On Busy Days and Misery
Looking back at my childhood, I don’t remember my parents ever being as busy with life stuff, as my wife and I find ourselves. My parents were both present, both held down full-time jobs, paid their bills on time, kept up on the house, and still had time to visit with friends. My mom would occasionally go out for margaritas with my best friend’s mother and my dad would go mountain bike riding with his friends from church.
By contrast, my wife and I rarely ever seem to have free time to visit with friends and we live in a constant state of “there’s still so much to do!” Like my parents, my wife and I both work full-time jobs and we pay our bills on time. But that seems to be where the obvious similarities end.
Why don’t most of us feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after a long, busy day that involves work
Today’s parents are generally much more heavily involved in their children’s education than parents seemed to be when I was growing up. My wife and I (mostly my wife since she’s home from work earlier than I am) spend several hours every week going over school-related items with each of our kids:
Checking homework and signing classwork agendas.
Following up on the status of projects to make sure the kids aren’t slacking off.
Reviewing every paper that comes home in each of their Wednesday folders.
Emailing or texting teachers as needed.
Checking grades online when we haven’t seen studying being done regularly.
My parents would ask me every day, “Do you have any homework?” To which I would always respond with either “Yeah, but I already did it,” or “We didn’t have any today,” because I sure as hell wasn’t about to let a minor detail like homework get in the way of playing with my G.I. Joes or riding my bike.
Thank god the internet wasn’t really a thing back then and my parents couldn’t check my grades at-will.
And then there’s the kids. We have one more child than my parents had, and when sports are in season things get very busy, but that in and of itself doesn’t seem to be such a significant increase in parental work that it would make us feel like we’re constantly just barely keeping our heads above the water, in terms of day-to-day busyness.
The end result of all of this busyness is, I’ve found, that at the end of the day or sometimes even early in the evening, my wife and I would comment to each other how exhausted we were, how busy the day was, or how “it’s just been non-stop all day!”
These statements are always delivered with a vocal inflection of annoyance and a dramatic sigh. Because somewhere along the way – and I know we aren’t alone in this – we began to equate a busy day with being miserable.
If a day was busy, we were almost assuredly annoyed or frustrated.
One busy day after another. Rinse; repeat.
Having recently returned from a week off of work for the holidays, I started wondering why I automatically felt that way and if it needed to be that way. In looking back on super busy days at work – days packed with meetings and deadlines and items crossed off of my to-do lists – those days end with me feeling worn out, but pleased with the work day’s accomplishments.
So why don’t most of us feel that same sense of pride and accomplishment after a long, busy day that involves work and home life?
2016 was one cinder block to the face after another and for 2017, I’m looking to simplify my life and make it happier. I don’t have a perfect solution, other than to say I’m personally going to be striving to make a conscious choice, minute-by-minute, to shun those negative thoughts, that have me assume that if I’m busy, I therefore have to be unhappy.
Featured photo credit: José Martín via Unsplash.