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Be honest: if someone asks you how you’ve been, how often do you respond with, “Busy!”?

Whether it’s a friend, a parent-in-law or your favourite bank teller, many of us often feel the pressure to let the people around us know just how busy we really are – as though it’s a sign of success, or happiness.

Australia’s ‘queen of common sense’, Maggie Dent, has noticed this, too.

In a post on her website titled ‘Taming the parental busy bug,’ Maggie ponders why so many parents strive for ‘busy’.

During her seven years as an at-home mum to her three (later to become four) boys, Maggie helped her husband run his veterinary hospital – doing wages, paying bills, sorting insurance and bookkeeping. She also gardened extensively, volunteered at a local palliative care hospice, coached basketball and even played herself at nights. At one point, Maggie says she even considered picking up some extra study.

“It was policy that I had to resign from my job as a teacher when I left to give birth to my first son – thank goodness we’ve come a long way since then!” says Maggie. “I had a wonderful older nanny who would come to our home to look after our boys [so I could do all this].

“Then, I had a series of wake up calls.”

Between driving off with a fully iced, homemade birthday cake on the roof of her car, locking herself and her sons out of their house (on a number of occasions) and backing her car into her husband’s because she didn’t realise it was even there, Maggie learned the hard way that busy begets stress.

She even forgot Book Week.

In each of these instances, I was being nudged to pay attention!” says Maggie. “I decided I needed to address some of my unhelpful beliefs and stories that I told myself.”

Maggie realised her need to be busy – to be doing things that other people could notice – was a way of overcoming her low self-esteem and self-hatred. Instead, she began focusing on self-help books and working with therapists, which allowed her to see exactly why she felt the need to do more, and more, and more.

“Gradually my ‘need’ to do so many things to make me feel worthwhile became less and my acceptance of my authentic self, with the good bits and the annoying bits, became easier,” says Maggie. “I finally found a voice that could say ‘no’ when I wanted to say no – prior to that, the unhealed me was so desperate to be liked and accepted she always said yes.”

In doing so, Maggie discovered a number of other gifts that came to her as if by magic. She was more present, found clarity, became a better listener – not just to what was said, but what was left unsaid – was more compassionate to herself, and calm and mindful.

“If ‘hurry’ is problematic in your life and you have a to-do list that is beyond reality, there may be something deeper that needs addressing,” says Maggie. “When we hurry to fit everything in, maybe our expectations for ourselves, our partners and our precious kids is too high and too unrealistic. This is where the crabby, shouty person is triggered!”

There are always things you can stop doing, things you can do less often, and opportunities to release the need to be a perfect parent.

“It’s impossible to be perfect,” says Maggie. “Embrace the notion that good enough really is good enough – indeed, allowing our kids to see how mistakes, failures and setbacks are a normal part of life helps build their resilience.

“Before you get stressed about another thing to put on your TO DO list, relax – tiny changes make a difference. Perhaps make time for a new family ritual instead.”

Maggie’s family rituals that help tame the busy bug:

  • Take a few minutes before bedtime for toddlers and older children – step outside and say goodnight to the stars, the moon or the birdies.
  • Create a ‘go slow PJ weekend morning’ – even just once a month. This will bring such a gift of more connectedness and love.
  • Take your first morning beverage slowly …
  • Start and end each day by noting three things you are grateful for.
  • Say thank you in special ways to those you love, simply for loving you.

“When we hurry we are not really present to the being of ourselves and the miracle of our little ones,” says Maggie. “Give your higher self a chance to be captain of the ship. It can seriously change your life.

“Without becoming too esoteric on you, we need to remember we are called human beings rather than human doings.”

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haven is all about family, life and style in Brisbane's inner city suburbs, the Gold Coast, south to Byron Bay. We have been keeping parents in the know for over eight years, with fun, fresh and helpful stories that they can take tips from or treasure in their own library.