One of the values I place primary importance on as I move through life now as a mother is slowness. I avoid saying ‘Hurry up!’ or making any reference to running out of time. Of course I still do occasionally, there are times when we have to be somewhere at a particular time and I’ve left it a little too late or we need to get into bed because we have an early rise time the next day for some adventure. But generally, I try and keep time scarcity out of it. Time is such an interesting thing. Every single person has exactly the same amount of time available to them each day. The off grid permaculture farmer, the ‘9-5’ office worker, the high achieving entrepreneur. They all have 1440 minutes available from sunrise to sunrise.
Everywhere in life we have choices to make. Including choices about scarcity and abundance. Always thinking we are running out of time or don’t have enough time to do what we need to do is a scarcity mindset. It’s being at the effect of time.
I choose not be at the effect of time.
I choose to be the master of my time.
I didn’t always have this perspective. I used to be very much in my masculine. Training, studying, working and specifically not resting. Rest was pointless right? What could I achieve by resting?
Then my first little teacher was born and I started to slow down. It took a few years and I’m still working on it but I finally feel like life has slowed a point where I am the master of my time.
My husband has his own business and mostly works from home. He is the primary income earner in our family. I have a business where I see clients here and there.
We live near family so I get the support I need to have time off from the kids each week to nourish myself and do the things that stoke my fire.
We homeschool. The kids wake up when they’re ready, play outside together most of the day and we have a loose weekly rhythm of playgroups, school work, physical training sessions (my husband’s work that the kids go along to), adventures like rock climbing and camping and grandparent time. By making this choice, the kids have so much freedom to play and create, freedom to rest and have quiet time, freedom to play with each other and strengthen sibling bonds and freedom from having to *go* anywhere or *do* anything. They can just be.
They have very few ‘toys’. They DO have bikes, scooters, a pool, a big trampoline, a jungle gym, ropes, trees, building materials, art supplies, books, LEGO, and big imaginations. Less toys means less fighting over things, more creativity when they have to invent things themselves and a tidier house which does wonders for my nervous system.
They have almost zero screen time. We don’t own a TV or personal ipads. There was a time when my third was a newborn that I was letting my eldest watch playschool and such on my phone while my second was napping. It was very apparent that this caused behavioural issues. Yes, it’s a great baby sitter. But what I know about children’s brain development is too important to allow the allure of the screen to impact that. Once they know it’s just not an option, they don’t ask and they happily do other things. More creative things, less over stimulating things. And it allows time for boredom or nothingness. Moments of boredom or nothingness are such a critical part of childhood, they are the breeding ground for creativity. If a child is constantly over stimulated and has an ipad or TV in front of them at the first mention of boredom, there is no opportunity for the brain activity required for sparks of creativity.
Allowing space like this also creates opportunity for more moments of connection. More moments of snuggling on the couch reading together. More spontaneous cuddles. It also means I can do things like Elimination Communication with my babies and worry less about how they sleep. If I don’t have to be anywhere, I can just sleep when the baby sleeps.
I think a lifestyle like this starts prior to conception. Making space for the baby before conception, slowing down in pregnancy to allow space for the growth of intuition, slow and gentle postpartum for rest and recovery and then maintaining a gentle pace from there.
As women we’re told we can do anything. Have children. Have a career. Do all of the things.
Yeah, you can definitely try (and the strong feminist in me still struggles with this) but everyone will suffer. We can’t have it all. Not at the same time anyway. We are expected to work like we don’t have children and look after our children like we don’t work but it just isn’t feasible. It is a recipe for burnout at best and nervous breakdown at worst. How can we live in a way that honours our needs as individual women and honours our children’s need to just be children?
Yes, we need time to ourselves where we can nourish our bodies, minds and spirits. Absolutely. And we need a good support system for this to happen. We also need to tone it down and simplify. One of my goals each week is to keep my diary as empty as possible. It means having strong boundaries around my time and my energy. I also pay attention to where I am at in my cycle. In my Spring and Summer I have greater capacity but come Autumn and Winter, I plan almost nothing. And I certainly don’t plan additional things for the children. As they get older I’m sure they will have growing interests outside of our usual family activities and they will also be more able to organise their own time and cope with additional demands.
When the kids and I have a lot of spaciousness our nervous systems are less frazzled. We are spending more time in parasympathetic mode in a world that is sick with sympathetic dominance. It results in ‘better’ behaviour, better sleep, better relating to each other and it has a snowball effect. One good day creates more calm which creates more good days.
Another special thing we do that facilitates connection and calm is sleep in a family bedroom rather than separate bedrooms. The kids and I all go to bed together each evening and read before sleep time. There are no separation issues, there are no issues with trying to get multiple children to sleep at the same time and it makes overnight parenting very easy. (For those wondering about the bed setup, we have a big floor bed consisting of a king mattress in the middle for Mum, Dad and number 3 and a king single on either side for number 1 and 2.)
I remember when I was about 14, my aunty had a terminal illness and in her end of life clarity would share these pearls of wisdom. One of them was that she hoped her children would ‘never work a day in their lives’. I was confused by this for more than a decade until I realised she wanted them to be able to live lives and fulfil needs in the world that didn’t feel like work. And that is exactly what I want for my children. I want them to experience a childhood of freedom, fun and adventure. And I want them to move into the world with freshness and creativity that hasn’t been crushed out of them by a gruelling education system and packed schedule of extracurricular activities. I despise ‘the rat race’ and I want my children to grow up outside of it with the opportunity to continue their adult lives in whatever way appeals to them.
To disengage from the fast paced hum of ‘modern life’ and live at the pace that suits your family can be a big jump for some. It was a gradual process for me and my husband is still working towards meeting us there! If it feels appealing but unreachable, take some time for self reflection. What are our core values as a family? What do we really want for our children? If money weren’t an issue, what would we be doing (and how can we work towards that)? If societal judgement didn’t matter (it doesn’t!) what would we be doing?
My aunty died when she was 38, leaving behind three little children only a few years older than mine. I wonder what she would have to say to us about living life on our own terms? About slowing down to connect with our children? About living a life that doesn’t feel like work?
I live in Darwin in Australia's Tropical North and am the mother of three beautiful children. I am blessed with working with women through their fertility, preconception, pregnancy, birth and early parenting journeys. I am committed to lifelong learning and am interested in nutrition and natural health, the childbearing cycle, natural parenting philosophy and practice and the spiritual journey of motherhood.