Please Don’t Tell Me How Busy You Are

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Dear Mom Friend,

I shared this over on my blog recently and while it may sound a little harsh, I thought you might appreciate the perspective of another busy mom…one who is always learning from her own mistakes…

BusyMom2I say this with love…and a complete, empathetic understanding of your overscheduled life… but you’ve got to stop blaming your decisions on your busy calendar.

If you can’t get together for coffee, tell me you have other plans.

If you can’t manage to deliver something you’ve promised a hundred times, admit that you’re a disorganized mess and ask me to extend some grace.

If you are chronically late to pick up your child tell me there’s a conflict in your schedule or that you haven’t quite figured out how long it takes you to get out the door with a new baby. I would understand that. I could relate to that.

But please – for the love of all things sacred to moms on this earth – don’t tell me how “busy” you are. Don’t list all the things you have on your plate, apologize half-heartedly, and expect me to cut you a break. Not because I don’t care or because I don’t believe you. And not because I think I’m busier than you are. Trust me, the last thing I want to see is women competing for the title of Most Busiest Mom – because being busy is not a good thing in my book. It’s not something I brag about or something that I’m proud of. It’s something I battle on a regular basis.

When you tell me you’re too busy, you’re saying my request (or your commitment) is not important. And that’s ok – as long as you’re honest about it and tell me that up front. Don’t let me wait around for you – expecting you to deliver on a promise. Don’t let me count on you, only to be disappointed. Don’t beg me to make exceptions and jump through hoops to accommodate your busy world, as if the rest of us don’t live there with you.

Let’s face it – moms are busy people. And we tend to take on more than we should. We’re all in this mess together. We created it ourselves. And we tell ourselves it’s only here for a season…so we will muddle through…because someday we’ll miss it. I get that. And I agree we should embrace the chaos of our responsibility-filled lives and enjoy the blessings of motherhood and all that this season brings. But we can do that with honesty and grace and kindness. Without blaming others, letting people down and expecting sympathy or special treatment. And perhaps more importantly – without feeling like we’ve failed.

When we use our busy schedules as an apology or an excuse, we’re implying there is a failure taking place. That we’ve somehow messed up or that we’re just not cut out for this job. Be assured – that is not the case! We are wonderfully made by our Creator and we are perfectly equipped to do the job.

But when we blame our busyness for everything, we’re missing out on the opportunity to take ownership for our decisions and to stand firmly for what we believe are the right choices for ourselves and our families.

I’ve been in your shoes before – more times than I care to admit. I’ve been that mom who rushes into church precisely five minutes late each week. I’ve been the mom who scrambles to complete paperwork and deliver payments to school or soccer at the very last minute. And I’ve completely forgotten performance dates and registration deadlines, thanks to my chaotic, over-busy schedule. (And I’ll do those things again!)

But I’ve learned to be brutally honest about my threshold for overwhelm. And I’ve developed solutions that may be unconventional and to establish expectations upfront. I remember telling the 2nd grade teacher that my son’s daily agenda would be signed by his 5th grade sister. I explained that she was far more qualified than I am for the job and that she was actually interested in doing it, so she would be more likely to stay on top of it. I thought that was a win-win situation. (I’m not sure the teacher was a fan at first, but I think we eventually earned her approval – and at least she knew what to expect from us.)

I used to have lunch with a friend every couple of weeks. When there was a shift in my work schedule and my kids started to become more active, I found myself canceling on her for lunch all the time. I told her I was sorry but that I was “just so busy.” Well, of course she was busy, too. And she didn’t know about my schedule change – she only knew that I was no longer available to her. And our friendship suffered. Eventually we had a difficult conversation in which she pulled the truth out of me – and later thanked me for being honest. Now we have lunch every once in a while – and in a few short years, we’ll be back to our old routine, I’m sure.

The point is that nobody wants to hear how busy we are. They really just need to know if they can rely on us or not.

So the next time I ask you to do something – please just tell me the truth. Don’t tell me you’re too busy – just tell me if I can count on you. And if I can’t count on you – for this one thing – then that’s ok. If you make a conscious decision to choose something else instead, I will respect that. If you have something weighing on your heart, maybe I can help. If you’re simply a disorganized mess, I can relate. I won’t love you any less. In fact, I’ll appreciate your wide-open heart. And you will get the opportunity to stand firm in the decisions you make for yourself and your family. Without blaming your schedule or feeling like a failure.

Copyright 2014, Theresa Ceniccola

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About Author

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a mentor to moms who are running a business that supports their values of faith and family. As president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network for free and receive the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur toolkit!

18 Comments

  1. This is great, Theresa! Thank you for sharing. I read a blogpost several months ago written by a man who took out the word BUSY from his vocabulary. His wife joined him in his efforts, too. They wanted to be authentic with people when conversing with them. Rather than saying, “Oh I’m SOOOO busy.” They talked about their highs and lows, what activities were keeping the calendar occupied, etc. with those they encountered.

    Their actions impacted me, and I’ve tried adopting a similar approach. I’m a deacon’s wife, and I often hear … “Oh you guys are just so busy.” And I cringe for all the reasons you state above as I pray I’m not putting those vibes out in the universe. And truthfully, our schedule isn’t that booked. I’m free most nights and Saturdays if someone really wanted to get together for a cup of coffee! 🙂

    Here’s another blogpost you may be interesting in reading. It’s written by the Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center, and he has some very powerful words regarding the “Disease of Being Busy”: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/7023

    Thanks, again, for sharing.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lisa. I love the challenge of removing the word “busy” from my vocabulary. I’m going to try that! And thanks for sharing Safi’s article – he really gets at the root of the problem. It truly is a state of dis-ease. And I think that’s what I battle. The language – or the way I choose to talk about my state of busyness – is the first step in making strides to change that state of dis-ease. And to remember that people want to hear about my ‘heart’ and not my ‘schedule.’ I love his perspective!

  2. Theresa, this post really resonates with me. I get weary of hearing people say they’re busy for all the reasons you list. You put words to something that’s been niggling my mind for a while. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  3. I am torn as to whether I like this or not.
    I am busy, but never too busy for a friend in need. I’m not chronically late, and I’m pretty good about juggling life.

    However, my good friends, all know how busy one-another are. And if I say, I can’t fit anything else on my schedule right now, it kinda does mean I’m too busy. lol
    And that’s just a fact!

    The other thing is, I don’t really feel like I owe anyone a HUGE explanation, past, “no, I’ve got something else planned”! You know?

    I think the good news is, we all do what we think is best. I agree that “I’m too busy” gets old. So do many excuses. I am a fan of busy. I schedule downtime too. But I do stay busy… and I’m ok with that. I think my friends should be too!

    Out of charity, I really try not to cringe. Just realize that we are all in different life seasons, at different times, and that’s ok.

    Blessings,
    Em

    • You are so right, Emily. You don’t owe anyone an explanation! That is so true. My challenge is in trying not to make ‘my busy schedule’ the answer for everything I choose to do or not do with my time. And to remind myself that I am in control of ‘my busy schedule’ so I can choose at any time to make a change – rather than an excuse. And to simply be honest with myself and others in admitting my priorities — and not say anything that would imply that my life is busier than anyone else’s. But you’re right…sometimes that leads us down a path of having to provide an explanation, which is totally not needed!

  4. I really like this article. It’s just so easy to blame our busyness for so many things, and rush through, putting other good things off until we’re not so busy. Life feels haphazard…but I’m trying to take time to squeeze in some things of value. I don’t have everything sorted out though…that’s for sure, as I still feel guilty for not putting my kids in a lot (any?) extracurriculars. I like your idea of your 5th grader signing your grade 2 son’s agenda book. I think maybe my 3rd grader might get enlisted to sign her little brother’s agenda book. I mean, really…who needs an agenda book in kindergarten!!!

    • I totally agree on the agenda in Kindergarten, Monica! And I say start training your 3rd grader now! It will pay off later;-) My daughter is 100% in charge of my son’s morning routine at this point – she wakes him up, makes sure he gets dressed, gets his breakfast and makes sure he brushes his teeth. I am so pleased my with delegation skills – haha!!

  5. I’m also definitely on the fence with this. On the one hand, I think it’s good to define and admit your priorities. And, I think you were trying to say that it’s good to avoid making excuses that put the blame elsewhere, rather than taking personal responsibility.

    But…

    A lot of times I think, as mothers, we get stuck taking care of the squeaky wheel (screaming toddler; deadline at work; running the carpool) rather than fueling our passions. It seems easy to say that we should just eliminate those squeaky wheels that eat up our time, but in reality sometimes we have to accept that, for a season, we have to just postpone lunch and sign the planners to do tasks that are not the least big fulfilling. This is the sacrificial side of our vocation.

    Also, as a friend, when someone says “I’m just so busy” I KNOW what she means is: “I have twins, I work full time, I volunteer, I’m a disorganized mess etc., and in a perfect world I’d love to join you, but this is not the time.” I don’t hold expectations for my friends to tell me their details–sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. As an adult, I realize that there are some details that are NONE of my business– like marital problems, child problems, caring for their substance abusing brother, and so on. When my friends tell me they’re busy, I pray for them that they have the strength to support them in their activities. My mom and her college roommate got together annually for years. Then, they got busy caring for high school aged kids and aging parents. Their visits stopped– they were too busy. Now they are empty nesters and make time again for visits even though they live 1000 miles apart. They never hashed out the full details, they just didn’t schedule the visit. When one called, the other declined. They just respected one another. As a friend, I hope that I find every opportunity to extend grace to my friends, rather than making demands that they offer me an excuse that is phrased acceptably.

    Also, I think you were hinting at not beating ourselves up. Sometimes, guilt is unhealthy, like when we beat ourselves up for not being able to do EVERYTHING. But, sometimes I think that a little guilt helps to motivate us to do better- to leave the house on time or to go visit someone in need even though we’re tired and could use a day at home. Again, no need to beat ourselves up, but recognize that feeling is a signal that something needs to change, we need to be more organized or less selfish- set a goal with steps to reach it.

    • Great points, Beth. I have to question myself a lot on the sacrificial side of my vocation. Sometimes when I’m complaining, even in my own mind, about the mundane tasks, I have to stop and remind myself to embrace the mundane. Because it’s part of the gift of motherhood. And I’m going to miss it one day!!

      I really wasn’t suggesting that we eliminate the squeaky wheels. This post was more of a call to be honest with ourselves about how we spend our time and to not use the busy pace of life as an excuse because it takes away our power to choose. I also know what a friend means when she says, “I’m too busy” – and I would not pry or expect details from anyone. Personally, I am just trying not to say those words when what I really mean is, “I choose not to do this right now.” Hope that makes sense.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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