Taming the parental busy bug

“Hurry is the enemy of love.” — Steve Biddulph

It seems that the more sophisticated human systems become – whether they’re designed for families, schools, workplaces or communities – the more we need to hurry to meet the increasingly high expectations that we put on ourselves and others. Sadly, these expectations spill over onto our children.

Have you noticed for a long time now when you ask someone how they are, they most likely respond ‘busy!’ It seems to have become a socially acceptable response as though being busy shows that we’re worthwhile and valuable. And without becoming too esoteric on you, we need to remember we are called human beings rather than human doings.

For around seven years, I was an at-home mum and I was pretty busy with three little boys – later to become four.

It was policy that I had to resign from my job as a teacher when I left to give birth to my first son – wow thank goodness we’ve come a long way since then!

While I was at home and not in paid employment I was helping to run my husband’s veterinary hospital, doing the wages, paying bills, sorting insurance and accounting stuff. I was also the family gardener – weeding, mowing lawns, planting veggies and spreading sheep poo.

I had a wonderful older nanny who would come to our home to look after our boys so that I could also do some volunteering at a local palliative care hospice, coach basketball and play basketball at night. At one point I thought it was a good idea to do some extra study.

Then I had a series of wake-up calls.

Busy begets stress

In my hurry one morning I drove off with a fully iced home-made birthday cake on the roof of my car – that soon splattered everywhere!

I also locked myself and my boys out of our house on a number of occasions. Another time, I was so distracted when coordinating a huge concert that I walked past my husband’s car but still managed to not see it and backed my car into his?! (I didn’t fess up for years).

During that time, I also missed assembly items that I’d helped my boys prepare for – just clean forgot what day it was. Once I left one of the boys at the pool after swimming club, although technically I thought his dad had him. At that point we lived 40 kms out of town!

Then of course there was a really big one – I clean forgot book week until the morning of the event (who’s been there folks?). Thankfully in the ‘olden days’ when I was parenting book week was not quite the Olympic sport that it is now. However my poor boys had to go with some seriously lousy dress up options because mum had become so busy she forgot something really important to them.

In each of these instances, I was being nudged to pay attention!

In my mid 30s I decided I needed to address some of my unhelpful beliefs and stories that I told myself.

Revisiting my beliefs

As a teen I had struggled with really low self-esteem, self-loathing and self-hatred and I started to notice in my 20s and 30s that my need to be really busy, to be doing things that other people could notice, was a way of me finding self-worth and self-belief. But I now know that we are all worthy of being valued and loved regardless of our pace of life.

So I started exploring self-help books, doing weekend seminars and working with therapists so I could peel the unhelpful layers away from my psyche.

This inner work allowed me to see what was the truth and what was not. I learned how to understand how my inner child wounds were making the adult me behave the way I did – especially the need to do more and more, and to hurry, hurry, hurry.

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.

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.

I realised the things that really mattered to me and I clarified my life values (thanks to a wonderful weekend course studying neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP).

Suddenly, it was like I had created a map to help me through whatever life delivered. As a mum and a teacher, things improved enormously.

As if by magic I found the following gifts came to me much more easily:

  1. I was really present – rather than worrying about what had happened, or what might happen, I was able to stay with what was happening.
  2. I felt clear – My capacity to really be ‘attuned’ to my loved ones and my students was so much better. My senses were more accurate and I began to worry less.
  3. I became a really good listener – to not only what was said, but what was unsaid.
  4. I chose to create times to fill my own cup – rather than always trying to fill everyone else’s cup. My two new friends were self-compassion and self-care – totally without guilt!
  5. I could be still – I spent time in silence and stillness listening to the gentle voice of my higher self rather than the incessant chatter of my ego.
  6. I found ways to slow down – I found music, places in nature, meditation and mindfulness activities helpful – plus safe spaces to escape to when the stress and hurry bugs would turn up.
  7. I embraced imperfection – I accepted that perfection is over rated and stress-inducing.
  8. I turned inward – I accepted that attitude and empathy mattered much more than awards and certificates and other external methods of validation.
  9. I stopped striving – I chose contentment over endlessly striving for happiness.
  10. I learned to love myself – I found that when I finally learned to accept and love myself, my love for others deepened and I received more love back.

BTW I still have very occasional crazy hurry-up moments – such as bringing two left shoes to Cairns with me en route to Canada for a five-week visit. That’s never going to work but, again, I am reminded there is no perfect!

Now back to the busy bug. 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. 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!

Seriously there are things you can stop doing – and things you can do less often – and please release the need to be perfect parents.

It is impossible to be perfect – 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 (or in your Excel spreadsheet) relax because tiny changes make a difference. Perhaps make time for a new family ritual instead.

Some simple family rituals that combat 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.

I agree with Steve Biddulph. Hurry is the enemy of love because it feeds the ego rather than our higher self – the voice of our inner compass. The ego voice is where the blame, criticism, self-pity, martyrdom, judgement, hostility and confusion comes from towards ourselves and others!

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


Maggie has written a whole book on slowing down and introducing the magic of silence, stillness and calmness into our lives. Check out Saving Our Children in her online store.


Image credit: ©️ Victor Koldunov /Adobe Stock – stock.adobe.com