Woman writing on blank planner with cup of coffee

We’ve all been there.  When everyone else tells you how busy they are. You look at your own agenda only to realize that your next couple of weeks are blank.  Free.  Nothing really scheduled.

It’s the emotion that comes next that I’m still trying to figure out.  I start to feel inadequate.  Less worthy.  Less cool and maybe even a bit jealous.

This happened to me recently.  I was trying to invite another parent and child over for a play date.  We’d gone to their house about six weeks before and it was time for them to come over to ours.  Discussing the upcoming two weeks and lead up to the holiday, I mentioned how we had a bunch of free, unscheduled time in the next few weeks.  Not much planned.  Taking it easy before Thanksgiving.

I am pretty proud of this fact.  After many years of hosting Thanksgiving, we traveled to family this year.  I didn’t have to cook, clean or decorate.  I could just focus on getting ready for Christmas, which made me happier any way.  This also meant that I didn’t have to spend the short couple of weeks beforehand preparing for guests.  I sat back and enjoyed early holiday movies on the Hallmark channel.  (Okay, not really, but I dreamed about it.)

The rest of the moms looked at me confused.  Then, the one that I was trying to schedule the play date with says, “Not me. We’re booked until Christmas.”  I crawl back into my cave.

The feeling of inadequacy comes rushing in.  How can’t I have a calendar worth of social outings, kids activities and family commitments to show her in response?  How can’t I have a ton of things to keep me going non-stop for the next several weeks?

Once we began driving home, I got to thinking about my response.   Why is it that when others proclaim how busy they are, the rest of us who may choose to not be so busy suddenly feel less worthy?  I am busy.  I have two business websites that I’m redoing right now.  Writing every day.  Making connections.  Getting my kids to activities.

Every day, I dedicate hours to help my kids work on projects, complete their school work and just play together.  Then, it hit me.  Those aren’t activities that I write on the calendar.  Actually, in truth, I don’t really write anything on my calendar.  It’s kind of a blank slate since I am still becoming more organized.  Unless I think it will conflict with my husband’s schedule, I file it away in my good old brain.  It may or may not get lost in there.  The verdict is always out.

But these days you could just call me more of an unscheduled busy.

I used to be like my friend.  The mindset was “You got to keep them busy”.  Them being the kids.  What are they going to do if you don’t have anything scheduled.

I started their childhood thinking that every moment had to be scheduled out weeks in advance.  If it wasn’t, then I didn’t know how to fill the day.  Note the I in that sentence.  I am sure my kids were perfectly fine playing at home all day for an eternity.  But this parenting tactic left my days feeling unfulfilled and my brain ready to explode.

When we moved, everything changed.  The kids were a little older, which helped.  We also went to a place where I knew no one.  Since I didn’t have anybody to schedule anything with at first, I had to find some solace in not having plans every day.  I took a more minimalist approach to our schedule.  And to be honest, I liked it.

So, I became less busy.  I didn’t let a million things creep onto our calendar (because they would if I didn’t stop them).  I prioritized family time over everything else.  And started focusing inward instead of always outward.

But, for some reason, even though I know the plan, I still feel inadequate during these conversations.  At moments, I feel like I’m not popular because my schedule isn’t as hectic as your schedule.

It wasn’t always like this.  I think back to the 1950s when raising children involved unscheduled play dates, roaming the neighborhood for hours and coming home muddy and tired just before dark.  Wait a second… that wasn’t just the 1950s.  That was also my childhood.

Free time is not the enemy.  I am tired of participating in a world full of the scheduled.  Classes, play dates, appointments, school.  Kids have very little time any more just to be kids.  Just to play at home and explore.

I have even found that my businesses flourish more when I ditch a schedule at least one day a week.  Just finding one day or even morning to sit and daydream leads to better designs and more efficient writing.

So, I have taken a stand.  I have decided that less is more and not to overschedule my life.  The next step. Making myself stronger when I face the rest of the world with my decision.

And, boy is the rest of the world busy.  Proudly busy.  Have you ever noticed when you ask people how they are doing today?  The response always is “I’m busy”.  Not, wonderful, fantastic, saving the world.  Just busy.  And notice how tired they are when they say it.  Everyone walks around looking exhausted.

A friend who just moved here decided not to put her daughter into preschool this year.  She thought there would be other kids in her neighborhood for her to play with.  Or she could meet new parent friends at some kid activities.  The result.  There wasn’t any one to play with.  Every day. The other kids had such packed schedules that there was never any time for the random play date or get together.  She ended up putting her daughter into preschool full time.  Her child missed the social interaction of others so much and the mom couldn’t find another way to get it for her.

I also saw it this summer.  The kids in the neighborhood were around the day after school got out and the last day of summer.  Otherwise, I didn’t see a soul all summer long.  They were all scheduled busy.  If you weren’t busy and chose to spend the day playing at home, you started to feel like you were getting left behind.  You weren’t learning sports skills, developing your artistic talents and discovering a new interest.  You were just playing.  It didn’t seem as valued.

We need to start standing up and saying enough is enough to our busy world.  Feeling frazzled all of the time isn’t natural.  We can become more restful people focused on the things that are important to us.

Blank planner pages with the text overlay "Why do I feel inadequate when others tell me they're busy"

But what happens when you’re constantly met with an “I’m busy” response.  How can you still feel good about your choice of not being so busy?  Here are some less busy mindset strategies that I’m using to help my self esteem when I have this conversation again.  Probably today.

Be strong and have confidence

Remember that you have chosen to be less busy.  Believe in your choice and be confident with others.  Find strength to focus on your priorities.  You will find more happiness in the end.

Also, keep in mind that if you wanted to be more busy, you could sign your child up for another activity or find another event to attend.  You have the power to do so.  Instead, you have chosen a different path for scheduling your family.  That’s wonderful.  I know my kids appreciate my scheduling choices, especially when we do hit a busy season.  They can’t imagine life being this frazzled all the time and request to return to our usual calm.

I also remind myself that they are only kids once.  Do I want their childhood to be remembered for all of the activities they did or the creative play time they had?  I feel like everyday I am painting a picture of what I want them to remember.  The play time always comes to the forefront.

Create a mantra

A mantra is a statement or slogan repeated often.  Whenever you get into a conversation with another parent and it turns to how busy they are, repeat your mantra.  Some mantra ideas include:

  • I choose to be unbusy.
  • I am rested and happy.
  • My unbusy life rocks.

Or write your own that will remind you of the choice you’ve made positively.  Whatever statement you choose, keep repeating it in your mind.  It will remind you that you’ve made the right choice for your family.

Stay off social media

This is my worst trap to feeling inadequate with my friends.  You are sitting at home on Friday night, kids are finally asleep and you hop on social media.  Terrible habit, I know.  Only to find amazing photos from all of your friends’ nights out.  And they all have kids.  And amazing babysitters and nannies.  Did I mention the tons of money to splurge on concert tickets, sporting events, lavish dinners and other awesome experiences.

I am such a loser pops immediately into my head.  If there is any way to making yourself feel inadequate in life, it’s scrolling through social media.  According to Statista, we spend an average of 135 minutes on social media a day.  But why?  I just hope all of those minutes scrolling aren’t used to make us feel horrible about ourselves.

I stopped using much of my personal social media accounts a few months ago.  One weekend, I challenged myself to give it up.  And it just stuck.  Interestingly enough, I also noticed my self esteem start to rise around the same time.  Connected, you think?

I just got tired of sharing.  If you really wanted to know how the kids were, what they were up to and our family’s next adventure, there were better ways to do it.  I have switched to personal texts, emails and, oh yes, snail mail.  I have always loved writing letters.  So why not share that way.

I also stopped worrying about what was happening in everyone else’s lives.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care.  I actually care about my friends immensely, but I wanted to see them more.  And not through the pictures they posted.

Finally, I was also tired of seeing many of my friends embellishing the truth.  A lot of people I know were going through rough patches for one reason or another.  But their social media feeds always showed life like it was peaches and ice cream.  The untruths on people’s feeds are amazing.

So I stopped scrolling and posting for awhile.  Nowadays, I try to limit my scrolls to quick ones once or twice a day.  Some of my friends have built their self-esteem on the number of photo likes they get. I want to be supportive.

But I don’t share much personal information any more.  I stick to things about me – my baking, designing and thoughts about the world.  If my family chooses to share their own stuff down the road, that will be their choice.  I won’t make it for them.

Mom and child holding hands with the text overlay "Why do I feel inadequate when others tell me they're busy"

Make a list of what you have done

It doesn’t mean that you aren’t busy.  It just means that you might be a different busy.  I am busy.  But my busy is about my family and close friends.  I spend my time baking cupcakes with my kids instead of running them to a variety of sporting events or other activites.

Remember the example you are setting.  Your kids watch everything you do whether you like it or not.  They follow you and mimic you.  Think about the mom that you want them to see.  I always hate when I turn into the frazzled busy mom who hasn’t sat down all day.  I yell more and am not always very nice.

This happens about once every couple of months and it is always due to the fact that we are too busy that week.  The house has disintegrated into a pile of mess and there is no food in the fridge.  I also carry around a to do list with a million things on it.  Yeah, I don’t like those weeks too much.

But, luckily I only have those weeks every once in awhile.  I know people who do that every week.  And they keep adding more.  If you get like this when you are busy, remember that when you are not as busy you are being a better mom.  By choosing less busy, you are setting a great example for your kids about making choices and setting priorities.

Because one day it will be their turn.  And they need to know how not to overschedule, pick the things that are important to do and plan rest time.  They will learn these skills from watching you.

Plan a gathering

If you are feeling down on yourself when someone else tells you they’re busy, plan a social gathering.  If you can’t shake the inadequacy feelings, maybe you aren’t really busy enough right now.  You might actually just be missing your friends and community.  It’s okay.

Pick a date, plan an activity and get your gang together.  They can all sit around and tell you how busy they are.  Just kidding.  It’s great to see our friends – even if it makes us busier.  Make the time.  Those are the things that we should be busy with.

Productivity is everything

If you don’t feel busy and have more time than others, it might just be because you are more efficiently productive.  I’ve always joked that the problem I have with an eight hour work day is that I can get my work done in 4 hours.  I never understood what to do with the rest of the time.

In life, some people are more productive than others.  They have developed a set of skills that keep them better organized and more on task.  Or they are just like that naturally.  Either way, you might find yourself getting tasks done faster than your busier friends.  This leads to more free time.  That’s okay.  Instead of feeling inadequate, just remember that you might have accomplished the same amount of things, but did it a lot faster.

One of our past realtors ran 5 or 6 businesses every day when I knew some people who could barely manage one.  And he still had time to sit and think (and show me multiple houses).  He was just extremely efficient with how he managed his time.  Some people are just built this way.

Make your family’s priorities clear

When choosing the things that you do want to schedule in, make sure that they follow your family’s priorities.  Make a list of the things that are important to your family.  Some things might include spending time together, time with extended family, adventures, travel, building community, a specific activity (in our house it’s art), etc.

When making scheduling decisions, start to include your family in the scheduling process.  Discuss whether the activity you are thinking about falls under your family’s priorities.  If it does, you might all agree to add it to the schedule.  If not, though, maybe it’s best to pass on that option.

We go through this process every soccer season.  We bring up the idea of playing on a soccer team.  Then we discuss the commitment of evening practices, weekend games and other team requirements.  Every year, we have decided that it doesn’t fall into our priority list as a time commitment.  Mainly because it takes away from our family time.  When we see everyone heading off to their soccer games early on Saturday mornings, I don’t feel a bit inadequate.  I know that we made that decision to not participate together as a family.  It didn’t fit who we are.

When your family’s priorities are clear, it’s easier to make these decisions.  More importantly, you can feel confident about your choice and what is right for your family.  The feelings of being inadequate tend to stay away.

Final Thoughts…

The nudging thought of feeling inadequate when it comes to being busy happens to everyone.  Especially when you have made a choice to be a bit less busy.

Just remember, all moms go through this at some point in their parenting journey.  Your life won’t feel as full or hectic as your friends.  You might even have trouble finding free time to get together with them.

It turns out in the end, my friend wasn’t that busy at all.  She just likes to say she’s busy.  Her family was more than happy to attend our gingerbread house decorating party this year and I didn’t give that much advance notice.  They made time for it.  Which I figured they would.

One last thought if you feel this way often, use the extra time to work on a project.  Such as building your business or spending more time as a family.  You don’t have to be busy running around either.  You can be relaxing at home and still feel fulfilled.  It’s can actually be the perfect balance for some.







17 Comments on Why do I feel inadequate when others tell me how busy they are

  1. I’ve always said, you are as busy as you make yourself and there is plenty of time for what is important. But it does take balance. Time for family, time for personal, and learning to keep boundaries for sure.

    • Well said. You’re absolutely right. Just need to keep in mind that I’m making time for the things that are important. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Busy =/ Productive. I can fill my “free” time (a.k.a. time not spent at my day job) with so much stuff that can keep me busy… But not necessarily productive. It would be nice if people measured their “busyness” in how much progress they make towards their goals on any given day instead of how much “stuff” they did.

    • That’s an excellent point. Progress is much more important than busyness. If I’m not careful, I end up spending many hours spinning my wheels on projects that don’t move me forward. Keeping my goals clearly posted and making sure the tasks I choose to tackle each day take me one step further seem to make me a more effective entrepreneur. Thanks for the important reminder.

  3. I love that you pointed out that we can be productive, but not consumed by it. I tend to work very quickly and often feel like I’m not measuring up because I’m not as “busy” as other when the reality is, I’m just as productive as they are!

    • That’s something that always confused me when I started working in an office. I always finished my work first. To not look like I was wasting time, I would “make” myself look busy. It turned out I’d get just as much stuff completed. Just in a lot less time. I was never sure if I should spread my work out more or if being ultra efficient was okay. Here’s to speedy working!

  4. I don’t have kids but when my friends tell me their schedule is feel I feel this way sometimes. I try not to dwell on it too much because I like being to myself but there are times when I want to go shopping or to dinner and everyone is busy.

    • Not thinking about it is the tough part for me. I agree with you. Everyone seems so busy. I don’t know why making time for each other can’t be the priority. I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I think there is so much pressure to be involved in so many things that you AND your kids don’t have time to just be kids. As parents, we have to guard this very carefully so that we actually have time to do the things together that we want to do as a family otherwise, life gets so busy that we miss the day to day.

    • You’re absolutely right. That’s what I’ve been working on lately. I just need to find more confidence in my decision. So many kids are so busy, I think that I suffer from the missing out syndrome. Since we can never go back, I always wonder if I’m making the right choice. Thanks for the insight and stopping by.

  6. You know, I just feel sorry for all of those families who run from one activity to the next! I think it’s incredibly important for family relationships to have unscheduled time together, to eat dinner together EVERY night, to have conversations. And yet I still fall into the trap of wearing my busy-ness like a badge of honor. You made so many great points for me to think about!

    • When I stop and think about it, I do kind of feel sorry for them. I am not sure what an over busy child gains except a lot of stress. Once we got our priorities straight as a family and have stuck to them, I’ve found much joy in our choices. I just have to remind myself that it’s our decision to be unbusy and not everyone feels the same. Thanks for your thoughts and stopping by.

  7. I relate to your post in many ways. As a SAHM, I have chosen to devote most of my time to my family, and often feel inadequate when my mom friends who work outside the house, tell me how busy they are. I have 2 toddlers and a preteen, and I think it is important to not overschedule kids. They need the chance to just be kids and play and explore.

  8. There in lies the problem with some families in todays world. They think and they think and the kids think they should be doing something all the time. Just stay home and play a board game.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Couldn’t agree more. We’ve found so much more fun as a family since we’ve adopted more frugal ways. I appreciate the thoughts. Thanks again!

  9. I can relate to the part about feeling socially isolated. It seems like the older I get, the less friends I have to hang out with. I will be 38 in a couple of weeks and I do wish I had a calendar full of things to do with friends, but sadly I don’t.
    I guess I should also quit with the feeling of inadequacy and just go about living my life. Maybe this year I will work on filling up my planner with fun things to do with friends? 🙂

    • Finding time with friends is hard. Especially as we get older. Everyone seems so busy all the time, I almost hate to interrupt. I also don’t live around my really close friends, so it’s hard to always go see them. Right now, I’m trying to convince myself to take the time and go on a girls only weekend. But I need to find a whole weekend where everyone else is free too. That’s the tricky part. Here’s to getting more on our calendars this year!

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