I’m Not Busy (And I’m Proud of It)


If you want to stop by for coffee or tea just let me know when. We don’t have a lot of things on this week.

Or if you need a hand with something just ask. I have plenty of time.

Or if you want to go to the park last minute just let me know. We’re always up for a spur of the moment play date.

I’m not busy.

Three years ago I was working full-time and moving house and dragging my pregnant self to bootcamp class and out for early morning runs. I liked my job and I worked a lot. I would stay late a lot of nights or go in on Sundays to get a head start on the week. I sometimes traveled for work and I often had evening events to attend or put on.

I was busy. I said it a lot. I’m really busy right now. I’d love to join/volunteer/do/meet-up but I’m just too busy.

At that time busy = important. Busy = life was moving forward. Busy = getting things done.

Things have changed since then.

We’re not that busy as a family. And I’m proud of that. We’ve scaled back our lifestyle so we could have more time. Time for unstructured play for our son, time for lazy Saturday mornings in bed as a family, time so that we can say yes to a last minute invitation.

Some of this is due to only having one of us working outside of the home full-time. Some of it is due to minimalism and our decision to buy and own fewer things. Another reason is that my husband and I are introverts and we find having a packed social schedule tiring. But a big reason for not being busy is that we’re all happier this way. We have more patience. We sleep better.

There is a lot of loose and unstructured time in our life. We like it.

This piece in the New York Times, The ‘Busy’ Trap, examines our need to be busy, what we think it says about us and why we need it.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. – Tim Kreider

When people tell me they’re so busy now I’m not impressed. I’m also not as empathetic. I used to nod my head in agreement, I know, I know, just so much to do. Now I just try and change the topic of conversation or say, well I better let you go then if you’re so busy.

Busy should be a season – not your daily life.

As the NYT article said, really busy people don’t say they’re busy.

Because they’re too busy to stop and talk or to take your call. They’re working three jobs or they have a family member gravely ill in the hospital. They’re opening their first restaurant in five days.

Really busy people don’t have the time to take on the things the rest of us do – sports, social commitments, house renovation projects – that make us so busy.

I know this slow pace we’ve adopted, the free unstructured time we have in relative abundance, won’t always be the case. We’ll run into things like having two children with events on opposite sides of town while my husband has an evening conference call and I have a writing deadline. I know that even as we strive for a simple life we will inevitably have moments and seasons of busy.

I just hope we always see that there is a way out. That we continue to see that busy is usually a choice.

Creating a “Not Busy” childhood.

So many of you have recommended Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids and I am finally reading it. Thank you. This book is a great resource and I will have a review up once I finish it.

Today’s busier, faster society is waging an undeclared war on childhood. – Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

There is too much in this book to summarize in a few sentences but I’ll try. Children need unstructured free time, predictable but simple schedules and age appropriate media/information in their lives in order to thrive. We are stealing our children’s childhood with too much information and too many time commitments.

Isn’t this reason enough to drop one or two activities, to put your Blackberry away during dinner and to send your regrets?

Busy is a choice.

People aren’t in a big hurry here. There aren’t that many things to do and it’s usually a short drive or walk to anywhere you have to go. Bad traffic is almost nonexistent. Island life is slow.

Sure, I do have local acquaintances that are busy. They have demanding jobs and a calendar packed with social engagements and extracurricular activities for their kids. One Saturday I ran into friends that were about to take all three of their children along to the five year-old’s third class of the day. While the pace here is slow there are still lots of opportunities to buck the trend and be busy, busy, busy. If you want that.

We don’t want a busy life so we’ve embraced a loose and flexible schedule. We have maybe a half dozen social commitments through the end of August. Mostly parties we have RSVP’d to or tickets to a show. We have just one family trip booked; four days in London during the Olympics. The weekly class I go to with Henry is about to shut down for the summer. I have a standing play/lunch date once a week and I work from home two short days and one morning while Henry is in daycare.

There is lots of time to putter around the house, doing laundry, playing trains or pack a lunch to go eat in the park. My husband and I might have evening commitments once or twice a week. Our weekends are mostly unscheduled. We have all the time in the world to decide to take a train to a little village or play on the beach or read or make a roast or see if another family wants to come over for brunch.

We’re not busy and I no longer think that makes us boring or means that we aren’t doing worthwhile work.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. – Tim Kreider

Anyone else turning their back on the culture of busy? What have been the challenges?

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  • My kids have friends who spend the whole weekend doing activities. My two eldest children go to swimming lessons on Saturday morning, my daughter goes to Brownies one weeknight, and that is all. They are so busy at school that I think they need some downtime at weekends. We have occasional days out and a holiday abroad every year, do I don’t feel they are missing out on anything. The children who have endless activities and entertainments seem to get bored much more easily, whereas my children are good at entertaining themselves.

    • OOOH great point, that the super busy kiddos get bored easier…that must be why at playgroup when I say my kids play by themselves I get looks….I thought it was bc I was lazy & selfish and didn’t ALWAYS play when asked…maybe it is bc we aren’t busy…*Flashbulb* THANKS.

  • I love this article. It confirms and reconfirms our families ideal of living. I think one of the drawbacks that I am now having is that at the ripe age of 43 I am I wondering what to do with my life. I feel society pushing me into “work”, into an energy/life exchange that I am not sure I want to do. My kiddos are raised. Although, not debt free yet, I have made the decision to stay home. I am just as valuable here at the house, creating space for my husband and kids to “land” and get away from the chaos. So many, many choices!! Yet I am glad I am in a good place of slowness. When I am consciously creating slowness in my / our lives: I can see!

    • I just want to tell you that I admire your desire to create that space for you and your family. As a 29 y.o new mother I feel that pressure to perform suffocating. Apparently we’re meant to have and do it all right? I will have it all, but I am happy for it not to be at the same time.
      It shoud be family first and to make that happen we need to find that peace for ourselves. Husband and I have decided I will only work 1 day a week if absolutely necessary in order to do the very thing you speak of. Thanks for being another soul who sees the value in keeping the nest warm despite social ‘standards.’

  • I agree so much with this. Our biggest problem in this area is sports. I only let the kids do 1 thing at a time but this spring I had 2 kids playing baseball. 2 different teams with practice or games 2-3 nights a week. This wasn’t some special team – just regular t-ball and baseball for a 7 and 4yr old. I basically lived at the baseball field. Luckliy the season was short and we’re making very few commitments for the summer. I just wish that there was a way for kids to play on more teams that didn’t take up your whole life….

  • Thank you so muchfor writing this!
    We’re deciding to be less busy by moving from the City to the country. Living in the city costs more, takes longer to get around and with the population doubling in less than a decade is beginning to feel incredibly cramped. Part of our family is here, though with all their smothering we’re gagging to get to a place where we can stabilise and enjoy the simplicity of being the three of us (Husband, Daughter and I).
    Our biggest challenge has been the conflict between Husband who resists change and the thrill I get out of change and transition. He’s never lived outside this city and to make this decision, following through and not looking back has been a significant milestone (Just encouraging him to embrace Minimalism has been epic).
    Now, we’re gaining inertia with a healthy pace… here’s to keeping it going- for all of us who seek it.

  • AMEN!!! I love this post! I left my 50+ hour a week job about a year ago b/c I felt like all I said to my daughter was “hurry up” or “we’re late” or a frustrated “let’s goooooo!” She was 3. Not fair to her, to me or to our family. As I type this, she’s happily making a play-doh cake listening to music and it’s almost 9am on a monday and we’re still in our jammies. We have relatively unscheduled days which means we can be spontanious and stop to look at something, eat a slow lunch, join friends at a park or simply sit on our porch and “watch the world go by” which is one of her favorite activities. She’s headed to kindergarten this fall and I feel so lucky that I was able to slow her life down before it will inevitably speed up.

    I so agree that busy is a chosen life these days – especially when it comes to scheduling our kid’s every minute. Why in the world do they need to take dance, music, swimming, french lessons and karate all at the same time? Especially when they’re 6! Again, thanks for this great post – I’ll be sharing it!

  • We’re rarely busy, and I’m so glad for it. I read Simplicity Parenting last year and felt much better about the choices I’d been making about our lifestyle. What’s funny is that some of my blog readers assume I’m always up to something–one gal told me when she read my work she then felt motivated to “Get busy”. I was very surprised because I don’t feel pulled in many directions. I figured out that my husband and I have the privilege (since we don’t have to work many jobs just to make ends meet) to pursue what makes us happy and since it’s a free-for-all, with no schedule or paid activities, we don’t feel busy even if we’re working on several projects at once.

    I feel like I’m giving my children a gift to create and build their imaginations, just as I was given the chance when I was young. We don’t even know what boredom is around here. So while I appreciate the economic value of my friends enrolling their children in many classes (I mean, we’re a service economy and without people spending on “wants”, our economy would collapse), and while I know my kids might not have 3 page CVs by age 16 to “ensure” competitive college admission, I’m grateful we live the life we do. I’ve worn the busy badge of honor before, but not now. Perhaps having three very young children at home with me has forced me to slow down. Thank goodness for that then.

  • Yes, yes, yes! I read Simplicity Parenting when it first came out. It articulated what was already in my heart and gave me the drive and specifics to start to create the life I wanted for our family. We have slowed waaaaay down. Our daughter is in one activity at the most. We are moving to a new house next week that abuts a park (less driving for me and more outside time) and is 4 minutes from my husband’s work (instead of his 30 – 40 min freeway drive every morning). We decided to homeschool last year and, for our family, it works and has really brought us closer together (I realize that this option is not for everyone!).

    I recently received an email from one of my good friends. She went on about how “busy, busy, busy” they were…work, listing the kids’ activities, etc. I literally cringed because I remember how proudly I used to say that same thing. I wrote back that we were enjoying the summer…going to a different park each day, hanging out and eating ice cream, watching wildlife. I imagine that she probably thinks that I am a little crazy, but I love this new life my family is creating!

  • I agree, but disagree. With three school age children who all want to participate in different activities, scheduling can be very difficult. I try to encourage them to do the same activities (one less drop off) but this becomes less easy the older they get. So much to my dismay, at least one child has an activity almost every night.
    I am thankful that we have been able to keep the weekends clear for free / down time, and so far our summers have been completely unscheduled where we have been able to travel to see our distant families.

    Thanks for the reminder – Sometimes it takes more effort to ‘not be busy’ that it does to be busy.

    • KT – I know we will have windows of busy but I hope (dream?) of not being overrun by the after school and evening activities. I do remember how much driving my mom put in during our teen years for sports.

  • I have a similar lifestyle, and it’s very important to me. I have come to realize that my family’s health and sanity is more important than pleasing people or competing with them. We save our time, energy and money for things that are special to us. My son’s formal activities right now are limited to a weekly free activity at the library. I decided against preschool, and will continue to teach him at home. I am probably going to pay for him to do swim lessons this fall, because his dad was a competitive swimmer, and I think my son would enjoy that too. I truly believe that my son’s intelligence and good health can be attributed to our calm lifestyle, and that makes it easy for me to say “no” to time and money sucks that could take away from that. Sometimes I get feeling a little bored, but I think I’m still getting used to the idea of settling down–I used to be very, very busy.

  • I love this post, love your blog! I think so much of people saying ‘I’m busy’ is just to act like they have a VERY important life. You’re as busy as you want to be, and you make time for your priorities. Just so happens my priorities are to NOT be in the car all the time, running errands all over town, or going to a million places. We have a rule that we only do one sport/activity per child at a time, I firmly believe kids need down time, as do adults. All this busy talk is so tiresome. Like you say truly busy people don’t have time to chat in the grocery isle about how busy they are!

  • To me, I think it’s the type of busy that screws kids over. We are training them for things that don’t matter in life, like sports. I think the type of busy they NEED to be is with practical life skills. Here is a good article explaining the difference: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all
    I think it all comes down to personality. Some people really need more down, unstructured time than others. For The Hubs, it is extremely helpful. For me though, I go literally insane. The busyness of having two young children and all the lack of structure they bring makes me beg for structured time and what you would consider busyness. I think it’s wrong to make either person feel bad–we all just have different needs.

  • My children are now adulkts and we always led an unbusy lifestyle. Not once (and I am not idelaizing this) did they say they were bored. As long as there were books, a sandbox, art materials and each toher they were always “busy” and happy. Time to just be and to play are vital. We made up many little games and routines that to this day my girls still talk about. They rarely mention piano lessons etc. (We always did one or two activities per season).

    I have to say I find it so amusing that this generation of mothers have to have books and labels for what is just living….seems competitive and braggy somehow. We just did what came naturally to us….we did not have to blog it or write about it. I sometimes thing this generation of parents overthinks and over shares everything!

    • I had a childhood like this and am trying to create the same for my kids. I think the reason that people now blog or write about it is that is pretty uncommon these days.

  • I grew up in a rural community. Besides after school sports for middle/high school students, the only other activities available were Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Little League baseball. My brother and I had lots of time to play, read, and entertain ourselves. I now teach in a bigger community and am shocked by the schedules my students’ keep. School ends at 3pm, because of activities, I hear of kids not eating dinner until 7:30pm, starting homework after that, and going to bed around 9 or 9:30… in elementary school! I’ve had parents tell me “we couldn’t get homework done because of soccer practice.” What kind of a message does that send to the kids?

  • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for writing this article! My family is not busy and that is our choice. I get annoyed when friends tell me how busy they are, and when I say we are great and have no plans, they look at me like we are so sad and well losers. It is okay because I am thinking slow down and maybe you could do X,Y,and Z, or maybe your child would not act the way he does and look so tired all the time. Our family likes to swim in the pool for hours, 2-5 hours at a time most of the days of the week. The kids play and have fun, we bring lunch down to the pool area. The kids do not run in and out of the house. If we have their friends over, the friend can not swim more than 30 minutes and they are bored. I think this is from doing and going so much that they can not do something more than a few minutes at a time.

  • Loved the post Rachel. Interestingly ‘busy’ now to me is relative. I have a busy week this week. Which compared to my life a few years ago, isn’t at all busy. But I feel too busy. There’s something happening almost every day (apart from Wednesday as Sports Day at school was cancelled due to a water-logged pitch). Tomorrow I am running, then sitting a friends toddler (as she is at a funeral) then I’m having those pesky eyebrows waxed. Late afternoon it’s open evening after school to review the work for the year. Finally a dance class has been switched round to Tuesday from the usual Friday this week and that’s straight from school. Too busy, and yet, it’s not really that bad. I can’t cope with this kind of back to back scheduling anymore.
    p.s – Kids starting school was a big change for us – I clock-watch a lot. This time of year there are things going on day after day as the year draws to a close. Then there are swim lessons (which for us are a must)… I long for the freedom of the summer hols now!

  • This post really hit home for me. In the last year or so I have been making a conscious effort to reduce all of the scheduled time in our lives. I have 2 young children. I am home full-time with my kids but also work as a freelance writer, and my husband has 2 jobs. Sure, we are busy – that sort of goes unsaid – but we try to enjoy as much free time as we can. Of course, we do have to plans some things in advance to ensure that we can fit it all in but, as I grow older, there is nothing I love more than being able to say yes to spontaneity! I try to see where the day will take us, instead of planning everything to death. It allows all family members to remain in the moment, instead of rushing to the next engagement. To an extent, being busy is a choice (not counting some temporary peak busy periods in our lives). If you choose to be busy, don’t complain about it!

  • I used to be busy. Then I finished Undergrad and stopped working multiple jobs. Our move for me to attend graduate school 7 years ago changed our pace of life to a slower one. I only worked 1 part-time job, I only had part-time course work and we had lots of family time. Now that my husband and I are both done with school, for now, and he is the only one working we have time for everything we want to do. Mostly it’s spending time with our 3 children. A few people expect me to do things for them when they ask, sometimes tell, me to do for them because I stay at home with the children and lead a slow life. When they do I tell them I can’t because I’m too busy. Too busy playing with the kids, too busy reading, too busy napping, too busy watching movies with my family, too busy cooking/baking, too busy avoiding helping people who refuse prioritize their lives and expect others too pick up their slack.

    • Oh, I can totally relate to this one. I made a really conscious effort to de-busify my life – but then my parents decided that since I had “nothing to do” I should be available to be at their beck and call whenever they wanted. I love them very much, but I did not create all of this space in my life just so they could fill it up!

      I am self-employed, so I finally just started telling them (and other who want to fill up my time) that I have a very demanding “client” who sucks up most of my time. I just don’t anybody them that this “client” is me!

      • I have been toying with starting a business and now I must. I think I’ll be taking on one of those demanding clients.

    • Love this Amy! I too am often asked to run around for other people because I stay at home with the kids. We decided to cut back to one salary in exchange of quality time for our family. If I wanted to strap the kids in their carseats and drive them around all day while I did other people’s errands, I would have sent them to daycare where they could play freely.

  • “Not busy and proud of it,” is a mantra of mine. I relish being not busy, to the point that I consider myself busy if we have plans more than one day of a week. My husband feels the same way. In the past two weeks, we’ve had houseguests just twice, but afterward we both felt that we’d been “very busy” and needed the weekend to relax and do whatever we pleased. Being not busy is an art, I think.

    This reminds me, too, of an all-important (sense the sarcasm) internet forum argument I once had. I wrote down a detailed response to some question and, I admit, as a wordy person, it was rather long. A third party came along behind me and replied with something like, “My, you must have A LOT of free time on your hands! I wish I had time for such things.” Clearly, she meant this in a disparaging, ‘your life is so pathetic,’ kind of way. I admit to feeling a small bit of triumph when I was able to reply, “why, yes, I do have a lot of free time. I consider that a good thing, don’t you?” It still makes me laugh a little to think of it.

  • This puts words to what my husband and I have been feeling. We are not busy and are not impressed when others rattle off their activities and their children’s. It seems as though people wear their busy schedules as a badge of honor but, to us, it seems like a straight jacket. The difficulty of not being busy is that everyone else is and we can never manage to get together with them (because of their schedules, not ours). One future issue we predict in raising a not-busy child in this busy culture is that all his friends will be too scheduled to enjoy unstructured time together — goofing around outside, riding bikes, having sleepovers, playing a non-organized sport. If he is an only child and all the kids we know are in some sponsored t-ball league (and 15 other activities), who will ever be able to come over and play ball in the yard with made-up rules?

    • Don’t worry, I have two “not-busy” boys and they still manage to have friends over. The thing is, if you’re the not-busy household and you don’t mind having the kids over to your house, you’ll find that those busy parents will be thrilled for their child to play with yours while they take another child to some other activity. And the kids will happily pass 3-4-5 hours at a time just playing. At least that’s been my experience. :-)

      • Great! I’m glad to hear it works out in someone’s experience. We would love to be the go-to house. :) We have a while (our son is just 23 months) but, wait, with kids starting sports at 3 around here, it is probably going to happen sooner than we think.

  • Yo go girl!!!! IMHO “busier than thou” is not something we should strive for. I totally agree with Kreider that business is something we use to protect ourselves from emotions and decisions that we really don’t want to face.

    I was raised as the ultra-busy super achieving child. 4.0 GPA, activities every night of the week, etc, etc. By my junior year in college, I hit the wall, and had what I call my “nervous hoedown” (like a nervous breakdown only smaller and with comedic overtones.)

    Anyhow, at this point I strive to be a lazy bum. Really folks, there’s nothing to prove and no one to impress. I am child-free by choice, but I totally and completely applaud those of you who are raising kids with simplicity and slowness.

  • I love this!! I strive to be as un-busy as possible. My husband and I have a daughter who is almost 2, and I want her to have as much unstructured, unsheduled time as possible. I also don’t do well with busy. I start to feel very overwhelmed and moody which is no fun for anyone!

  • I have always hated being busy. I am the mother of three, and the wife of one. My husband is self-employed, my children are in sports (one sport per season), and I work full-time with a 40 minute commute.
    I have to tell you that the craziness of life had been getting to me this past year or so, and had been a frequent subject when praying. I really felt like God intended me to do more (or less, depending on how you look at it) with my life. I really needed to put the brakes on, but didn’t know how to do it.
    Well, I got my answer in March. Cancer. Early diagnosis, but still had to go through chemotherapy, etc. And in one fell swoop, all of the BS in my life was gone and I was able to take a hard look at where I was at versus where I wanted to be.
    My priorities at this point are in alignment with my life. My husband is still self-employed, my children are still in sports, and I still have my full-time job. But I have learned what matters, like those special shared moments with your kids; and what doesn’t, like a coworker’s actions. I have learned to say no to obligations and yes to spontaneity. And we are all much happier for it. I am happier for it.

    • Paula,
      Thank you for sharing here. So few of us get those new eyes moments and I can only imagine how a cancer diagnosis swiftly clarifies what you really want and need in your life.
      I also appreciate hearing that you can still have the full-time job and children in sports and find the time for those special shared moments as you say.

      But I have learned what matters, like those special shared moments with your kids; and what doesn’t, like a coworker’s actions. I have learned to say no to obligations and yes to spontaneity. And we are all much happier for it. I am happier for it.

      I just read Apple’s comment below here and she also says it is about priorities.

      Hope you are well and recovered,


  • I think prioritising might be the clue. Even though I work part-time, my husband works full time, we both are studying, the kids have after school activities, play-dates, I can’t say we are busy (in the kind of “mad-busy” sense of the word). I even have time to do yoga, attend a book-club, and to meet up with girl-friends regularly. Life is simple. We only spend time on things we enjoy and want to do. We don’t feel guilty not contacting people who we haven’t really been friends with for a while anyway, we hardly spend any time on shopping (strolling around in shopping centres or in the city centre). :)

    • We only spend time on things we enjoy and want to do.

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. It is about prioritizing.

      And yes, I found I had even more time once I stopped shopping (online and browsing stores) and stopped reading magazines/fashion and decor websites. More time plus I was much happier with what we already had. :)

  • When I read this piece I felt we could be instant friends. It’s hard to be the not so crazy busy mom in a “too much to do” world. We have “adopted” this way of life for almost four years now. When my little boys was diagnosed with brain cancer our life turned upside down. The busy “so important” things that made us feel so whole didn’t matter anymore. From the second he was admitted into the hospital to today we have been striving to make our life as simple and meaningful for our boys as possible. Selling our too big house and cutting back, taking more trips, staying at home, long days at the park, not dragging my kids on endless engagements and just living for today has changed our life for the better. Once you let go of wanting so much and the stress of always doing more, life takes on a new purpose. We might not have the best of everything and don’t keep up with the neighbors anymore, but I can say I will never look back and regret one single day.

  • oh Wow!!! I’m in tears now, I’m glad for you, but this is my second week of work out of the house. I’m currently working in a daycare and boy it is hard! 18- 20 kids and only me and the teacher. I wanted to not be busy this summer and be home with my four children, and its sad to me and to them. Right now, I’m having a 10 min break from just getting home and setting my kids in their room. I’m at a place where I’m not too happy being too busy. Sorry for being a sour peach today.

  • Amen to this! Both my husband and I prefer to keep our time commitments to a minimum. Periodically someone tries to get us committed to some ongoing thing and we usually decline, and they think we’re missing out. When we say yes, we later resent it and wish we were just relaxing at home. Our kids have lots of unstructured time. We’ve been doing taekwondo together as a family for four years, so that is “our” sport. It is great because we can go to class together a few times a week, and it can be done year-round. I hear other parents complain about all the activities/lessons/sports they have to take their kids to, and wonder why they don’t just say no. Maybe a lot of people think it’s important for their kids to have all those opportunities, and mean well, but I don’t believe it’s necessary. And of course it’s not just kids’ activities, there is plenty for adults to commit to! I know some people like to be busy with things like that, but if you don’t, then it’s time to re-examine the schedule honestly.

  • I loved this article!!! Since moving to a new state our children are finding it very hard to make connections with new friends for this very reason. Too busy. Too many activities. No time to play. Our children are not involved in any activities, but will be starting dance classes (once a week) and piano lessons in August. I refuse to do more!!! I feel so much better for not over-scheduling my children or making them feel overwhelmed with too many commitments. Pay-doh is essential, making forts (or trying to) is essential and sleep is definitely essential…for me and my children!!!! Thanks for sharing!!! Good to know I’m not alone…I was starting to feel weird!!!

  • I loved this post Rachel. It is exactly what I’m shooting for my life to be like at the moment. For the last few years I have been too busy. This quote would have completely summed me up “obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy”, in 2008 and 2009. I did not take naturally to being a SAHM, then in 2010 my 2 year old son developed Coeliac type symptoms and we were too busy to do much as he was so ill. Of course, while all this was going on, I was still working part time and nursing said boy through the night! I had no space in my life for me anymore because I was always running on adrenaline to just get through the next day. There was no time for friends, or play-dates and much loneliness ensued. I should state that by thinking I could get through a crisis all on my own and not telling anyone how bad it really was, I set myself up to be too busy because I actually had to do everything myself! When he was better (and after my daughter was really sick for several months with tonsillitis, until the offending parts were removed) I developed IBS, tried to keep myself as busy as I had been, because, quite frankly, coming off adrenaline really sucks, and my body told me about it! I quit my part-time job, we’re minimalists; we didn’t need the income, and went back to basics: hanging out with my kids, doing laundry and rekindling the friendships I neglected while my son was sick and I thought I was superwoman and could do it all alone. Slow, calm, not busy and connected to my friends pretty much sums up where my life is heading right now, quite different to two years ago. There is a brilliant book by Richard Carlson (the don’t sweat the small stuff guy) called Slowing Down to the Speed of Life that I highly recommend as inspiration for this subject. Thank again for your inspiration Rachel :)

  • Rachel,
    I am so inspired by your blog. I strive to have this peace and “slowness” in my life. I want my boys to grow up slowly and build strong character traits – and I believe that cannot be done being shuffled around in a car here and there all day long. We are blessed to live on a farm and I secretly wish I could disconnect the cable TV (hubby is so against this……ugghhh….sports!) I love the quiet, I love to have both boys curled up on the couch and we read for hours together. Although I do blog myself, some days I wish we were back in the 80’s and had no internet, no cell phones – seemed easier then didn’t it??

    I just finished reading Simplicity Parenting and LOVED it!! Would recommend it to your readers as well.

    Here is a post I did on “Slowing down” on my blog – I would love it you checked it out.


    I hope you have a wonderful week!

  • I enjoy your blog very much, but this post comes across as arrogant. Free time is a luxury for many of us, and reading this post about how “being busy is a choice,” while my husband and I work 12-14 hours a day to make ends meet, feels insulting. “We have all the time in the world,” you say, and you’re not impressed with people who are busy. Well, believe me, this schedule is not a choice for many of us, and when we tell people we’re busy, we’re not trying to impress anyone (!). I wish we had “all the time in the world” to join friends for spontaneous get-togethers, or had enough money to have the option of cramming our schedule full of activities. We’re not working this hard to pay for a materialistic lifestyle–we live very simply, and that’s why I started reading your blog–we’re just trying to cover our basic bills.

    • Hi Stacy,

      There was a small part in there about people working three jobs, having something large in their life like a relative being in hospital, are truly busy. They’re busy not by choice – like you. They are busy because this is how they have to be to survive.

      As the NYT article said, really busy people don’t say they’re busy.

      Because they’re too busy to stop and talk or to take your call. They’re working three jobs or they have a family member gravely ill in the hospital. They’re opening their first restaurant in five days.

      Really busy people don’t have the time to take on the things the rest of us do – sports, social commitments, house renovation projects – that make us so busy.

      I wish I had focused a bit more on that in this post. That some people don’t have the choice to be busy or not be busy. I also read a good response from a single mom here: simplemoments.org/2012/07/11/busy-isnt-a-choice/.

      I don’t mean to sound arrogant. Certainly our lifestyle over here (one income family) is a gift and, really, a luxury. I try to mention that here, that I know how lucky we are. I was raised in a single parent family with five siblings. We barely scraped by and were on social assistance at times.

      When I hear from families and friends that are busy not by choice, working to put food on the table, spending most of their free time helping elderly or ill parents, I have all the sympathy in the world.

      But when I hear “I’m so busy” because of a house remodel or children in karate/swimming/violin/two baseball teams, plus a heavy schedule of evening activities for adults, when I hear they’re so busy and are complaining about it I really want to ask them if they know that, for them, busy really is a choice.

  • How often I have felt this in my heart! I AM “busy” in a way. My idle time is spent crocheting, sewing, cooking, quilting, reading, etc. But it’s such a different kind of activity than I see in the whirling world around me. I don’t just sit and watch TV; the set is very rarely turned on. Being on a farm means I always have something to do, but most of my activity comes from serving and enjoying my family. What a joy it is to have a peaceful lifestyle! It really is our choice.

  • LOve, love love this post!
    I cringe when I look back at how many times I responded to ‘How are you?’ with ‘busy!’.
    There’s still moments of busy – but it’s the calm in between that is most important to me.

  • I completely agree with this. We made the choice before we even got married that I would stay home when we eventually had a baby and we planned accordingly by living on his income from the start. Not only were we used to living on less, but all the money I had earned up until becoming a mom went into savings. Now granted, my husband has a good job, but it’s not exceptionally high-paying and certainly not much different from the people who tell me how “lucky” I was to be able to stay home with my son.

    I truly feel for those without a choice and those are not the ones who annoy me. It’s the ones taking the vacations we don’t take and living in the fancier house than the modest home we chose to stay put in who then tell me how lucky I am and how they wish they could afford to quit their jobs. They just don’t seem to understand that my “luck” has nothing to do with being lucky and everything to do with choices. I’ll get off my soapbox now!

    The way we’ve chosen to live suits us. When I was working away from home 3 days/evenings a week, things just did not function well for us as a family. I now work one day a week, just enough to keep me from turning into a hermit, and we are all so much happier. The lower stress level is worth so much more to us than anything we have to give up.

  • I love this post and it helps to see other people that believe in kids having downtime. I want my little girls to be successful in life, but I want them to know how to ENJOY life and the success.

    My one and only question is, where I the world do you live that traffic is almost non existent? I live in GA working in Atlanta, and I swear I cannot go anywhere ever without putting in a half hour cushion for the drive!

    • We live in the Isle of Man. Population of the island is about 80,000 and our city is about 20,000. Sometimes I see traffic out front of our flat along the Promenade. It is people driving in from the adjoining town for work. I am sure they think it is bad traffic but to me, a North American, it’s nothing. It might mean an extra 5 mins to their commute if there is a bit of congestion on the road.

  • I tried a new experiment this summer, and it’s working!
    First, my boys love baseball, so I wanted them to be able to play for the local summer kids programs. Second, I beleive swimming is a mandatory life skill.
    I signed the boys up for a short, 4 week camp toward the end of the school year, before the summer rec. programs started. Now, they have their summer rec baseball (mondays for the 4-year-old and tuesdays/thursdays for the 7-year-old.
    When those are done, if they want to, we can do another 4 week swim camp in August.
    I also blocked out the whole night for their baseball instead of just the time of their game. So now, instead of saying, ‘well, the boys have ball from blank to blank and we could do something before/after, it’s just, the boys have baseball. I can give you the time and field and you could come, or we can reschedule for a different night.” and that is working out soooo well.

  • Hi Rachel,
    I’m late replying to this post, but I just found it through one of my favorite blogs, Little Eco Footprints. I had read Tim Kreider’s article when it first appeared in the New York Times and loved his writing, reasoning, and humor so much that I followed up by reading his amazing book (called We Learn Nothing). Anyway, I’m glad that this post led me to your blog (which is lovely), as we are like-minded bloggers. I recently wrote a post called “Unplugging from Technology to Reconnect with Your Kids”, which hits on this same topic of busy-busy-busy, and all for nonsense, when kids really need us to focus some quality time on them. Just subscribed to your blog, am eager to read more, and wanted to introduce myself across the blogosphere to you!
    Cheers, Joy at Joyfully Green

  • What a great article, so glad my pal Maggie posted it on FB…we too live minimally but I do say I am busy a lot. I guard my downtown openly tho. I have seen I am crabby and short tempered with my children mostly when we have to go somewhere…..ah…I signed up to follow your blog without reading a single line, just from THAT post title & the byline on it. THANK YOU for reminding me of myself.

  • As one of those moms I struggle to relate to this. I have a husband in medical school, a four year old who is so smart it kills me to keep up, a two year old special needs angel who sees 5 therapists and 8 specialists, an ex who takes up time, my own health problems that require time and many appointments, and the rest of life moves on. They both start school in the fall at different places, and we know we will have more children….. Some days I’m so good at taking in the small accomplishments, others it’s hard to not feel so overwhelmed by the hand we’ve been dealt. But we’re incredibly blessed, and someday my chance to be a minimalist mom might sneak in. I grew up in a chaotic busy lifestyle, but with that also came so many learning opportunities, chances to see the world and make sooo many friends! Guess there’s a time and season for everyone huh? :)

  • We live a lifestyle very similar to the one you described that your family adopted. The biggest challenge I’ve found with this is finding other people and parents who can understand and aren’t offended when I have to decline from lunch or playgroup cause I feel stressed or overscheduled. To them the busier the better because we all are stay at home moms who need to get out of the house all the time otherwise well go crazy. :) that’s partially true. I think you hit the nail right on the head about taking our children’s childhood away from them when we’re overscheduled. Thank you so much for this post. I feel totally validated in all the right ways.

  • I finally got fed up with always being too busy. I read a book that change my life and decided to take a one year sabbatical from committees and planning activities. I finished up the commitments I had and found it easier to say no bc I told people I was taking a one year sabbatical, somehow there was less guilt for me. NO ONE said anything unkind and most said they’d like to do the same, a few looked at me as if I’d lost my marbles, but overall I got positive responses.
    That was five years ago.
    I’ve never gone back.
    I rarely have any plans.
    Neighbors drop in all the time unannounced and know we’ll be here with tea and coffee ready. We have time as a family and time for real community instead of endless activities and events.
    It’s so much better this way.
    Try it. It might just change your life.

  • I’m in “kind of” the same boat as you – I quit my job to have more time with my son, but sometimes I find it getting eat up by household chores. Lately, now that he’s two, I’ve got a little more handle on things but – I was MORTIFIED today when my son sat in the kitchen, on the floor, crossed his arms (while I was making dinner), and FROWNED. I asked “what’s wrong” and even got in his face, like they say you’re supposed to do and he whispered “Mom, I’m too busy.” Think a little bit of my heart broke – I NEVER tell him I’m too busy for him. Then he added “I’m being upset now.”

    It’s true we’ve added “some” classes to our schedule – 2 a week – and I was so proud of this because it’s quite a hassle (though a rewarding one!) – and we’ve hung out with friends about twice a week (so not a PACKED schedule but, quite a bit outside of groceries and OB appointments). Anyway, to hear him say this makes me wonder if somehow, despite the fact that I’ve even given up going to the gym (my son freaks out if I am gone longer than 15 minutes), and carrying him around, and taking him to the park and the mall nearly every day that we can feasibly make it…somehow…I’ve relayed to him that I’m too busy for him!

    *Sometimes* I go online (not THAT much I feel) – but, I try to be as present as possible. So, I’m in an odd position to see this critical behavior when I thought I was spending every minute with my son. He doesn’t even take baths alone or sleep alone :( We’re together 24/7. ….

  • I understand you have good intentions, but for people with special needs children, on a lower wage or with little in the way of savings the phrase ‘time is money’ holds particular meaning. When a fridge or car breaks down and there is no cash in the bank to pay for it, extra hours will need to be worked to make up the shortfall. These are hours that can’t be spent doing something relaxing, or productive like studying, upskilling or applying for better jobs. We’re just trying to survive.

    • Hi Joanna, I’m so sorry my post offended you. I can only imagine how stressful and time consuming it is to have a special needs child on a low income. I write here from my perspective and try to write that caveat in as much as possible. Obviously deciding to not be busy is a luxury in itself. Take care, Rachel

  • I call myself ‘The Unbusy Mum.’
    My husband and I are quiet people who like nothing better than doing nothing (together or apart.) We’re not lazy people, what we are is people who are at peace and content to just BE.
    My son (18 months) doesn’t have a life full of activities and isn’t passed around family, friends and babysitters so I can go to work. We go to a couple local Toddler groups and tend to go for lunch once or twice a week with family or friends with children the same age as my son.
    I don’t drive and we live in a small seaside village on a remote Scottish Island. Probably around 90% of my son and I’s life is within walking distance of our home and it suits us lovely. My husband is a natural hard-worker and and is happy to hold down 2 jobs. When he’s home he slots into our quiet, neat little routines.
    We’re not stressed and our lives are small enough to feel safe, content and wonderfully sustainable.

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