Busy has so many different meanings and interpretations, it’s difficult to pin down one accurate definition that affects all people at the same time.
I just emailed back and forth with a friend who is the mother of a newborn and 5 older kids, and her type of busy is very different from mine, at the moment. Her family situation is very different from mine as well, but the sheer fact that she has a newborn makes her busy a unique kind of busy that is incomparable to busy with, say, toddlers, or preschoolers, or teenagers etc. Or my kind of busy with young school-aged children. Each family dynamic has its own unique busy-ness.
A newborn needs constant attention with regards to feeding (bottle and/or breast). That alone affects the mother immensely in terms of her own body’s busy-ness: body is recuperating from birth/c-section, body is hormonally in great upheaval, body is making milk if breastfeeding, body may be in pre-menopausal stages of life (if mother is in late 30s or older), body is fatigued requiring more than usual sleep, etc. This mother’s busy-ness may not look busy to the full-time working-outside-the-house mother of 6 kids, since the mother of the newborn may appear to be spending a lot of time sitting, or lying down, with an infant attached to her body in some way or another, something the working mother may envy, even subconsciously (do I long for those newborn days again? I’m not sure…). Yet that type of busy is unique to any mother of a newborn, regardless of whether there are other kids to be tended to. Which doesn’t make that type of busy-ness any more, or less, busy than anyone else.
My busy right now is of the not-bad kind of busy. Even though there was a six-week stretch of chaos in this household, where one or the other kid fought off minor illnesses, a lot of extra-curricular activities were going on, and my own illness affected my energy levels and stamina to a point where everything deemed not crucial was simply left to fall down, followed by a period of frenzy and hormonal fluctuations where catching up required more than just a regular amount of energy and stamina…you get the picture.
I’m back on track. I’m busy in a way that doesn’t allow for a lot of time to sit down and read/watch tv/blog, for example, and I feel it in my feet and legs by about dinner time. I tend to want to stop the busy-ness at or after dinner because I simply cannot fathom the idea of starting a load of laundry after dinner, or tidy up some clutter. I don’t even make lunches for Benjamin at night anymore, I leave it for the morning. My legs feel stiff, my back is sore, and all I want to do is sit. Or lie down. (Ok, I’m not a spring chicken, either).
But I’m not running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I’m mostly ready for Christmas, although there is always more to be done. I’m able to dog sit and leave the house to take her to the park guilt-free, walk children to and from school in non-rainy weather, stop and chat with friends and neighbours. Pre-planning of shopping for gifts prior to December helped as well, as staying local to pick up odd grocery items here and there rather than rush off to a packed grocery store twice a week. (It helps to live in a neighbourhood where walking to a store can be incorporated with the walk to or from the school).
It took a certain type of realization that is outside my comfort level to get used to allowing for time to be not busy. Many people in my address book did not get Christmas cards this year. Not even everyone got an e-message from us for Christmas either. Some presents aren’t wrapped yet, food planning for Christmas Eve hasn’t quite happened yet (although I have enough food in the house to make something special), and I still have left-over dough for Christmas cookies in the fridge. An activity I can easily do with Sonja on a rainy afternoon (like tomorrow, for example). And we stay away from shopping. That’s a big one, a bit time-consuming, energy-draining activity I shun in December as much as possible. The internet is my friend here…
But not everyone has these moments of non-frenzied busy-ness. I’ve had those moments when I do not feel at peace with what’s happening here in the household just like many other people experience. I have had moments of yelling and tossing every item I pick up into a bin of some sort (garbage, recycling, rubbermaid bin, cardboard box, whatever). I have had moments of ignoring the entire mess and crying myself to sleep at night.
Eventually I emerge. And purge. And accept the fact that this is life in a small house with growing children. It is what it is. If I feel utterly hopeless and completely at my wits’ end, I simply have to accept that next week will not be like this and allow myself the time to simply be.
Sooner or later, it ends up working out. Even though the purging can never, ever, EVER stop.