This isn’t how it was meant to start. I had intended to write different words, on a different page. Pressed for time, I had typed away a series of sentences that fell shamefully short of style. Trapped by the confines of a clock, I cheated myself out of the one thing I love most.
But when I looked around, having saved only five extra minutes to reflect on what I’d written, I found everybody else doing the same thing.
You must be busy. Very busy, if you’re a parent. Probably just as much though, even if you’re not. We’re all hiding under the same narrative: “I’ve got so much to do; I just don’t have time.”
For the most part, it’s good to keep yourself occupied. But I worry, when I see milestones and unlived moments whoosh by, that this preoccupation with occupation is going to be the death of us.
It’s quite literally become fashionable to be late these days, and a promptly returned phone call apparently screams desperation.
Identical complaints echo across families:
“I come home from work, help the kids with homework, make dinner, clean, eat, return calls, and before I know it, the day’s over.”
“I work late and by the time I’m home my baby’s asleep. I run around on the weekend trying to make up for everything I don’t do in the week.”
I am no stranger to such proclamations. I have found myself making excuses for unreturned phone calls, unmet dates, and unfulfilled conversations.
If I think back to the time my parents were where I am now, my father worked three jobs, my mother managed two gift shops, and there was no hired help at home—for cleaning, babysitting, or otherwise. So when I tell my mom, “I’m busy” it’s no surprise my words fall on deaf ears—both hers and mine.
Who do I think I am?
I’ve seen too many parents hand over their child because the cellphone rings, focus on the screen at the cost of a smile, and end a conversation because finishing it requires two minutes they don’t have to spare.
But two minutes eventually adds up to two hours, two months, two years—and before you know it, two individuals who never found the time to connect.
We partially have the world to blame: fast-paced work environments, the anchor of technology, and the desire to be everything and everywhere at once. But if I were to dare a solution, it would be this.
Let’s separate our worlds, the way we create multiple folders in our Inbox. If you’re home, be home. If you’re with your child, be with your child. And if work doesn’t allow you to turn off your Blackberry, at least place it somewhere the red light doesn’t flash in the middle of your baby’s eye.
My father was a workaholic without the hangover. He was always on time, never missed deadlines, and didn’t take a day off sick unless he was actually in the hospital. His colleagues spoke of him as a hardworking, motivated, and dedicated professional.
At home however, my sister and I had no clue. His office never appeared on the dinner table. We talked about everything with the same weight, and no one’s time was more precious than the other’s. My mother, exhausted from a day filled with chores and duties often far busier than my father’s, also sat at the table smiling and listening eagerly despite the ache in her back or the list of tasks still unfinished.
Why then, do we expect so much appreciation for making time to do something? Why don’t we just admit it? Everybody’s busy. Everybody has a thousand things to do, no matter what those things are. Get over yourself. You don’t get a gold star for not having the time to live your life.
You especially don’t get a gold star for putting down your phone and picking up your child.
So many studies done recently show that people’s biggest regret in life is not having made enough time—for their families and friends, and for themselves. If that’s not who you’re spending your energy on, what are you slaving away for?
No one’s saying you shouldn’t work hard, and let’s face it; most of us can’t afford the luxury of endless quality time with our families. But when we do have the time, whether it’s five minutes or five hours, shouldn’t we be smart enough to use it wisely?
The more we fill our time with things we believe we should be getting credit for, the emptier we get. I’m tired of listening to people complain about hectic schedules, and even more tired of hearing myself do it.
My father would say that every day you should give yourself at least ten minutes. He would use his to listen to music while lying on the couch, blaring the sound to its highest level.
I use mine to read a book, and to breathe. To filter out the noise of my day so I can begin the new one in silence.
My mother uses hers to talk to her children, to understand them a little better, and share her love.
It’s only ten minutes we’re talking about. Are you too busy to give that much?
If you’ve made it to the end of this, then probably not. You’ve probably got some to spare.