Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Glorification of Busy

Finding time to blog recently has been a challenge.  When I finally sit down in the evening, for a few minutes of quiet before I head to bed, I have found myself reaching for a book rather than the laptop.  Even now, as I type this on a quiet Sunday morning, while my kids are still sleeping and my husband is in our basement working out, I am feeling guilty.  There is just so much that needs to get done, not to mention what has to be done.

My days are filled as of late.  I get up at 5 am each weekday, shower, take care of the dog going out and feeding her and then finish packing lunches.  I usually either throw our daily load into the washer at this time or, if I was motivated the night before, throw the load I did then into the dryer.  Then it is time to start waking the kids and getting them ready to head out the door, one to a 6:45 bus and the other two are dropped off at a friend's house at 7:20 to catch the bus there as I head off to work.  After work, I head home and let the dog out, give her a good ear rub and then start getting dinner ready.  Conor gets home first, and after he gets himself a drink and snack, we try to get his homework done, or at least the part that he needs help to complete.  It is much easier to do it right away while he is the only kid in the house.  About an hour later, Carson and Hayden arrive home.  While they are getting a snack, they add their lunch box to Conor's next to the sink and while they eat, I clean them out.  Then, its time to help them with their homework.  At some point, one or two (or sometimes all three!) of the kids have to be brought to a practice.

We eat dinner close to 7, but aim for earlier if the kids practice schedule allows it.  Dinner is followed by showers for the kids while I start to clean up the kitchen and do some packing for the next day's lunches and my husband attacks all the dog hair with the vacuum.  Once that is done, we meet up in my bedroom and I distribute everyone's clean clothes to be put away.  Often, it is then time for the kids to head to bed. Our goal is everyone in their bed by 8 or 8:30, and then they are allowed to read until 9.  I still read to my youngest for 10 minutes and then sit with him while he reads to me for an additional 10.  If we don't do this, he doesn't get a star at school on Friday for completing his reading log.

I head back down and finish cleaning the kitchen and hopefully get the daily load of laundry into the washer.  If I didn't get a chance earlier in the day, this is when I get the load waiting for me in the dryer folded and hung up.  This is also the time that I make sure my husband has placed the correct sport supplies for the following day in my van.  Its also the time we make sure that each of us is clear on who is picking up/dropping off each kid at their practice or activity.

I have made a resolution to get ready for bed by 10:00 in the hopes of being in bed by 10:30.  Only one week into the new year and I have already failed at this at least 50% of the time.  I keep trying because that extra half hour of sleep does make a difference.  But, doing this means sacrificing those few minutes I have alone each day to read and/or blog.

Sadly, my tale is not unique.  We live in a society in which being busy is glorified.  We brag about being busy, we post status updates about how busy we are each day.  We wear our busy like badges of honor.  Often, we don't realize how busy we actually are until, by chance, we experience a day that isn't filled to the brim.

I have thought a lot on how to be less busy, and so far, I haven't come up with a solution.  Which kid do I say no to - who do I tell that they can't do an activity?  Because, even though each kid only does one sport per season, with three kids, all different ages, we have at least one practice every single night each week.  Do I tell Conor, who is only months away from his black belt, an achievement he has been working 7 years to accomplish that he can't go to the dojo?  Do I tell Carson who loves soccer that she can no longer play?  Or Hayden, the youngest who has been dragged to everyone else's practices and games for years that he can't have a turn to play the sport he loves?

I compare the life I live now to the life I knew growing up.  My brother and I played sports and my father worked a job with hours similar to my husband's, meaning my mother was completely responsible for my brother and me.  Yet, she found time to get dinner on the table, read the books she loves, and, in the time before email and reasonable phone bills, she also managed to write letters on a daily basis to family and friends who lived away.  Where did she find the time?

Upon examination, I realize that there are societal changes at play.  I too played soccer.  So did my brother.  But, back then, there wasn't the time commitment that exists today.  We played one game on Saturdays and I think we perhaps had one practice during the week.  Kids today often have two practices a week and games on both days of the weekend.  My son and husband are martial artists.  Being at the dojo every night of the week isn't uncommon.  In fact, it has been necessary some weeks, in order for my son to meet the requirements for his black belt.

When I was growing up, sports had very distinct seasons.  Soccer was in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball/softball in the spring.  Summer was summer - and you did nothing.  These days, while kids may play a recreation version of other sports, they tend to become sport specific at a very young age.  This makes carpooling a challenge.  In my neighborhood, all the kids played the same sport at the same time so there was almost always another family close by that had the same practice time and place.  So the moms took turns dropping off and picking up.  And my mother felt no pressure to stay at practice.  No one questioned her commitment to her kids if she pulled up next to the field and let us spill out of the back seat before returning home to finish preparing dinner.

Personal choice has added to the amount of time I spend bringing each child to their activity.  My husband and I choose a home that is a 20 or 30 minute ride from the center of town, where most activities take place.  My son's dojo is a 30 minute ride each way.  So, any activity they do, I need to spend an hour in my van.

I don't know what the answer is, for me or for society as a whole.  I'm not going to sell my home to move closer to town.  I'm not going to say no to one of my children.  As parents, we have become so use to the concept of multiple practices and games starting at an early age, and year round sports that I highly doubt that would change.  Returning to days of sports being single season activities won't happen.  Its the new normal in America.  My cries of "uncle" will do nothing to change it.

Instead, I am going to keep on keeping on, and hope like heck I don't look back and regret how rushed this portion of our lives seemed.

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