Busy signal

This is an article I wrote in 2004 (before the word "blog" had entered my vocabulary.) I was reminded of it the other night when someone looked at my three little boys and once again I heard the words "so, you're busy." Although I only had two at the time of writing this, not much has changed in my perspective. Enjoy.

“So, You’re Busy!”
by Talena Winters

“So, you’re busy,” I hear, for the fourth time that day. This time, it comes from the matronly lady at the Wal-Mart checkout, as she eyes four-month-old Noah in the stroller, and 20-month-old Jude perched precariously on top of it.I am trying to rummage through my purse with one hand, looking for my debit card, while preventing Jude from toppling to the floor with the other, as he is fearlessly reaching toward the debit machine because he likes “helping Mommy with the buttons.” I smile at the clerk, and say, “But in a good way,” finish paying for my goods, and mercifully get to leave the store behind, with its many temptations for little fingers.

I am never quite sure how to respond to that comment. Are people saying I am crazy to have chosen to have two children, only sixteen months apart? Or are they secretly trying to discover if I have chosen this? Are they commenting on the energy little boys are known to have, and imagining if it were them trying to keep up? Or simply trying to express empathy for the “harried mother?” So many things that could be wrapped up in one innocent sentence.

Yes, I have to admit, there are days when I look back at my life “before children” and wonder what I did to keep myself occupied. I remember that I was always busy then, too. Busy with trying to get my home-based business to succeed. Busy in indulging my own pleasures. Busy with trying to accomplish dreams that seemed so important. Always working at my busy-ness, all day long, afraid of what would happen if I ever slowed down for just a moment and reviewed what all of it was accomplishing.

I question, now, as I examine my life, why I always felt so much “busier” then, and why I am so much happier, now. If busy-ness can be equated with the amount of work and personal projects one can cram into a day, am I really busy?

No mother can deny the amount of work it takes to shape young lives into something of value—to focus and direct the boundless energy, imagination, and enthusiasm that each child carries in their little heart. But do you really consider it work to explain, for the “nth” time, that they need to apologize when they hurt someone, the first time you see them do it voluntarily? Do you really count all the times you’ve named that colour, or letter, or animal, when they finally recognize it and name it themselves, and pride fills your heart at your young genius? Are the acts of discipline you have to hand out regretted when you see your child spontaneously perform an act of kindness and empathy for someone else? Do not a simple hug and kiss erase all the frustrations of the day?

The quality of my busy-ness has changed since becoming a mother. To spend my days instructing my children, loving them, and encouraging them, seems of much more worth than the vain and selfish pursuits I used to partake in. Perhaps this is what the outsider who comments on my daily life is seeing—the self-denial it takes to be a mother, regardless of the number or age of your children. You no longer have the time to be selfish. Perhaps they are secretly relieved it is not them, and admiring of someone who would be willing to give up so much of themselves to further the species.

As for myself, I do not begrudge these days that are filled with the rearing of two little boys. Although they are still so young, I already know in my heart that it passes far too quickly, and soon enough my young fledglings will grow up and fly from the nest. Then, I will have all the time I need—forty years or more, most likely—to pursue all of the things that I have had to set aside right now. I will probably look back with longing on the days when my sons were small enough to fit in a stroller, labeling them “good ol’.”

So, the next time some stranger tells me how busy I am, I will take it as a compliment. And without any pretense at all, I will confidently smile at them and say, “I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”

July 4, 2004