One word to encapsulate 2010, that's what today's Reverb prompt is.
My friends with kids older than me warned me this day would come, but I never quite understood them. Maybe it was their "Oh, you think you're busy NOW" delivery, or my own naivete? Or perhaps just a belief that I am the master of my domain, the captain of my own soul, and thus I can choose to be as busy or as not-busy as I like.
Ha ha ha. Oh that's nice. I've blogged about activities for kids before - how much IS too much? And I still don't know the answer, even many months and several different activities later. And it's a question that I can't seem to answer for the kids OR myself, that's the sticky wicket.
It's not just the mom taxi that keeps me busy (though between dance, gymnastics 2x/week plus monthly meets, baseball 3x/week, softball 3x/week, short-lived basketball 2x/week, various art classes, band, theater camp, regular summer camp, swim lessons, piano lessons, and all of the associated running-around that those activities create the need for, like baseball cleats and dance photos, and clarinets, I do find that the car's mileage continues to creep up.)
But I do all these other things, too. It's a constant balancing act, trying to prioritize and decide which things bring me the most enjoyment, where I feel my talents are best used, what things fill me up instead of just depleting me.
I'm getting better at this, but am still just busy. I plan all the family vacations/travel (there was a lot this year - Florida in March/April, D.C. in July, Wisconsin in August, my trip to OR for a writing workshop in October, New York and Kansas City in November) and am chief in charge of all food purchasing and prep in our house. We got a dog in January, and until recently had a very sick cat with complicated medical needs at home (instead now we have a 4 month old kitten who thinks licking knuckles while I type is FUN, and the cursor is some elaborate and very entertaining game designed just for her.) While I have a litter box man, pet food and daily care is mostly on me.
I'm a very active volunteer breastfeeding counselor, putting in 2-5 hours/week in my work there. I helped run the school's auction again this year, though unofficially which is one of those things I do well - being unofficially officially involved, lol. In the crunch time it was up to 20 or 30 hrs/week (plus plus), but for much of the early part of the year it was 5-10.
The garden doesn't plant itself, though I do mostly ignore it once it's planted. We've had a number of rather aggravating household systems failures this year (the water/well drama is still going on!), which require someone to be home and in regular communication with some service provider of some sort. Me.
I'm a co-president of the Parent Association board at the kids' school this year, which is much more work than I expected (though not terribly hard work, but work that takes time.) And I volunteer in other ways at school as much as I can, and in ways I think are most helpful like attending Open Houses as an experienced parent to answer questions, or helping with the Book Fair because I'm such a big book geek. I think my tally of books read this year is up past 50 (counting the audio books the kids and I listen to in the car - something's got to take the edge off all that dull suburban driving! Listening to Septimus Heap or The Prydain Chronicles definitely takes the edge waaay off.)
And somewhere in there I managed to write another novel (a piece of crapola one yet, but I have faith in my ability to whip it into shape now that the bones are down,) edit and polish another, attend a workshop for and submit that polished one out to the great wide world of publishing, e-publish a short story, and write countless blog posts and little bits of ideas on scraps of paper and corners of notebooks and around the margins of work-related notes.
Oh, yeah, and I picked up another project, actual paying work that is occasionally difficult to shoehorn in among the other things that occupy my time (though work naturally gets highest priority given that people actually PAY me to do those things, whereas every other thing on my list is currently unpaid.)
So do I feel justified in being busy? I think writing it out helps me give shape to the busy, makes me feel like it's not just a smoke screen. Because I have often encountered people in my life who I think use "busy" as an excuse to avoid things, not have deep relationships, not develop their own interests, because they're just so "busy."
But then again, who am I to judge? Someone else might look at this list and wonder why I don't work more hours, why I haven't cleaned off my desk in a hundred thousand years, why is the basement is still stacked with paperwork and crud from our move 7 years ago, or why my children sometimes wear stained clothes.
The answer here isn't more Busy. It's the People Before Things answer that I love so so much. Yeah, we might be busy, but I can tell you all the books my kids have read in the last year, the names of all of their classmates (cheating a little, they attend a small school,) what brand of peanut butter is preferred, and how much washing is necessary before child A can interact with friend B who has a deathly allergy to peanut butter.
But I can also talk plot details and characterization in all of my active works-in-progress. I can speak intelligently about the latest research in breastfeeding, the current trends in the e-publishing business, the state of eLearning authoring tools, and the impact new technologies like the iPad are having on the world. Being a sane person with interests outside my children's (as much as I love them and cherish them) has been one of my goals of mothering, and I feel I have accomplished that goal well. However, in the process, I've become, well, rather Busy.
Next year, my goal is to look back on this prompt and write my 2011 word. For next year, I plan to aim for Balanced.