Our family is choosing to slow down and simplify. Our lives were not extremely over-scheduled or extravagant but slowly we were getting busy. Lately, dinners seemed frantic and bedtimes were rushed. We still made time to play in the backyard and create in the craft room but I wanted to do that more. That required simplifying. Trips to the playground rather than the amusement park. Time spent skipping rocks, picnicking, painting, reading, writing and exploring. Time spent walking by the river, camera in hand, picking wildflowers. We simply wanted to do that more.
We were busy for so many little reasons. We were going to the grocery store multiple times a week to pick up items for lunch and dinner. If I had an event I would wander the mall for the perfect dress or shirt, much to the dismay of my children. We were also looking for a bigger, “better” house and that took up a lot of our weekend and evening time. All these little reasons added up to less time for us as a family and one very tired mommy.
Our lives began getting busier when we had our first child. I had always enjoyed writing, painting and cooking, but with the arrival of my son these activities were replaced with diaper changes, feeding and trying to get him to sleep . My second baby had chronic ear infections and didn’t sleep at all. Getting through the day was a challenge in itself. By our third child I felt more comfortable with my baby knowledge but we already had numerous activities and obligations. For the first five years I thought keeping my family busy with scheduled events was the best solution to happy children. They were enrolled in karate, skiing, gymnastics, guitar, piano, soccer, softball and swimming classes. Our weeks revolved around the “big” events and there was minimal time spent at home.
Our school year also had a big impact on our family life. Last year my six year old son and five year old daughter had their first year in a traditional primary school. We came from a lovely Montessori school where we were spoiled with a slow, calm, peaceful learning environment. Now school was very busy and demanding. There were events scheduled every week and I volunteered for parent council. I tried to attend every school activity and felt very guilty missing one or two. By the end of the year I was wiped out, wondering where it all went and if this is how our school years were going to be.
One night after a particularly hectic day I sat on the couch and did some thinking about the direction of our life as a family. I cherished my time with my children and husband, and lately life seemed rushed. After thinking for a while I came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way. In the back of my mind I had always felt that motherhood could be a calmer more peaceful experience. That night, I sat at my computer and researched words and phrases. I don’t remember the first time I thought of the word “simplicity” but it had stuck in my mind. It lead me to a wonderful blog called Simply Martini and from there all my other research began.
I read a lot of blogs, books and articles. I was impressed by the numerous women who baked from scratch, crafted and sewed. Not only did they accomplish these things but they incorporated their children into these projects everyday. I was tired of lying in bed at night wondering where our day went. I was tired of lying in bed feeling like we hadn’t spent enough time reading, cooking or talking. I knew it was time for a change. My research continued and every time I read a post or article I felt inspired, a simpler lifestyle seemed like the answer for my family. Slowly but surely, my supportive husband and I choose not to be busy with things that didn’t support our family goals and values.
It was an amazing process because once I changed my way of thinking the result was immediate. I started waking up in the morning feeling grateful. Grateful for the house I lived in with my family. Grateful for our time together baking, crafting and creating. Grateful for the luxury of being a stay at home mom. We still had our challenging days but now I had more patience and energy to handle the challenges.
Summer was coming and I made a promise to myself and my family to slow down and enjoy the summer with them. No summer camps to prepare for and lots of time together doing simple, homemade projects. I took up painting and photography again, bringing my camera with me wherever we went. I was still a busy mom but now I was busy spending time with my family and doing things we all enjoyed. Our simple summer was quite a wonderful experience. We visited an art centre, made a mud pie kitchen, built a fairy garden, learned how to felt, baked granola bars, started knitting and went outside to explore nature everyday.
Most of the changes we’ve made are small but important. We now order groceries from an online organic store and visit the farmers market once a week together. I meal plan to make our weekly dinners nutritious and easy to prepare. We spend minimal time at the mall and more time at parks and playgrounds. We bake together weekly, something I never thought I had the time or talent to accomplish. My husband and I stopped looking for a new house, realizing we are quite comfortable in our current home. To provide a rhythm to our day we light candles at dinner and before bedtime. With my extra time and creative energy I decided to keep a blog about our journey towards simpler living. My husband has renewed his interest in music and recording. We simply have more time for everything we have always wanted to do.
We chose to be busy and now we are choosing not to be busy. So many interesting conversations happen when we are just sitting quietly together. So many games and stories are created when we have empty space in our day. My children have welcomed the changes with open arms. They eat better, sleep better and we talk and laugh more. They understand why things are changing and they are happy with the slower pace and simpler activities. Each night they ask for the candles to be lit at the table and each morning they sit down with me for a proper breakfast so we can talk. Bliss.
We still have lots to learn and our changes are simple but I feel like our family is on the right path. I often have moments of complete peace and happiness throughout the day. When I tidy up at the end of the day I smile as I look over the projects we’ve done together. When I go to bed at night I am grateful for the time we’ve spent together as a family.
Summer was the perfect season to start our journey towards simple, mindful living. Now that autumn has arrived I need to be conscious of our family time and try to keep our school year as rhythmic as our summer. For the fall we have decided to limit our extra curricular activities to two for the older children and one for my youngest. I have scheduled swimming lessons on the same day and time so we can all go to the local pool together. Our music teacher will come to our home to teach piano to my older children once a week. After Christmas we will begin skiing as a family on the weekends, something we all look forward to and enjoy. We plan to participate in school activities while being mindful of our family values. I look forward to a school year that will be well balanced and family oriented.
For us, this is only the beginning, but I am excited to continue our journey towards simple, mindful living.
Valerie is a mother, wife, writer and aspiring photographer. She enjoys a life of creativity with her husband and three children ages two, five and six. You can read about her family’s journey towards simpler living on her blog Mommy’s Muse.