Busy has become synonymous with motherhood and the common response to the question: How are you? Even I’m guilty of writing a post about who’s busier—moms or grandmas? But does being busy make you happy?
Recently, author Christine Carter addressed the subject of the busy-ness of motherhood at the 10th Annual Mother’s Symposium on “Raising Happiness: Joy and the Journey of Motherhood.” Carter is the author of the popular book, Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents and speaks from experience. She is the mother of two girls and a sociologist and happiness expert who directs the Greater Good Science Center’s parenting program, Greater Good Parents. She writes an award-winning, research-based parenting blog, Raising Happiness.
Carter said that today’s moms tend to be less happy than previous generations. One significant cause of increased unhappiness among mothers is that “we are so damn busy.” She quoted Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our busy Lives:
“We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a real mark of character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others.”
But busy-ness does not make us happy. Muller reminds us that the Chinese symbol for busy is composed of two characters: heart and killing. Moms get so caught up in the daily instrumental tasks that they forget about play and flow. When we strip motherhood of play and flow—as we so often do, just to get everything done—our mood deteriorates. It isn’t just worry about our children and endless housework that make us anxious and unhappy; it’s that we aren’t actually having fun anymore. Fun, rest, relaxation, flow have been squeezed out of our lives in the pursuit of more. More sports for our kids, more homework, more driving to activities, more work so we can earn more money so we can buy more stuff. Muller writes:
“We are poisoned by the hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, so we can never truly rest.”
Carter explained that we need rest for happiness and proposed three steps toward achieving it:
- Identify those times during the day when you feel flow. When do you feel most at play, most happy? Carter’s favorite time of the day is early in the morning before her daughters wake up. She makes herself a cup of coffee and goes back to bed to read a novel.
- Schedule time for bliss into your life the way you would important meetings or doctor’s appointments. And don’t call those treats for yourself guilty pleasures because that defeats the whole purpose.
- Identify the things that are making you feel crazy-busy. Cut those things out if you can. Gather your “cabinet” for support and make some rules for yourself to help you reinforce your decisions. For example, Carter only allows her girls to participate in one sport and does not read email after 9:00 pm.