Updated: Apr 8
I work as a Virtual Assistant and as such, I get to meet lots of interesting people. One of those people is an Organisational Business Coach. She was recently giving a talk about being busy on purpose and it got me thinking. The talk was aimed at working people, entrepreneurs always needing something to do, but I felt a pang of guilt as it resonated with me as a mother.
I'm always busy and if I'm not I find ways to fill up any gaps. People often say to me, "I don't know how you do it". Usually I tell them I just like to be organised, but the truth is, I do put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself and I really don't know why. One of the most difficult questions I found myself asking after I heard this talk was, 'am I deliberately avoiding my children'?
Let's face it. We love and adore our children, but spending masses of time with them isn't always easy and if I'm quite honest, it isn't always a pleasure either. I'm sure there are a handful of mother-earth types out there who would happily give up work and keeping on top of the laundry to bask in the heaps of crafting material and overflowing paint jars to spend endless hours amusing their children. I'm afraid that isn't me and I reckon, I'm the majority not the minority.
But how far do we actually go to avoid having to play cars or build lego? What are we really avoiding? I am a busy person, I need to be. At least, that's what I tell myself and that's what I've always believed. The reason? By nature I'm a procrastinator. People who know me would find that hard to believe, I'm the most organised person they know and I always get the job done. But it's true. If I wanted to be lazy I could be, easily. Last year when the first lockdown came I found it quite a novelty to suddenly be furloughed and have time on my hands. There I was with my children who weren't at school and an abundance of time to spend with them. So what did I do? I organised a volunteer group and busied myself organising the volunteers, shopping for those isolating and making care packages for people in care homes and delivering them. I did that out of a sense of purpose rather than avoidance however, a need to help is something I feel inherently and usually at my own detriment. But I didn't have to do it. I could have spent that time with my children.
But when I think back, what would I have done with them? We went on bike rides and we played games in the garden. I homeschooled them and we spent a glorious 3 weeks off in our caravan when caravan sites finally re-opened. I definitely spent more quality time with them than I ever would or could have before. What purpose would it have served to be even more available? What more could I have done with my children? They are of an age now they don't want to play lego or make drawings with mommy. They are quite happy glued to their iPads thank you very much. So what more could I have done? Did I do enough? Should I have volunteered? Should I have put my children first?
Once our lovely three weeks was over and people were slowly going about their ways again, I found our volunteering services were needed less. It looked very much like work would be returning to normal and I needed to ready the non-profit organisation I manage to re-open in a Covid-secure way, so I became busy in other ways but I did make the decision to homeschool and to commit my time, or at least, some of my time, to that. About three weeks into homeschooling I took on another job. I became a Virtual Assistant.
The reason for this was that my job didn't return to normal. Since March 2020 I am still on flexible furlough hours working just three per week. This is actually ideal for homeschooling but I never gave it a chance. I took on another role and I am now so busy that I can't actually take anymore clients on. That's a good thing I suppose. But why didn't I give it a chance? I think I know the answer. You see, my client was right. We do make ourselves busy on purpose and we are trying to avoid something. But it wasn't my children I was trying to avoid. It's the concept of doing nothing and feeling guilty about it. I'm not a typical Mrs Hinch housewife. Don't get me wrong my house is clean and tidy and I get the kids involved on the weekend chores. But I certainly don't relish in donning my pink rubber gloves and pulling out my cleaning caddy everyday. The hoover comes out once or twice a week and only if there's a major spillage does it come out more than that. So I suppose I'm avoiding having to become a domesticated housewife. Most importantly, I'm avoiding me time. This is awful to admit but it's true.
I think lots of moms feel an awful sense of guilt if they spend a few minutes sitting down with a cup of tea in the middle of the day whilst the kids are at school and dear husband is at work. It's almost like a sin that you have to make up for. There's only so much playing and so much housework you can do in one day when your kids are a certain age, and if I had had time on my hands to sit down and write that book I always wanted to write, I know I would have felt guilty about it. I think I might have even felt like my status in the household wasn't worth as much as my husband's. So I keep busy to avoid taking the time I probably really need, to just be me. There, I've admitted it.
So, now that I know why I'm being busy on purpose, what can I do about it? I've already committed myself to not taking on anymore work. My weekends are for family time and I'm attempting to get into a routine to finish work a little earlier each day to spend time with my children. Instead of working lunches I use my 12pm-1pm time slot to load the tumble dryer or do some ironing. I'm glad I heard my client give that talk. It made me give my head a wobble and take a look in the mirror. If you're a 'busy on purpose person', try asking yourself why? What is it your avoiding? What is it you could let go of? Let me know in the comments how you get on. Good luck!