The conversation goes something like this:
Me: “…and I’m married to the vicar, so we minister together in the parish, and we have two young children…”
Them: “Wow. You must be very busy then!”
Me: “Yes, I suppose I am…we cope…”
I have lost count of the number of times I have had this exchange. But everything changed last week as I was feeling particularly reflective, and found myself challenging… well, myself.
Are you busy? Really? Busier than before you had children? Do you think you might be colluding in someone else’s misplaced idea that you are busy, and therefore fulfilled and important?
It brought me up short. Actually, I’m not busy. Since I had my first child 2 and a half year ago, I haven’t been busy. Yes, sometimes life is very full. But not busy. Rarely busy.
Because for me, busyness is about having such a full life, with such a rammed diary, that I don’t have room for the important things. The things that feed me. As a childless curate, I rarely had an hour of unplanned time. If I did, it was a real treat. Time with friends, with my family, time for reading, time for fun… it all had to be diaried. Itemised and quantified.
Having children has changed everything. It can take an hour to leave the house on a bad day, so leaving merely an hour of free time in an otherwise packed day is only a recipe for stress and panic.
Everything takes ten times as long. On a walk to the shops, every flower has to be examined. Every puddle splashed in. Every car pointed out and named.
Children are very good at living in the present moment. Much better than we grown ups. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child, where the most important thing is now, has been a precious gift.
The life of a child (and their parent) may be full of activity, but for me it is rarely busy. How can you be busy when there are purple flowers to spot and daisies to pick? How can you be busy when each of your 20 cars has to be carefully placed in rows on the bottom step of the staircase before you leave the house? How can you be busy when it is more fun to have a conversation with every passing dog, cat, bird and bee?
Busyness tells us that we are needed. Important. Perhaps indispensable? Yet maybe in the midst of our busyness we fail to see where we are truly needed, or what is really important.
Life is full. But I am no longer busy. And for that, I give thanks.