“Are you busy?” These three words are the most volatile, annoying, and stress inducing words any mother can hear. Whether they’re coming from a teenage daughter looking for either a trip to the mall, another driving lesson or the golden opportunity to wash her field hockey socks, down to the five year old son standing in front of you with his big blue eyes awash with the expectation that there is nothing better that you can think of doing besides playing the game of Sorry for the 27th time that day. The minute our children are born, we become eternally, frustratingly, tirelessly and mind-numbingly busy. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, however, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Stay with me on this for a minute.
There are people who will tell you that they are “crazy busy”, even when they are unencumbered with any offspring. They are busy in the sense that they do fill every minute of their days with meaningful and enjoyable tasks. However, they are not in the realm of a parents’ busy circle of hell if they are telling you this on their way out to a museum, movie theatre, book launch, or gallery opening. Particularly if you are at that particular moment excited about the prospect of going grocery shopping for some “alone time.”
It’s all relative. The busy-ness of a newborn parent is measured in terms of the ratio of hours slept versus activities to be performed. That is to say that many of the tasks that are being demanded of you are fairly pedestrian and easily performed…on a good night’s sleep. Reduce that sleep to 6 fitful starts and stops over an 8 hour period, and washing sleepers, having a shower, and remembering where you put your keys down become Herculean efforts. (Not to mention that pesky detail of being responsible for the fragility of a new life.)
As the baby grows, and you (perhaps like me) add to your brood at an alarming rate, you recognize that the busy you thought you had when you were a) single and/or b) childless did seem like a “good” busy. Now that your days are filled with chauffeuring children to endless lessons, hockey arenas, friend’s homes, school functions and the aforementioned mall, while racing home in between to throw in that 7th load of laundry, unload the dishwasher for the 3rd time that morning, make 6 calls to 6 different doctors of teeth, bones, needles and backs, madly scratching out school registration forms, planning your frozen food dinner and trying to find the elusive ½ inch scrap of “blankie” for a wailing toddler, it’s hard to find the “good” in the “busy”.
Recently as my husband sat slumped over a squirming child, trying to remedy an unfortunate hockey tape incident, he looked up at me and said “Why are we always so busy?” Restraining myself from pointing out the fact that it was his idea to get the third child involved in hockey, his idea to have both bathrooms renovated at the same time, and his idea to have his entire family over for Sunday brunch the next day, I asked him this “If we weren’t driving them around, we’d be watching them fight. It’s not a question of this versus free time. It’s a question of how you are busy. Now pass me the flipping Sorry game.”
All I have to do now is convince my four kids that waggling a half empty glass of chardonnay is in fact an appropriate response to the question “Are you busy?”Kathy Buckworth’s latest book is Journey to the Darkside: Supermom Goes home, available in bookstores everywhere. Watch Kathy on Slice Network’s “Birth Days 2”. Visit www.kathybuckworth.com