Boredom is a signal that we’re not using our potential
t 35, Raizy is a busy homemaker with a large family. “I love cooking and cleaning, which is good, because there’s a lot of that to do!” she says, when describing her life. “But I feel like something’s missing, like I should be doing something more… I don’t know what….”
Raizy thinks she’s alone, but of course, none of us is that original. In fact, many homemakers love their families and their lifestyle and yet feel a gnawing dissatisfaction deep inside. Some feel guilty about this feeling: “I have nothing to complain about, I’m so blessed, I shouldn’t be unhappy.”
However, not wanting to feel something doesn’t stop the feeling.
Like Raizy, Shira describes an inner agitation: “I’m happiest when I’ve got so much to do that I can’t think. Making a simchah, getting ready for Yom Tov. These things make me feel alive. But in between, when life is ‘normal,’ I occasionally feel empty and bored. Sometimes I just take a nap for a couple of hours.”
Mentally and physically healthy adults shouldn’t be going to bed in the middle of the day (unless they’re up at night with a baby, of course!). Shutting down is a way to ease the pain of boredom. But living a fulfilling life is a better way.
The feeling of boredom, like all feelings, is a signal. Boredom, emptiness, and loss of direction all tell us we need more quality stimulation and a focus for our energies. Although we’re all the same in that we all get bored when we’re not using our potential, we’re also all different in what we need in order to satiate the boredom.
Shira’s solution: “I have a baby and a toddler at home in the mornings. They’re adorable and very demanding, but I don’t find them intellectually stimulating. I know I have a ‘hungry brain.’ I always need to be reading, listening, and learning. So while I’m washing dishes and doing other fairly mindless chores, I usually have some class running in the background. I can still talk to the kids and direct their activities, but that extra stimulation keeps me sane.”
Ruchi’s way: “I work from home. My job is interesting and keeps my brain active. I’m constantly upgrading my skills and I love pushing myself that way. I use part of my earnings to pay for extra help because I want a clean house without having to spend most of my waking hours keeping it that way! Because I’m at home, I can still take care of the kids and prepare meals. It’s sometimes overwhelming — especially when there is an important deadline at work — but I’d rather be overwhelmed than bored any day!”
Homemakers are essentially “self-employed” people. It’s up to them to structure their time and their lives. Each homemaker will have a never-ending list of domestic tasks and each could, if she was so inclined, spend her entire day (and night!) making her home.
However, women are individuals with differing needs, interests, skills, and abilities. Many will want to, or have to (due to childcare requirements and/or the need to earn money) limit the hours they spend on physical homemaking. Those who can, and want to, may devote a section of their day to enhancing their spiritual growth, doing communal work, learning a new skill, pursuing a hobby, undertaking academic study, or otherwise stretching their minds and hearts in their own unique paths of fulfillment.
Miriam objects: “I’m not interested in any of that. I have the time, but I’m not that kind of person. I don’t do hobbies, I’m not interested in learning stuff, and I definitely don’t want a job. I take care of the kids and the house and help my neighbors and that sort of thing. But I’m not excited about any of it. My life is okay, but kind of blah.”
There’s no need for everyone to be active and productive every moment of every day. A person who is satisfied with a quieter life is fine, as long as she isn’t plagued by an unhappy background feeling. If she does feel unmotivated, tired, agitated, or lost, she might check out the possibility of mental or physical health issues. Low-grade depression, nutritional deficiencies, and various health conditions can rob a person of vitality and passion for life. Restoring oneself to “normal” is the prerequisite for wanting, and being able, to live a happy, fulfilling life.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 725)
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