How Becoming Unbusy Made Us A Better Family
When I think back on my life when I had a career in the oil and gas industry, I often wonder how I did it all. Getting little people up and dressed to drop off at daycare, packing a diaper bag and getting out the door on time. Then the mad dash to pick little people up, grocery shopping, making it to t-ball practice, running errands, keeping up with laundry and housework on top of my people pleasing nature of never wanting to say no to people which filled up our already busy schedules with more commitments and taking away what little spare free time we had as a family.
Just thinking about it now is exhausting. I honestly don't know how I managed it all without falling apart. Maybe I was falling apart half the time but was too numb to notice. All I know is that at this point in my life I desperately crave simplicity. My soul not only needs it but demands it. I can no longer push it to the side and ignore it the way I did 10 years ago for it relentlessly tugs at me to slow down and be more fully present.
It wasn't until I got laid off from my corporate job in 2011 that I realized just how busy and overextended our life as a family truly was and how close I was to having a complete break down. That first week of being jobless was a huge eye-opener. I went to bed not having to set an alarm clock and greeted the day after the sun came up. I was able to make myself a cup of coffee and take it back to bed to sip and enjoy it slowly. I wasn't facing the day with the stress of traffic or being late for work and I was able to be a fully present mama for the very first time.
Losing my job was scary and full of uncertainty but it more importantly set off something in me that I never knew existed...my desire for a more simplistic lifestyle. While I struggled for several years figuring this all out, learning how to balance my need for simple living with the need to replace my income and not disappointing people who seemed to constantly demand my time and attention, it was definitely a spark that never went away and became the catalyst for me to find my true self again and pursue the life we have now.
Being busy is a crutch that we lean on too many times in our lives. No time to join/volunteer/meet-up/hang out because everyone is too busy. No time to enjoy the things we love like hobbies or the outdoors because we are too busy catching up on emails, housework and running from one activity to another. Being "busy" is just dancing around the real story of "I am too busy to love and live my life."
A sad reality but it's the brutal truth.
But its never too late for any of us to get sick and tired of being too busy and pursue a more simple lifestyle.
My family is not that busy and I am very proud of that. While my husband works a very demanding stressful job and I run several businesses from home, we have also purposely and intentionally scaled back our lifestyle and commitments so we can have more time for things like unstructured play time, lazy Saturday mornings with coffee in bed and more snuggle time with our boys. I struggle with feeling like I am not a "good enough" mom as is, a by-product of my perfectionism, so the choice to be less busy has gifted me with more time and energy to focus on being the best mom I can be.
Much of this is due to my commitment to not go back to work after losing my job and starting my own business. We sold our home that was closer to the city of Houston and a more bustle atmosphere to move to a very small country town so our boys could attend a smaller school. We love that the people here have a much more slowed down vibe and mentality.
We also made smart financial decisions like cutting up all our credit cards, paying down debt and making sacrifices like being more frugal with our money, less going out to eat, less going into stores where there is a temptation to make frivolous purchases, shopping for the best deal online and waiting for something to go on sale before buying it.
Another factor that has contributed to our lifestyle is me being true to myself as an introvert who enjoys being at home versus stretching myself and my emotions too thin. I have had to let go of my people pleasing nature and give myself permission to say "no" more, letting go of the obligation to be everything to everyone. I am very careful about what I say "yes" to, taking as much time as I need to ask myself if it's something I feel strongly passionate about doing or participating in. As much as I would love to serve every Sunday at our church, that is just not feasible right now as a mom of two boys who are 12 and 5 but I can volunteer to set up for a special event that only requires one full day of my time.
My husband works a very stressful job and enjoys being at home to decompress on his tractor piddling around our 12.5 acres but the most important reason for not packing out schedules with endless stuff to do is because we are all happier and more fulfilled this way. We cut the cord on our cable as it was not bringing value or purpose into our home, just an expensive abused distraction. We spend more time together, we communicate and listen to one another more, we are less frazzled which means our patience levels are not ticking time bombs. We have a well-defined routine and everyone sleeps better.
Being too busy is not healthy for children either. Kids today are overscheduled and overtired. We have become a society that trades chaos for calm to do more and be more. My boys do not participate in any sports or extracurricular activities leaving our afternoons free to bake healthy snacks with my youngest and evenings free to watch movies with my oldest. Our weekends are wide open to go fishing on a whim or take a spur of the moment camping trip in our RV. Because we have made an intentional decision to declutter our lives with less stuff and activities, we can focus on the things that really matter to us as a family.
Bottom line, we took control and made a decision to unbusy our lives to create a more flexible, loose and unstructured lifestyle. Just typing that out brings a smile to my face and I have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices we have made over the last 5 years to get here.
Being busy should be a temporary season in a person's life. A busy afternoon, a busy week, a busy temporary situation, like remodeling a home or a demanding project at work but busy should not be a normal everyday occurrence that drags on year after year. It's not healthy. It robs us of our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. I have yet to meet one person who said "We are so busy all the time and love it! We can't wait to pile on more commitments so we can be even busier!" Have you??
Adopting a slower way of living makes the sprints of being busy that will inevitably be a part of life easier to manage because we know they are not forever. We can find comfort in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel because of the choice to make unbusy a foundational core value for our family.
Letting go of the need to be busy doesn't make life boring, quite the contrary. It has allowed us to focus on the things in our life that we really want to do and feel called to do. It has afforded us opportunities to create and serve when the need calls for it. For example, during Hurricane Harvey my husband spent an entire weekend with his tractor helping people muck out their homes. He was able to do that at a moment's notice because we did not have anything pressing going on or planned.
What happens when you take a piece of long rope and tie lots of knots in it? The rope gets shorter. Each obligation and commitment on your calendar is like a knot. Taking up space in your life to where sooner or later there is no free space to tie another knot. Now when you try to add more to your already loaded schedule, the knots overlap one another turning into bigger knots.
The more demanding your life is the more intentional you have to be about what deserves time and energy on your schedule and what doesn't. A stressful job or business means you have to be even more guarded with other obligations and commitments. Saying yes to something you really want to say no to will only leave you feeling depleted and resentful which is not fair to you or anyone else.
Slow down and start making some necessary decisions to simplify your life and the life of your family. Tackle one knot of obligation at a time. Figure out what you can unknot to free up space so you can live life more present and have more time to go for a walk outdoors. To reconnect with the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair, to listen to songs of the birds that live in the trees of your yard. To pile the family up in the car not so you can rush to an appointment but to catch a sunset as it paints the sky together. Take time to smell the flowers that bloom in the summer or to watch the leaves fall in the crisp autumn air. The natural beauty of the world is just as natural as it ever was, except there's less of it now than there was thirty years ago.
Give yourself and your family the gift of unbusy so you can experience your life more fully together. xo
April Williams is the #CreativeMomista of two boys • Storyteller • Coffee Addict • Woman Warrior Of God • Texas Country Girl • Creative Expressive • A vintage soul passionate about inspiring mompreneurs to embrace their enough.