As a working mother of five—yes, five—boys, my days are filled to the brim. If I’m not careful about what I fill them with, they go from “full” to “busy,” and busy is just not how I want to live. Think about it—we’ve replaced the word “fine” with “busy.”
“How are you? “
“Oh, I’m busy…Good, but busy.”
In a chaotic world, our culture applauds busy, but is that really how you want to live? Saying yes to everything under the sun, shuttling your kids from countless activity to activity, trying to outshine everyone and prove (really, even if just to yourself) that you are indeed Super Mom?
Not me. So in the spirit of breaking the busy before it breaks me, here are five things that this mom just can’t do anymore:
1. I can’t compare real life to Pinterest.
You know all of those gorgeous inspiration photos on Pinterest, the ones we pin and think “I’m going to do this for my next dinner party” or “Look at all these painstakingly perfect handmade party decorations that I’ll make for Junior’s first birthday”… well, when they become more than inspiration and the standard you hold yourself to, it’s time to stop pinning. Real life does not look like a perfectly staged Pinterest photo, and the more I compared the two, the more stressed out and unhappy I became.
2. I can’t say yes to things I know I don’t want to do.
Bake sales? Not my thing. While I am perfectly happy and willing to grab a dozen cupcakes from the bakery or donate financially, my participation in a bake sale by actually doing the baking isn’t good for anyone. I don’t enjoy it, and most won’t enjoy what I bake! I’ve learned to say no things that I really just don’t want to do, and not feel guilty about it.
3. I can’t pick up after my kids anymore.
In case you missed it, I have five boys. If I spent all my time picking up after them, it would take the entire day! And it’s a slippery slope—once you start, you can’t stop. But after 10 years of spending my time that way, I finally put an end to it. I set boundaries with my kids and told them that while I wouldn’t nag all day, there would be consequences if they didn’t pick up their stuff. Want to go to a friend’s house or play video games? Pick up your stuff. It’s working pretty well for us so far.
4. I can’t save my kids from natural consequences.
What I hear from moms all over the country is that homework is the most miserable time of the day, because you have to nag the entire time—are you doing it? Are you doing it the right way? Is it all done? But sometimes, kids need to do it on their own—they don’t need mom hovering. I can’t save my child from the natural consequences of receiving a bad grade. That is something they need to learn from, on their own.
5. I can’t take my kids to every birthday party under the sun.
Between five kids, we’re invited to about a million birthday parties a year. Think about it—between friends at school, church, sports, etc., there are a lot of birthday parties to attend! So we set a rule with our boys that they could pick two, and only two, birthday parties to attend in a given year. So for us, that’s 10 parties a year, but if we did any more than that, we would spend every Saturday sitting at a birthday party and not spending quality time together as a family, or participating in the boys’ extracurricular activities.
I want to be able to answer the question, “How are you?” with “Good” or “Happy,” not “Busy.” For me, breaking the cycle of busy comes down to boundaries and saying no to things that overwhelm my schedule and truly are not a good use of my time. Life doesn’t have to be lived on the edge of burnout—it’s crucial to start breaking busy before the busy starts breaking you.
Alli Worthington is the executive director of Propel Women and the author of the new book "Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy." She is a wife, mom to 5 boys, and lives just outside Nashville, TN. Connect with her online at alliworthington.com.