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Overwhelmed

overwhelmed"Somewhere toward the end of the twentieth century," being busy became "a sign of high social status," writes Brigid Schulte in Overwhelmed. Indeed, it became "glamorous." The book, reviewed by Karen Schwartz in The Wall Street Journal (3/29/14), is Brigid’s "quest to understand why we feel so busy — and what we can do about it." Brigid finds that the high status of "busyness" affects both men and women, and "cuts across … class lines. But parents, and especially mothers, are hit the hardest."

The greatest imbalance, she believes, "is not so much between men and women, but between mothers and everybody else." Her journey involves "neuroscientists, who show her that feeling pressed for time actually shrinks the prefrontal cortex," as well as academics, "including a University of Maryland Sociologist dubbed ‘Father Time’." "You can’t manage time," Brigid writes. "There will always and ever be 168 hours in a week." Her goal is to figure out "how to turn fragmented ‘time confetti’ into appreciating-the-moment ‘time serenity.’"

She reports that in Denmark, where "more than 80 percent of mothers are employed, most of them full-time," they "have as much leisure time as fathers." For example, Brigid "discovers a school where all the children are picked up by working parents at 4:30" and "a husband who rides his bicycle home in time for his wife to attend her favorite exercise class." She also notes a "uniform lack of clutter in Danish households." She attributes this to the culture. "I was assured again and again that Danes simply do not buy, produce or save that much stuff."