Every Busy Mom Is Busy in Her Own Way

So this is what having a slightly-more-than-part-time job means to me: I have finally reached my personal busyness limits. There is no space for cramming, no staying up late to finish what needs to be done because I already am staying up late, sometimes until 2:30, and still running into a daily wall of personal fail. "Taking a break" now means watching an episode of Glee while doing laundry. "Taking it easy" means going to bed before midnight. It's fascinating, invigorating, and soul-deadening all at the same time.

But, being busy gives me a good reason to say No, though I am still struggling with actually saying the word. Being busy also makes prioritizing a hell of a lot easier.  Two weeks ago, while I was on deadline, my mom called. She was staying with us for Thanksgiving and was out running errands in my car, so I figured she was calling to check in. Except she was calling to tell me that she'd been the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

Former me might have freaked out. Busy me blinked, then asked if she was okay. She was (whew). I asked if the car was drivable. It was. I asked if everything was under control, or if she needed my help. It was, the police were on site, and she didn't. I thanked her, the stars in the heavens, and went back to work. Everything turned out fine, she was unshaken, they caught the other driver, and I'm tooling around town in a snow-white minivan courtesy of the perpetrator's insurance while my own car gets fixed. All of which would also have happened, had I gotten agitated. But I no longer have time to get riled about that which is under control. Thank you, busyness.

Busy me is both more and less in touch with my body. Three weeks ago, I sprained my ankle by walking down the street while on a work conference call -- but no one on the other line ever heard a peep (though Jennyalice, who was a few paces away, wondered why I started hopping up and down on one leg since we were discussing matters more administrative than incendiary). I was in control! That same afternoon, while attempting to demonstrate that the pain did not get to me and yes of course I could entertain my friend and all of our children while both chatting and serving up group snacks, I misjudged a pupusa location and flash-seared my fingertips on our cast-iron skillet. Clearly, the distraction of being busy doesn't always agree with my body.

Since my laptop lets me work anywhere, I have to be careful about reining in Busy Me. Otherwise, I'll try to fit in a bit of work while making dinner. While watching Ugly Betty with Iz or Totoro with Leo or Dinosaur Train with Mali. While doing laundry. While supervising homework. While helping Leo do puzzles. While decorating the Christmas tree. I thought I was being an able juggler, but this past weekend Iz complained that I work too much, that I'm always working, and she hates it. So I'm thinking about shelving the laptop between school pickups and bedtime. And slightly panicking about losing those valuable interstitial work minutes.

The biggest struggle so far, though, is self-judgment. I'm far from the most busy person in my circle. Yet everyone else I know seems to be juggling more, and hitting all their deadlines. Perhaps I know too many superhumans? I'm not sure. I do know this will only get more interesting. Seymour is going to start traveling a lot for work (everything he's doing is damn cool; I entirely support his going). Leo is only going to get bigger. Iz is coming up on teenhood (please God no). Mali is experimenting with unrepentant defiance (not just towards me but towards her teacher). What are we going to do?

But despite my time challenges, our family situation remains an awesome one. Our kids are sweet and funny, and genuinely caring beings. We have good friends. We carve out time for the events that truly matter. We laugh a lot, we eat well, we are warm at night. I'll give this busyness another couple of months. I'll put away the laptop in the afternoons. And then I'll re-evaluate, because I don't want to be too busy to enjoy the wonderfulness that weaves in and out of my life, every day.


  1. "The biggest struggle so far, though, is self-judgment. I'm far from the most busy person in my circle."

    that does it: you're delusional!

    i had a sig/oth who used to sprain things--even break some--when he was overtaxed: it meant "back off, buddy!" and he knew that. and this was *before* computers were anything other than mainframes. back awaaaaay from the laptop, squid. izleomali is here now; you be here now too!

  2. The more chaotic our life has gotten bc of Nik's current need for constant supervision, I'm finding that the more I try to squeeze everything in at the same time (making dinner, feeding Nik, writing a blog post and taking pics while I cook??), the less-well I do any one thing.

    I think the hazard of the Internet Age (or whatever we call it these days) is the notion that we must always be accessible to everyone or that everything on our to-do list must get done. The world will wait or someone else will pick up the slack. Your children won't remember the deadlines you made, only the milestones you might have missed.

  3. My only solution is...time blocks. I don't try to parent and work at the same time or cook and work or be with my spouse and work. Most of the time. I force myself to shutdown working from after school onward. That means that I have to get all my paid work done before 3:23 every day. That means not a lot of fooling around, surfing, etc., during work hours, or I pay a price later. That means only sporadic check-ins on the computer when the kids are having their own downtime during those hours, but not to work--just to do, well, what I'm doing now.

    Some days, that happens. Other days, shit happens, and I don't get it done. That's when I lose my one hour or so of "me" time in the evening when Viking is reading to the boys and turn it back over to paid work time.

    But ya gotta stick to the time blocks and never put off until later what you can do now because later's going to bring you some big fat surprise. Every time.

    That's all I got.

  4. I love Emily's suggestion. As a long-time freelancer from home, I think that's the best advice anyone can give. And let yourself off the hook! You're SUPER productive, one of the most productive people I know.

  5. Anonymous4:24 PM

    Well, I was going to go with delusional, or indeed, you are indeed at the center of a group of superheros capable of far more than the rest of us.

  6. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I'm with Emily and Vicki. It's about blocking out the time, Working when the kids are in school, then stepping away until they're in bed.

    I've been freelancing fairly successfully with that formula for years.

    Some days, stuff happens. But most of the time, once you get used to it, it's fine.

    And saying no. Definitely, saying no. Hang in there!

  7. "We have good friends."


    Thanks, lovely friends.

  8. Thank you again for superhero-ishly making the time to cook and clean for me and Moomin for those past couple of weeks, and for putting us up in your amazing guest room. You just took us in and made us feel at home, during the holiday too. I'll always appreciate it. Especially your insight as to Moomin's personality and your kindness to him. He likes having a grownup kindred spirit. P.S. I miss your bathtub.

  9. The laptop is dangerous, 'tis true. I confess that it has been my life/worksaver---since I usually have to leave my job at a set time to get Charlie (which I really love doing, I feel weird to be at work at 3pm), without the internet I wouldn't be able to be in touch about all sorts of things.

    Lately I've had a built-in reason not to be over-laptopping: Charlie wants mine! But then there's the iPhone...... ahem.

    Am just going to send out a collective cheer to you as (sorry for the cliché-ish-ness of the term) Supermom, and all the other Supermamas who wrote in above.

  10. Anonymous2:25 PM

    I think we all struggle with time management, especially parents to special needs children. I would find myself doing 18-19 hour days and didn't know how I would find the energy. But we do. And you do. And you have three cherubs and manage to do all this awesomeness. I bow to you!

  11. I think we should all get in a circle and bow to each other. But thank you.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.