Falling into the “busy trap”

I know I’m not the only mom who has responded to the question, “how are you?,” with two simple words: “good, busy.”  And it is not just moms. My boss, who is president of our company and has two young boys, often has the same response when I ask him how things are going.  I smile and say that it is better to be busy than bored (especially in consulting, where we bill by the hour), and he smiles in return. It is true. I am not a person who can sit around and do nothing. Ask my husband –  it is hard for me to sit through an entire TV show without folding laundry, or shopping online while we watch.

Despite my need to keep busy, I was intrigued by the arguments in “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” a recent opinion piece in the New York Times by Tim Kreider, a writer who admits to being “the laziest ambitious person I know.” He said he writes four to five hours per day, then spends the rest of his day exercising, watching movies, or spending time with friends. That sounds fantastic. Where do I sign up? Oh wait, I already had that life once…in college.

It appears that Mr. Kreider is childless and most likely single. I respect his decision to limit his work activities to part of  his day, and feel a bit of envy that he fills the day with activities he enjoys. But moms (and dads too) typically don’t have this luxury. Having children is a choice and one I am happy I made. But as a result, I do often fall into the “busy trap.” There is laundry and grocery shopping to be done, work proposals to be written, swimming lessons and birthday parties to attend.

That being said, I am constantly trying to figure out ways to be more efficient at the things that “have” to be done, allowing more time for activities we enjoy. I buy things online so I don’t have to spend time running errands (or I do errands at lunch). I pay someone else to clean my house. I work hard in the office so I don’t have to bring work home. 

Kreider’s statement that he “always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love” hit home with me. I feel the same way, but living in a world of fast-paced overachievers makes it easy to forget when rushing from one activity to the next. But I’m doing my best to try to find a good balance between leisure time and work. Days pass by quickly when you have small kids, but I’d still like to enjoy the ride.

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