Being busy can be a bad habit
STANDING outside school the other day I tried to make conversation with a fellow working mum by recommending a novel I had enjoyed. How I wish I hadn’t.
‘I don’t have time to read,’ she scoffed, before launching into the long list of tasks she juggles each day.
Her parting shot? To add, rather pointedly: ‘How lovely for you, though, to have the time to sit down with a good book.’
I should have left it there. I really should. But no woman wants to lose the ‘I’m busier than you’ game so I raised the stakes. ‘I’m just very organised,’ I said smugly, before reeling off all the things I’d managed to get done before breakfast that morning, owing to a 5am start.
Churlish, I know. Thank goodness our children came running out of school midflow, bringing the ‘busy-off’ to an end.
But our rivalry is sure to be picked up again, when instead of being horrified by our inability to switch off, we’ll each quietly
wonder: ‘Am I doing enough myself?’
The problem is that like countless women of our generation, we seek validation from having too much to do. If we’re not working, we’re ferrying our kids to extracurricular activities while micromanaging our family’s diaries as well as our own.
We feel guilty if we don’t cook every meal from scratch and see folding laundry as a chance to catch breath. And what mother doesn’t know the whereabouts of every member of her house- hold at any given moment? Not least because it’s often our job to get them there in the first place.
At the crux of all this is the fact that, unlike other addictions, you don’t keep quiet through shame. Quite the opposite, busyness is worn as a badge of honour.
And it is starting to affect our mental and physical wellbeing.
A UK survey showed that though the average woman typically completes 26 tasks each day, 80 per cent still don’t think they’re good enough; a worrying four in ten felt on the brink of burnout.
So why do we find it so hard to stop? The problem is that busyness feeds our psyche.
Activity, stress and a sense of accomplishment trigger the brain into releasing the addictive chemical adrenaline and the feelgood hormone dopamine into the blood.
Even when we’re on holiday and have nothing to do, we feel restless and look for things to occupy our hands and our minds so we can get another hit.