The Business of Busyness


3 min read

The other morning I began talking to my husband about my plan to make cloth “paper towels” instead of continually buying them and tossing them in the trash. He attempted to give the impression of paying attention to me while furiously typing away on his laptop.

I thought he wasn’t listening, so just to make sure, I asked,
“What if I dressed bats in paper towels and exercised them?”
He nodded solemnly in agreement, his eyes firmly glued to his screen. When I couldn’t stop laughing, he finally looked up.

I get it. We all are busy, and he was focused on doing his job. It got me thinking about how sometimes we allow ourselves to be so absorbed in our “busy” we don’t notice our priorities have become turned upside down.

There is a point at which a job can take so much of you that you temporarily forget that the most important thing is guarding your time and energy for your kids. You get lost and forget the whole point of that job is to take care of them, not to prevent you from doing so.

Whether it’s a cell phone, a laptop, tv or any other attention black hole, it doesn’t make much difference what form the distraction takes. The effect is the same. Attention is time, attention is love, time is love. Children feel that to their core, though they may not be able to explain it or even mention their feelings.

"When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?" ~Thich Nhat Hanh

A song that I used to hear on my parent’s radio comes to mind, called Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. I had to look that up because I never knew who sang it.

In the beginning, when my daughter was a baby, I used to always have my phone on hand. I would check it continually, as if the world depended on my instant response to every text, email and news story. One day as I was staring at it in my hand, my eyes refocused to the tiny face in the background, looking at me, searching for a connection with her mother.

Seeing her face, side by side with that rectangular piece of plastic jolted me back to sanity. What the hell was I doing? Why was I allowing my energy to be sucked away into the matrix when I had my beautiful baby right in front of me? It took all of half a second for me to make the choice between her and that phone. I put it away and vowed to wean myself off the addiction.

“Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.”
~Mark Twain

First I limited how often and when I checked my phone to the times she napped. If we went for walks, I would leave it untouched in my purse so we could interact and enjoy the outdoors. I turned off notifications so I wouldn’t be bothered by the interruption. Eventually I stopped reading the news because it had such a negative effect on my mood. If anything major happened, I still knew about it because that’s how our world is nowadays. It’s unavoidable. People talk, video clips play on loop in stores, radio stations permeate the air. FOMO alleviated.

Leave work at work, and look into your kid’s eyes instead of your phone screen. The world will continue just fine without us responding in a Pavlovian manner to every notification. You’ll be amazed at how much your happiness increases.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
~Anne Frank