I am embarking on a personal mission – to kick out “busy” and “fine” from my casual interactions. So, if you ask me how I am, you will no longer receive these robotic responses. Instead, you will receive an earful of truth. Because while everyone is busy, no one is fine; and in the end, neither word means anything anymore to anyone.
I do not over-schedule my kids. It is both a source of pride and shame that my kids aren’t enrolled in endless enriching activities. I do this for their sakes, but mostly for my own. Even with basic school drop-offs and pick-ups and minimal extras on the calendar, I feel so incredibly busy. But I’m not really. My problem is that I am overwhelmed.
The school activities – the walkathon, teacher appreciation week, the science fair, the book fair, the art show with accompanying ice cream social, multiple dress-up days – have turned the month of May into a maternal hell. On top of this, 95% of my older daughter’s friends were born this month and are having must-go-to-bounce-house birthday parties. And like all other months, there are various doctor and dentist appointments, holidays, random minimum days, and the usual illnesses and injuries to attend to. Top this off with my husband’s relentless travel schedule, and I am toast.
But I still binge watch Netflix and pleasure read Italian mysteries at night. I even take extra time at the gym to realign my neck over a foam roller. I don’t feel guilty about these indulgences, but the mere fact that I consider these pieces of life to be indulgences reveals that I am a victim of our busy-obsessed culture despite my best efforts to avoid it. Can I be considered a worthy individual if I’m not busy, but simply overwhelmed?
I recently took a “day off” of motherhood, yet spent a chunk of my “me” time watching a brutally honest film about motherhood, Tully. Amongst all of the painfully relatable scenes, the one resonating with me today takes place in a car, in the school parking lot. The kids are screaming and one is kicking the back of mom’s seat. Mom has yelled threats, offered bribes, and succumbed to begging for calm, but the chaos ensues. She has been defeated on so many levels.
The camera cuts to an aerial view of the lot. No screams or pleas escape the car. No one can see the shit show that has fully unraveled inside the unsuspecting vehicle. The car and the family appear fine to the outside world. “Fine” is the cookie cutter response the mom later conveys to fellow moms in the school corridors or acquaintances she meets in the coffee shop, but she is certainly not fine.
I am not fine. Life is far too complicated to be just fine. I am far too complicated.
But I still catch myself saying “fine” when asked how I am in passing. I am working on quick yet honest responses that don’t require a detailed replay of my toddler failing to nap again, my 4-year-old’s maddening inability to put his shoes on, my 1st grader’s once-sweet-yet-now-worrisome obsession with Harry Potter that is taking over our lives, or that I confused the elementary school’s crazy hat day with the preschool’s pajama day. Today I am “going through the motions.” Yesterday I was “exhausted from that four-day holiday weekend.” And who knows how I will feel tomorrow?