An Open Letter To My Daughter: Busy Is Not A Badge Of Honour

Mother with daughters

To my darling daughter,

I wish I wasn’t always rushing around, busy with work, shopping, cooking, washing, helping the boys, arguing, nagging dad, negotiating, studying, counselling, walking, climbing, helping others and running myself ragged. I wish I didn’t snap.

I wish I hadn’t let myself get so stressed out I couldn’t even hear your jokes, let alone your lovely stories. I wish I didn’t say all sorts of things I didn’t mean. And I wish I didn’t let myself get so worked up I’d shout and yell and then collapse in a crying heap.

I wish I hadn’t let Facebook give me so much FOMO that I had to say ‘yes’ to every single adventure that came my way. I wish I hadn’t been such a busy bee, a slave, a machine, a work-horse and a juggler that I couldn’t make time for you when you really needed me.

I hope you wont follow my footsteps in this regard. It might be a first world problem, but being a busy bee can make us feel rotten and lose perspective on what really matters.

“At best we’re always moody. At worst we’re stressed, exhausted, angry, anxious, depressed and sick.”

I used to wear busy as a badge of honour. We all did. In my mum’s generation, it was known as the ‘Protestant work ethic’. Grandma was sometimes too busy to listen too. She took multi-tasking to new heights. She cleaned the oven mid-roast and started washing the dishes while we were still swallowing the last mouthful of dessert.

There was never ever time to chill on the couch with a book and a lot of guilt if you dared consider it. She was busy with charity work, church work, volunteering, gardening, pet care, grand-parenting, home admin and housekeeping.

I, too, was the busiest bee. At first it was survival but it felt good getting so much shit done every day. I loved the endorphins and dopamine. But it went too far. I was missing out on you. So now I’ve changed.

Here’s why.

I’ve got older, wiser, and more balanced. I’ve shifted my priorities towards my own health and selfcare. I’ve got through the desperate hump of single motherhood and I’m making more time for loved ones. And I’ve learned about “Rushing Women’s Syndrome.”

Dr Libby Weaver, biochemist and women’s health expert, says ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ is the biochemical effect of always being in a rush. Urgent rushing is unhealthy for us — in fact, it can lead to chronic health problems and hormone-based health issues including infertility, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and issues with menstruation and menopause.

But before you self-diagnose, you need to know that a ‘Rushing Woman’ is beyond busy. The ‘rushing woman’ needs a daily coffee fix, constantly says how busy she is, has high levels of stress hormones, has sugar cravings, is tired but wired, has no time for self, checks her phone, texts and Facebook’s constantly, sleeps too little, always looks for more ways to feel loved or praised, can’t say no and feels guilty when she does.

Dr Weaver says we do all this stuff because we are in a “relentless pursuit to never feel rejected”.

Sound familiar?

It’s not our fault. This need to be loved is hardwired in us from birth. It’s a survival mechanism to get adults to care for us.

But when we’re all grown up, we can let it go. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Once we accept that we are perfect, gorgeous, wonderful women and learn to love ourselves, we can make simple, if somewhat difficult, changes to prevent busy-bee syndrome. Let’s bin this badge of honour.

Let’s swap self-less for self-care so we can make the most of everyday and share more joy.

Di and her daughter Bella at Brisbane Coastrek 2019. Photo: Dave Gleeson

For me, it has been a big mindset shift. I’ve had to prioritise me. I’ve learned to say “no” to things that are bad for my health such as drinking five coffees a day, sitting for eight hours, drinking too much wine, or doing everybody’s washing. I’ve learned to avoid things that bring self-loathing, like devouring a whole tub of ice-cream or a whole packet of Tim Tams.

I’ve replaced those things with activities that make me joyous, such as going for a sunrise walk, riding my bike along the beach or strolling through parks with friends, even when I’m busy.

My beautiful daughter, I know you sometimes roll your eyes when I suggest an ocean swim instead of wine, or a sunset hike instead of pizza. But it’s fun. Diving into a micro-adventure in nature with loved ones brings pure joy. Yes, it’s busy, but this busyness relieves stress because it’s about nurturing ourselves and doing it together. Then we can love others more.

So, don’t wait another 20 years to learn this lesson my darling daughter. Self-care through nurturing your health and wellbeing is the best insurance policy money can’t buy to ensure that you can love others and they can love you. And, most importantly, so you can love yourself. Because you are enough.

Just don’t get so busy you can’t see it.

Love, Mum

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