Saturday, September 8, 2007

Are We Too Busy?

Yesterday, I left my straightening iron on. All day. I didn't realize it was still plugged in until I mindlessly threw a washcloth on top of it and eventually smelled something burning. It was one of those busy, overbooked days where we had one activity planned after another. I was rushing to get us all out the door, my mind focused on the long list of stuff we had to do. And in the process, I could have burned our house down. Or maybe something worse.

Of course I thanked my lucky stars that I escaped a potentially horrendous situation and vowed to be more mindful and careful in the future. But if I'm truly honest with myself, odds are something like that is bound to happen again. And I couldn't help but think of Brenda Slaby, the mother that killed her two year old daughter earlier this month by forgetting to drop her off at the babysitter and accidentally leaving her in the back of her sweltering car.

Brenda's story struck such a cord with me. I'd like to think that I would never, ever make such a careless, tragic mistake as to forget about my sleeping child in the back seat of my car. But my straightening iron incident was a sobering reminder that there are plenty of other ways that I could inadvertently harm my family by simply being scatterbrained. I've been struck by the lack of commentary on the Slaby story among the mommy blogs that I generally read. Maybe it's because we all have our straightening iron incidents and so the story hits a bit too close to home.

And so I can't help but ask, are we too busy?

Yes, most of us would admit that we're over scheduled (note to self: daughter #1 has Brownies tomorrow; daughter #2 has swimming). When my first child was a baby, I vowed that we wouldn't get sucked into that overachiever mindset where my children had to do absolutely everything. But somehow the activities just creeped up on us and the logistics and accouterments for the activities (who goes where when and what equipment do they need?) coupled with the accouterments and logistics for school (who goes where when, who needs what signed and who's doing what for lunch?), is alot to keep up with.

The activities are within our control and something to seriously consider paring back (I am). But it's not the whole story. Those of us who work know that it's also a big distraction. Joan Blades, co-founder of writes about the extreme work phenomenon, where people work 24/7 leaving little time for family or anything else, in "A Peaceful Revolution" on The Huffington Post. "Might we be working stupid because we are so tired?" Blades writes. "It is time for us to consider our values." My boss and I debated this extreme work environment when I confronted him on my lack of career progression due to my mommy status. "I have all of this work that needs to get done. I need someone who can be available all the time," he lamented. While as a manager I understood his argument, I rhetorically asked why working around the clock had to be the norm and commented that it couldn't be healthy for anyone -- working moms or not.

I found this great NY Times article, "Too Busy to Notice You're Too Busy," when doing my limited research for this post. It's written by a woman who seems to have figured it out. I couldn't agree with her more that we all need to consciously find ways to make ourselves less busy. But we also need to find ways to change the extreme work environment. I'm counting on and other organizations to lead the way on that front. In the meantime, I've put my Blackberry aside for the night and refuse to check my work email so that I can do what I enjoy most -- writing for this blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister!! I'm trying to be less busy as well... the pressure to be "always on" is almost too much to bear. I find I'm more productive with less distractions (at least this week without the blogging)