Dad Confession: I’m Addicted to Being Busy and It’s Hurting My Kids

We live in a world of apps, push notifications, email alerts, to-do lists, and multiple calendars (I maintain a minimum of 3 on my phone at any given time.) We don’t know what it’s like to NOT be busy. We don’t know what it’s like to NOT wake up in a panic, already feeling like you’re three steps behind for the day, before you’ve even emerged from under the blankets.

And I get it. I really do.

I have a lot going on. I have a full time job, three daughters under the age of 7, friends, church, writing for pay, writing for myself, leadership at church, projects around the house, and the list goes on and on. I get what it means to be busy.

At one point in 2012, I was working 3 part-time jobs (about 60 hours a week,) had a two-year old and a newborn, was doing leadership development at church, and trying to spend a few hours a week writing and networking to land a full-time job. I was so busy that my body started shutting down. I would get light-headed standing at work, or fall asleep at my desk, or sleep through an alarm. I thought I just needed more sleep, or more coffee. It wasn’t pretty.

I have a hard time saying no, so whatever comes down the pipe, I tend to say yes to. I’ll agree to help with this thing, go to this, stay late to help with something, etc. I tell myself it’s because I’m just trying to give my best to those around me and be available. In reality, it’s something entirely different.

I live for the approval of others. I thrive on it, and I feed off of it.

I think that if I’m constantly doing something, constantly going somewhere, or even having to turn down something because my calendar is just too full, that it will impress people, and they’ll think I’m hardworking and successful.

Stupid, right?

I know that I’m not alone. I know that I’m not the only one who, though their introverted personalities would love nothing more than spending a Saturday reading a book, or taking the kids somewhere, or writing something beautiful, feels horribly guilty when their calendar has nothing on it. You feel lazy. You feel unaccomplished. You feel like there are a million things you should/could be doing instead.

Here’s the worst part of the whole thing: It’s never the “stuff” on my calendar that gets pushed aside and ignored. It’s the people. I end up sacrificing my time with my kids and my wife in order to make myself feel better about being busy. I end up sacrificing life-giving time with our friends because “we’ve just got too much going on.”

It has to stop. If it doesn’t, my kids will be grown and gone before I know it, and I’ll have nothing to show for it except some stuff I did. I will not be ruled by my calendar. I will not be dictated by busy. I’m going to be practicing the art of saying no. Of not agreeing to everything that comes my way. Of protecting my weekends, and filling them with things that truly matter. Dance parties, trips to the zoo, yard work, BBQ’s, and naps. My kids aren’t going to remember those extra meetings that I went to, they’re going to remember the time I spent with them.

It’s going to hurt. Shedding this addiction to busy isn’t going to be easy, but you know something? I believe I can do this. I believe I’m strong enough to say no to the things that don’t matter all that much, and strong enough to shout a resounding “YES” to the things that do. And that “yes” is for my family.