I recognized myself immediately in Tim Kreider’s The ‘Busy’ Trap. An opinion piece for the New York Times that eloquently and concisely called our society out for its addiction to “busyness” and extolled another way.
Now, I am “busy” in the truest sense of the word. Meaning, I have a lot of obligations. I have a three-year-old that never sits down. I have a 13-month-old that has a real passion for seeking out choking hazards. I have three part-time jobs that require dedicated time to read, write, and email. I have a kitchen floor that will not. stay. clean.
However, as Kreider points out, much of my busyness is self-imposed. True, caring for my children and home is not optional. Neither is my work. However, I do often stumble upon chunks of time when these responsibilities are not demanding my immediate attention. Yet, in those moments, I just can’t seem to stop.
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.
That’s the line from the piece where I started nodding because that is exactly how I feel. I could always be doing more - more to promote the blog, more writing, more work on my class, more advertising sales, more, more, more. And it’s not just my paying jobs, I consider my home my place of work so I feel constantly driven to work when I’m at home. After all, as many of you know so well, there is always more laundry to fold, more cleaning to do, more clutter to clear. I truly feel guilty if I sit down at the end of the day and am not “working” on something - be it a knitted gift for a friend, clearing my email, or uploading photos.
I stinking multi-task during my downtime.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
Now, I’m not hedging my bet against emptiness. I don’t need to justify my existence. However, I did realize while reading this article that I’m attempting to justify what I consider my two main roles.
Mother and writer.
Staying-at-home to care for my children is one of the best decisions I have ever made. However, it is not exactly a job people value in the traditional sense. I don’t get paid or promoted. Heck, some don’t even consider it a job. Writing is my passion and something I’m trying desperately to turn into a career. However, I still get paid very little for the work I do and don’t have a typical job with the steady pay check and benefits.
Reading Kreider’s piece I realized the link in my life between busyness and value. I hate that I don’t contribute more to my family in the traditional financial sense. I see friends who have worked since college or law school and the kind of paychecks they bring home and all I feel is shame. Staying busy is how I attempt to prove to those around me, most importantly to myself, that I am contributing and that I do have worth.
Obviously, I do real work because I’m working all the time!
Of course, I have to ask at what cost? If I’m too “busy” responding to email to play with my son, then why am I home to begin with? If I’m too “busy” creating writing obligations to sit down and dedicate myself to my craft, what is the point? If I’m too “busy” cleaning my couch to ever actually sit on it, has my home become a haven or a hell?
I don’t know the answers but this essay got me asking the questions.
Do you feel a drive to be busy? How do you avoid the “busyness” trap?
~ Sarah Stewart Holland