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  • The Sharp Spot

Another Four-Letter Word

B-U-S-Y. A four-letter word.  

It’s just a word. But words are powerful, and this is a word we most often use to describe ourselves and our families. I did too.

I could see I used the badge of 'busy' as an honor and status. It was good to be this; I was proud of it. But I really had nothing to show for it except exhaustian.

Over the past couple years, I have started to distance myself from this identity. I caught myself saying it, using it as an excuse for anything and everything. I could hear it each time and realized I didn’t like it. 

It didn’t hit me how much I hated the words ‘being busy’ until a woman’s conference in 2022. I sat in an audience of hundreds as speaker after speaker told us how busy we were as moms and women. 

I found myself checking out and getting frustrated. 

The thing was, I no longer felt busy. I had shed so many of my skins and roles by this point and I thought others were following suit. I had come to this conference to be inspired and filled up, but these speakers did not speak to me like they were speaking to everyone else. 

It was eye-opening as I realized I was in the minority. As the other women in the audience clapped, cheered, and nodded along, agreeing with what the speakers were saying, it became apparent I might be alone.

I looked around and even though I was in a room of hundreds, I felt very apart from them. See, I had started to strip away the ‘busy’ identity. 

I had begun a new path. I had time. Lots of it. 

Right now, my days are my own. I am doing things I want to and my obligations (household chores) are not so terrible anymore. Mundane tasks are not as daunting when I actually have the time to do them. 

The path to ample time has not been quick or easy but I think I need to share it to inspire others, to show them it is possible. 

Last week at my women’s connect group, I shared that I fell into the category of ‘ample time’ in response to a question. I felt guilty saying this as everyone else had already shared their overwhelm. They were in shock when I did finally share my response. Not much was said until the following week. 

Another mom shared how by me sharing where I am with my life, it gave her knowledge that it’s attainable for her too. 

That comment hit me. 

I shouldn’t feel guilty for being where I am; I should share it so others know they can have it too. 

So, I came up with some ideas. As I look at my own path, these are the things that may be helpful for other busy moms who no longer want this title.

  • Recognize when you use the word ‘busy’. 

  • The first step is to know when you use it and observe yourself doing it. Hear yourself saying it and start becoming curious. Is it a habit? Is it an excuse? Why do you say this? Do you want to be busy? If you do, no need to keep reading. If you don’t, keep going. 

  • Identify what you do not like doing. 

  • Seriously. What in your day don’t you like? Your job? The housework? Laundry? Cooking? Yardwork? Grocery shopping? Thanks to our modern society, so much of this can be done for you! 

  • I HATE grocery shopping. Like hate it more than laundry. I started using Wal-Mart pick up a few years ago but I recently just paid for Wal-Mart delivery. Best. Decision. EVER. I literally add items to my cart whenever I think of it and then it magically appears at my door when I say. It’s amazing and well-worth $100/year for this service. 

  • Unfortunately for me, many years ago when I started down this path, I identified that my job was no longer filling my cup.  I was good at it but I was outgrowing it. I liked my coworkers, felt successful and valuable but knew I could not stay at a job solely for monetary reasons. (I have learned I have to live my life authentically, always true to my beliefs or it seems to suffocate me.) So I made a plan to leave the school system. This was a multi-year goal. It took years but I resigned and found another job that I thought would give me the freedom I was seeking. It was the right direction but not my final step. 

  • Ask yourself if you are doing something out of obligation or a true desire of love or service. 

  • Every time you say yes to something, ask yourself if you said yes out of habit or because you are excited to do it. If you are not excited about it, it needs to go. Not everything can go, but a lot of things can. 

  • Kids sports and activities. This one might be controversial, but you don’t actually have to attend every one of your kids' events. I skipped games for a time of my life. I needed more time to myself than I was getting. Now that we homeschool, I love going to all of their games. But I know I can pull back and not feel guilty. 

  • As a teacher, we are asked to do a lot, constantly going above and beyond. Plus, many teachers just go above and beyond because they want to, not because they are compensated or asked to. 

  • Remove shit. Remove everything that you do not have to do from your calendar. What did this look like for me?

  • Laundry. My husband has been doing his own laundry for almost 10 years of our 16-year marriage. For some reason, I thought I needed to do everyone’s laundry. It was overwhelming for my family of five. I one day told my husband I would no longer do his laundry. He wasn’t upset; he probably didn’t know why I was doing his either. Now, I am in the process of teaching my boys how to do theirs. It’s not the actual task that is hard; it’s hard for me to fight and argue with them to get them to do it. (I often think it is less energy for me to just do it than to make them.)

  • I stopped saying yes to things. I didn’t sign up to volunteer at church (shhh, don’t tell!) I didn’t offer help to others. I really became sort of closed off to other people’s needs and emotions. I was trying to handle mine so thought everyone else should be doing the same. I don’t know if I recommend doing this, but I was able to see that I did all of these things out of obligation, not actual love. Only now, years later, have I begun offering to take my friends’ kids with us or offer a meal to families. The time away from it allowed me to see what I actually like to do and don’t mind doing for others. I like cooking and it is easy for me to double our supper to give one away. I like taking kids with us when we are already planning to do something. It’s not a big deal for me to take another couple extra kids; it doesn’t raise my stress level like it might for others. Find what works for you.

  • Declutter physically and mentally.

  • One area that helped me to keep clean was and is my counter tops. I store all my appliances (coffee pot, toaster, bread maker, etc) away in cupboards. I keep everything off my countertops whenever possible. So even if the house is a mess, this helps me feel like it’s not. I can look out and see the organization. 

  • I read books like “Minimalist home” by Joshua Becker and many more blogs about simplicity and tidiness. So much of it comes back to not buying so much which I am still working on. 

  • I have gotten rid of all notifications on my phone. I have set silent times for it too. I try to organize our homeschool weeks so I can keep my own sanity too. 

I don’t know if any of this will help you. I hope it does. Start small. Pick one thing. I certainly didn’t do all these things at once. 

I’m still on a journey for even more time and have to consistently work to ensure I am not busy. I consciously decide not to use this word and I know I slip up from time to time. It’s so hard. 

But, if you want more time and do not want to be busy, you CAN do it. 

Photo credit: Me - taken in Washburn 2023 - Missouri River and gravel path

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