Six Little Thoughts on Chronic Busyness

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Six Little Thoughts on Chronic Busyness

Being busy is a fact of life.   But is your busyness a blessing or a burden? Are you so busy you only have time to do and none to be?  Both are important, but the being often gets neglected for the sake of doing. Here are some thoughts on why we get ourselves burdened by busyness and some ideas on what we can do so we can feel blessed by it instead!


When someone asks us how we are doing, we get far more attention and sympathy by complaining about how busy and stressful our lives are than if we say otherwise.  We live in a world where dramatic sound bites get the most attention, and it’s not terribly different in the world of mom-to-mom conversations. But what does it say to our kids when they listen to us describe doing life with them this way?  I understand that we don’t want to be fake with each other, but there has got to be a better way than the endless prattle of complaining! A few years ago I made a conscious effort to remove phrases like “busy” and “stressed” from my conversations that described our life; not because I wanted to paint my life rosier than it really was, but because I wanted my conversations to reflect the thankfulness I have for choosing much of what we do with our time.  Our days might be “full of good things” or the stage of life we’re in might be “the best kind of busy”, but I don’t want my kids to think they are a burden to me.


I think a lot of times we get busy because we have just gotten in the habit of saying yes to every good opportunity that comes around without thinking of how they affect our lives as a whole. Perhaps one of the best skills we can learn is the delicate art of saying no to many good things. Taking care of the guilt after making such a decision is another thing; just ask me how I feel about saying no to having my kids or myself involved in VBS at our church this year, just so we could maintain a reasonable summer schedule.  It’s tough taking my own advice sometimes. It has helped me to remember that when I say no to one thing it leaves room to say yes to another. (Repeat as necessary)  


There is an expression I love:  don’t confuse the urgent with the important. Most of us, when asked to list our priorities would put our faith, our marriage and our family at the top of the important list.  However, if we look at our calendars we might see that we spend much more time nurturing the urgent and ignoring the important until it’s too late. For example – it’s not urgent that my son be in the rep soccer league. It certainly feels urgent when everyone else around me is signing their kids up for another club, though. I want to be a good parent, and it seems like all the good parents just keep signing their kids up for more and more things. But, it only feels urgent – and feelings, while always valid, can be totally wrong.  A concept I have had to remind myself of over and over again. It’s important, however, that your family has time to learn how to navigate the complexities of relationships. It’s important that you really know how your kids and spouse are wired:  What really matters to them?  What are the things that make them unique from one another?   How do you communicate with them so they feel loved? The transition from childhood to adulthood is full of potential relational landmines – will you know them well enough to help them through it?  Will they trust you enough to come to you and ask for your input? Suddenly the important parts of their lives are going to be in urgent need of attention, and signing them up for another day camp just to keep them occupied isn’t going to solve the problem. Doing the hard work of building relationships now will pay off later.  It’s different than all the other families around you might be doing, but in the end, the payoff will be better.


It is good to provide opportunities for our kids to be on teams, to learn new skills, or to try new things.  However, a stream of constant activities can leave our kids feeling very entitled to always being entertained. It is also vital to our kids’ development that they have time for free-play (you see, Play is a Child’s Work).   Being bored is not a sign of bad parenting; it is the beginning point of creative innovation and how they learn to problem-solve. It’s necessary for their development! Giving our kids activities and opportunities is only part of our job as parents, otherwise we will be raising a bunch of highly skilled robots who can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag.


We live in an amazing time.  There have never been more opportunities available for us and our families.  We are blessed to be able- bodied and have money and time to make almost endless choices with what we can do. I know it sounds crazy to say that being busy is a blessing.  But it really is!  The problem isn’t that we have choices – it’s the choices that we’re making. We need to start saying no to some of the many, many, wonderful opportunities and activities that come available to us.  We just can’t do it all! I often ask myself: Will the busyness of saying yes to an activity be a blessing to my family or will the busyness become a burden?  I have to believe it’s possible to raise a family and enjoy living in the process. Just like we need to save funds for financial emergencies, we need to leave space on our calendar for unplanned busyness…if you have a pulse, both will happen on a fairly regular basis! We also have a choice in terms of our attitude.  No matter what is going on, we can make life difficult for our families by embracing an attitude of parental martyrdom.  It’s twisted logic to sign our kids up for everything under the sun and then make them pay for it by complaining about how miserable their schedules are making us. Choose joy – your family will thank you for it.


It’s very easy to get caught up in giving our kids an ever-increasing number of opportunities because they do so well at everything they do.  Praise is a wonderful by-product of doing something well, but it’s a terrible reason to make your family overly busy. We need to be careful that being told how wonderful our kids are at something, whether it’s painting a picture, batting a ball or feeding the hungry, doesn’t become a motivator for why we choose to do things.  If you have to choose, choose building their character over building their personal portfolio. I can’t remember who ;), but someone wrote a great book called Raising Your Kids For True Greatness.  It was a game changer for us. Grace allows for every families’ schedule to be different:  some might be able to build relationships well and  have an under-current of joy while only having a couple of free nights a week, others might find one extra-curricular activity night per week is just right– there is no cookie cutter response  in that regard.  But the fruit of our family life should grow peace, patience, love, compassion and the like – what will you prune from your fall schedule to let these things grow?

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