There are lots of different ways to be busy, and in the same way that work expands to fill the time available for it, our lives tend to increase to a fairly hectic point (unless you are one of those people who excels at leisure time and has no sense of guilt for not being productive - I salute and envy you).
I have one baby, so parenting tends to be on the whole manageable, and when I am finding it hard there is often a voice in my head saying imagine how much harder it would be if you had another child. In this way I don't really give myself permission to experience something difficult - I tell myself I should find it a breeze, because other people find it so much harder. This denial of my own reality just adds another tricky layer to something that I'm already having trouble with. If only we could give ourselves a break!
My life has three main areas of responsibility (my child, my office job and my yoga job) and a lot more areas of interest and leisure and love and fun. As mothers we split ourselves up into constituent parts and somewhere in the middle of it all you might find a coherent whole, if you're lucky. We're expected (by others? by ourselves) to go from one part of our lives to another with ultimate ease, drawing on a completely different skill set and part of ourselves. Very little is more different from an office environment than being at home with a child - after a high-octane morning working at home desperately trying to fit in more tasks than can physically fit into my part-time job, it is utterly weird to go straight into a high-octane afternoon running through the garden with a pair of my partner's pants on my head to make my daughter laugh. The contrast of not having specific tasks to complete feels amazing, but equally trying to switch off my "to-do" list brain and be fully present, fully silly, fully patient for my child - whether in person (not nipping next door to check my emails) or in spirit (planning the next day's tasks or sneaking a read of an interesting article on the internet) is a skill in itself.
I literally run from place to place most days, running from home to the train in the morning (just one more minute eating porridge with her!) and back again in the evening. Nothing is a better metaphor for a busy life than sprinting like a maniac with a piece of toast in your mouth. Similarly, leaving work to run to the train to get back to south east London in time to teach yoga in a quiet room with no computers or urgent lists or meeting agendas, where I want to be an example of someone who can breathe, be calm and "be in the moment", can feel like a big challenge. A yoga studio, a play group, a work meeting - sometimes it's like playing different parts in the same play. You can't have it all, you're just a human. You can have bits of it, and try and be ok with that.
A few weeks ago in a toddler singing group (one of the better ones, with good music for the parents) I saw one mother dancing with her kid, but really dancing, in the way you knew she'd dance if that kid was tucked up in bed being looked after by a babysitter. She looked full of the freedom of dancing as if no one is watching. Sometimes in those moments of parenting you can experience a bit of what feels like your very own life, where the different parts of you join up and find some kind of identity that straddles all your different job titles. Dancing-mum-human-wife-doctor, or something.
It's good to know that everyone struggles with balance, yoga teachers too. It's good to have hugely contrasting areas of life to live. It's good to be a stretched mum.
Stretched Mums Yoga starts in Crystal Palace on Monday 24 April.