Right. I’ll tell you a quick story. Once upon a time ago in the distant lands of early motherhood, I had a pretty empty diary. Well, I didn’t actually have a diary; there was no point. My social life was crap, I didn’t have a job or business at the time and I was not studying anything. I was ‘Just A Mum’.
As an indoorsy introvert, I quite liked it that way, but it came with a truckload of guilt and self-deprecation. Later, I started running a little business and taking a few training courses, and the feelings of inadequacy began to subside. However, it all derailed after I gave birth to our third child and then emigrated to the other side of the world with my family, and before long I was back to being ‘Just A Mum’ all over again.
Meet the Very Busy Mothers
During those years, I had a private chip on my shoulder as I gawked in awe at all the Very Busy Mothers I knew. For years it seemed like almost every mother I met must have somehow been running on 36-hour days for all the things she managed to squeeze into her family’s time. I was torn between feeling impressed and jealous.
Once the kids started school, booking play dates became a convoluted administrative process as the Very Busy Mothers hunted through their diaries for a sliver of space between after school clubs, volunteering commitments, social arrangements and all the other Mysterious Things That Very Busy Mothers Do With Their Time.
When I chatted with mum friends & acquaintances I would feel perpetually inferior as they discussed their busy, activity-filled schedules. The conversations often felt like some unspoken Busy Mother Contest. Who could trump everyone with the most jam-packed schedule today?
If it was a contest, then I always lost. Sure, I did a toddler group here, a PTA meeting there, but that still left the vast majority of my [non-existent] diary with nothing in it. My days were hard work (harder than they are now I have a job), but not because they were full of external commitments. They were hard work because I spent each and every one of them catering to the needs of tiny, demanding humans and wrapped up in domestic chores without a change or a real break. I often longed for the life of the Very Busy Mother, but could never quite figure out how one would find so much to do.
What Busy Actually Feels Like
Last year called for some major life-rejigging after I tipped over the brink of sanity and could no longer cope with the humdrum. So I enrolled in a degree, started a job and invested myself in a bunch of other activities that guzzled my time.
I now know what people mean when they say time is their most valuable commodity. Work & travel swallows up the best part of 40 hours a week. Studying swallows up another 20-40 (depending on the semester). 4-5 hours per day every day in between work and studying gets swallowed up by the sink hole of parenting and housework duties, not including the weekends.
Sure, I am writing this blog now and that is something for me, but I am doing this at the expense of doing other (technically more important) things. That is the only way it is possible to get anything non-essential done these days. I have to neglect something essential.
That sucks and it makes me feel guilty.
Hear that? Guilt. I was guilty when I wasn’t busy enough, and now I am guilty because I’m too busy.
Where Are The Other Very Busy Mothers Now?
Ironically, I hardly ever seem to bump into Very Busy Mothers any more, or perhaps I do but I don’t notice anything unusual because I am travelling at the same speed. Occasionally, though, I bump into what some might call the Very Relaxed Mothers. They are not going anywhere in a hurry, they have time to stand and chat with one another at the school gates, perhaps even go out for a coffee.
You know, in a different world, it would be easy to find those Very Relaxed Mothers annoying. It would be easy to feel jealous. Only, I have been the Very Relaxed Mother for most of my parenting career, and I’ll tell you one thing – it is not as relaxing as it looks.
Sure, she may not be rushing off somewhere in a hurry, but since when did speed become a measure of success? Why do some people hold the view that the more full our schedules are, the better we are somehow doing? That if we are not doing as much as them, we are somehow inadequate?
As with everything in life, it’s about balance and finding what’s right for you. And wherever you settle – whatever your day-to-day schedule (or lack of) looks like – don’t feel shit about it. You know how hard you work. You know how much effort you put in. Most importantly, you have got nothing to prove to anyone.