Sunday, October 4, 2015

Who's NOT busy?

In the very early days of this blog, I wrote a post that eventually became my contribution to the Stirrup Queen's Crème de la Crème list of 2007 (#37 on the list).  Titled "In a tizzy about being busy," I reflected on a dinner gathering where I sat silent while a table full of my mommy friends commiserated about how busy they were. Who was I to complain about being busy, when I didn't have any kids, right? Even though it was Christmastime, year end at work, cold season, and I was so tired I was practically nodding off into my pasta.

I thought about that post the other day when I read a great essay on a site called, intriguingly, "Role Reboot:  Life, Off Script." It was written by Melanie Holmes, who is also the author of a book called "The Female Assumption: A Mother's Story, Freeing Women from the View that Motherhood is a Mandate." (I have not read this yet, but it's on my wish list!) 

As the title suggests, Holmes has kids;  she just wants those kids (and particularly her daughter) to know that parenthood is a choice, and that it's OK if they choose not to have kids. How refreshing! 

Holmes's essay is called "You Don’t Own The Definition Of ‘Busy.’" "No one person or category of persons has cornered the market on “Busyness.” Although there are plenty of people who would like to believe they have," she writes.  (She's singing my song...!)  ;)  My favourite part: 
In the interviews I conducted for my book, I interviewed a teacher who does not want her own kids. She has heard from her co-workers who are mothers, “You just don’t know what tired is.” Really?! So then the female entrepreneur who volunteers to lead her state’s chapter of the Special Olympics, while managing a busy practice, and being a good boss, friend, daughter, aunt, and sister—she’s not exhausted? Because she doesn’t have her own kids?  
It’s incorrect to think that you own the corner on “busyness.” You don’t. You may feel pulled in a million directions, as I do, as many people do, but unless you’ve walked in the shoes of each person on the face of this earth, then please, I beg you, please refrain from assuming that you’re in the category of “the busiest.”
There's more (but this was the part most relevant to the ALI community).  Go read the rest of it here.

Thank you, Melanie Holmes! I look forward to getting & reading your book soon. :)


  1. Slightly off topic, but I smile when I hear my elderly parents in law tell me they are busy when they have to go to the hairdresser on Wednesday and the doctor on Friday, all in the Same Week. (and yes, I do grant them their own definition busy!) And we manage to have quiet weekends with three teenagers, a toddler and a houseguest this entire summer. Maybe it is the differemce between demands that are within or outside our control that makes us feel busy?

    1. Valery, that is such a good definition! My in-laws are exactly the same. Obviously when we get older, coping with two things in the Same Week are similar to coping with dozens of things in one day when we are younger.

  2. I am the infertile person in my group of friends. I have had friends that say that they are busier and more tired than me. They also have said that I will neve understand. w I laugh at these statements because my life is just as busy, but in a different way. I choose to go back to school, after years of struggling with infertility. I may not be up all night with child, but I am up, all night writing a paper or studying for a midterm/exam. I often have a few papers due very close together and each paper requires hours of research. I also volunteer for three organization ( about 6 hours a week). And I have husband, who needs me to run his life, because of his job. I am not saying I do more than a parent, I just do different things. My life is just as tiring as yours is.

  3. A close cousin (maybe sibling) of the pain olympics. The "who's busiest" competition is one I regularly find people participating in. Sadly, there's is assumption from others that I routinely win, which gets on my nerves more often than not as I know everyone has full lives.

    Which brings me to the conversation I was having with Grey: why do we work as much as we do? I've been consciously craving out some downtime because I know I function better when I'm not chained to my desk. But why is this seen as a bad thing?

  4. I've never understood why people think that being busy is to be admired. As if it is a virtue, and if you're not busy, you're lazy. When I was working full-time and travelling internationally, I was busy - there were always things I couldn't do because I'd be away, or because I was catching up on things I'd missed by being away. But it wasn't always a happy lifestyle, or one to be admired. When I was happiest, I also had a balance in my life, and it was when I could look outside myself, and help others. Surely that's better than just being insanely, even selfishly self-absorbed, busy, almost for the sake of being busy..

    I see people who claim they're busy, and it is often a result of choices they make, including never saying "no," either because they don't know how to or feel they're not allowed to say "no," but also because I think it gives them a sense of self-importance to always be busy.

    I recall a little girl saying, when she heard they were moving countries, "maybe it's okay that I can't ride horses there, because then if I don't have so much to do, I won't be so tired." She was EIGHT! Being busy was doing her no favours.

  5. FYI: Melanie Holmes was recently interviewed as part of a really interesting audio podcast series, Unclassified Woman, by Michelle Marie McGrath:

    It's about 51 minutes long.