole “spare time” thing rearing its ugly head again. Because my plate was not full to the max (albeit full) in June and July, I erroneously thought I should add more to it.
By accepting this job, I smashed – Godzilla stepping all over buildings – the fun out of my life. The free moments to race my boys when the mood struck us. The spare time to jump on the trampoline as a family. The extra minutes to stop at a friend’s house because we’ve missed each other.
Cry Behind Closed Doors
The old adage is true - when mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. And, y’all, I don’t mean it in a spoiled way. I mean that when we’re struggling to find joy, those closest know. When we can’t focus on them because our minds are always on the task not done, they feel it.
Sure, we “keep it together” for a bit, fool people. We cry when we’re alone, cuss under our breaths and fake laugh a lot.
But it’s only a matter of time until our tears behind closed doors seep out into the open. Mine - at the dinner table over day-old pizza or at the drive-thru window when I learn that the soda machine is down.
Y’all, my angst was seeping.
Let Me Explain
Let me explain just a little more.
I was happy when I was working my new job; that was not the issue because I loved what I was doing and the people I was doing it with.
It was all the other times that I (AND my family) was struggling. Shortening the boys’ school lessons so I could sneak in another 30 minutes of work. Rushing through phone calls from family because it interrupted my “work time.” Rejoicing when their daddy got home so I could finally work in peace. (SAHM honesty here, we always – no matter what – rejoice when daddy gets home. #truth #celebrategoodtimes)
You get my point. Instead of being present in the moment, I was always scheming how to grab a few more minutes of work time.
I Thank God for Gracious Bosses
So recently, I spoke with my bosses at my new part-time job and told them my mistake – that I had taken on too much and would be leaving. They, like the wonderful people I had pegged them as, were very kind. They understood and even asked for me to continue writing for the company from time to time.
I was blessed by them. (And sadly I realize others can’t say the same about their bosses.)
The Guilt Though
The main point in writing this post was to talk honestly about the guilt I felt over this mistake and decision to step back. Many of us walk around with it each day so “the guilt” is something we can all relate to.
The guilt of not “doing it all.” I heard a mom friend once say, “You can have it all. But you can’t have it all, all the time.”
The guilt of letting down two terrific bosses and a great company. They took a risk on me, welcomed me into their fold, and then I chose to leave.
The guilt of ignoring my family for 5 weeks. Yes, I was there in body, but I sure wasn’t present in spirit.
The guilt of knowing other moms and dads have no choice but to work every hour they are awake. My prayer for you is that this need for extreme work is a season. May you survive this season so you (and your family) thrive in the next.
The “Busyness” Badge
This post is not about NOT working hard. I believe in hard work. I’m up at 4:00 AM most days and work like a mad person until I go to bed. I watch very little TV and often read social media articles as I fall asleep each night.
The thing is, though, most of us know – like way down in our guts and are scared or embarrassed to say it aloud – when we pass the barrier of working hard into over-ing. We’re angry all the time, lack creativity, feel stressed at every turn, fake laugh more than really laugh.
Things that had been important no longer are, and it’s because we have no mental energy to give these things.
Y’all, when we cross that barrier, it’s on us to right the ship.
And that’s hard to act on because we live in a society that applauds “busyness.” Most of us wear it like a badge of honor, instead of the straight jacket it is.
This ole girl has worn that badge prouder than anyone, and because I know myself, I’ll wear it again. #truth
My goals, though – to wear it less, to recognize when I’ve crossed into the land of over-ing, and to act as quickly as possible to fix it.
Dr. James Dobson, in his book Bringing Up Boys, tells of an experiment the French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre conducted many years ago with caterpillars. The caterpillars crawled in a circle along the edge of a flower pot, one after another, for days. At Day 4, Fabre placed pine needles in the center of the pot, a favorite food of these caterpillars. But instead of breaking rank, they kept moving in the circle, following one another, until finally dying of starvation.
Dobson makes the point that in today’s society many of us act like these caterpillars. We just go along with the idea of “busyness,” marching around in a circle, without realizing that we can break rank. And, we would be better for it.
This post is dedicated to all you over-ers…you overachievers, overdoing mamas, over-extending-yourself women. This mama understands you…because I am you. But, today I am breaking rank. I am admitting my mistake, and I fixed it.
I know I’ll over commit again; it’s in my nature. I pray, though, that I recognize it sooner and leave less debris in my path. I pray this for you as well, my overachieving friend.