These are some wise words from an unknown author and so incredibly fitting for me this week. I hope it encourages you too.
For the exhausted mum who hides a few minutes to cry in the bathroom……
For the mum hidden in the bathroom, because she needs a few minutes of tranquility while slipping tears from her eyes.
For the mum who is so tired that she feels she can’t continue, that she would give anything for a moment of peace.
For the mum who cries in her room for having scolded the kids for a nonsense that makes her feel guilty.
For the mum who desperately battles when wearing denim pants because she wants to look pretty and wear them to feel better.
For the mum who orders pizza for dinner again because she didn’t have the energy to make a home-cooked meal. As she is expected.
For the mum who feels alone, even when she’s accompanied.
You are worth a lot.
You are important.
You are enough.
This is a stage and a season. A crazy and challenging stage for all mums. But in the end everything will be worth it. For now, it’s hard. Difficult in many and different ways for each of us. We don’t always talk, but we all fight. You are not alone.
You are enough.
You give the best of you.
Those little eyes that observe you, think you’re perfect. They think you’re more than perfect.
Those little hands that ask for your arms. They think you’re the strongest and you can conquer the world.
Those little mouths eating what you cook. They think you’re the best.
Those little hearts looking for yours. They want nothing but you.
Because you are enough for them. You are more than enough mama.
You are quite simply wonderful.
For the little lives that you pour your heart into. For all the moments unseen and all the ones that are. For your hundreds of selfless acts that you do every single hour of every single day. We see you. All of it. We see it in the little ones that you nourish, cherish, give life and breath to. Mould, contour, tweak and marvel.
You, mama, are seen. Just look at your children and be reminded of your beautiful, unique, deeply sustaining purposeful calling, which is motherhood.
Some words I read the other day reminded me of the beauty and rarity of true friendships and why we need to pursue these ones that are truly life’s treasures. Here are the four types of friends we all need:
1. Those who empower you to be YOU.
2. Those who believe in your dreams.
3. Those who make you a better person.
4. Those who aren’t afraid to hold you accountable.
We need people who empower us to be us. Just as we are.
You are a unique creation and finely tuned to make an impact on the world like no other person can. Imagine if we all tapped into our inherent giftings! The world would be a much brighter place.
You only need that one person who will enable you to achieve your potential and create miracles within your own life. Simply by being beside you, being supportive and cheering you on.
Stay clear of the people who draw alongside you but have the wrong intentions of heart. Think keeping up with the Jones’s and being competitive with every breath. Nothing good can come from these comparisons and connections, so let them go gently if you can.
We need people to remind us of our dreams. Often.
Find those people or that person who nurtures you and reminds you of your natural ability and talents.
We all need people who cheer us on always, who know our shortcomings and choose to see the best in us every time.
We need friends who help us up when we fall and who invest in our dreams, journeying alongside us. Who won’t settle for your excuses and instead hold your shaky hand and calm your quivering heart when you have a wobble or three.
We need friends who make us a better person.
We all need a bit of encouragement now and then to make us better people. There is so much negativity in the world already. We don’t need those people in our lives.
Try and surround yourself with people who see the glass half full rather than half empty, who will remind you that every closed door is a perfect opportunity for new beginnings and trials can be welcomed, as they make us stronger and more resilient people.
Negativity is contagious but so is positivity, so surround yourself with the right crowd and build back into them as well.
Bouncing ideas off each other can produce some amazing life changing ideas and the beginning of fresh and new journeys.
We all need a friend or friends who call us out on things.
It’s not only incredibly healthy to take stock of our lives and actions but extremely humbling to know that someone has our back, especially during times when we seem a bit lost and try to bluff our way out of it.
Having these people who care enough to challenge you in love can make the difference between a poor thought pattern and making a terrible life decision.
And as Helen Keller famously said, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” Me too friends. Me too.
If you can count on the one hand some of those friends above, then the stars are shinning brightly upon your corner of the universe indeed, my friend.
This is a question I am asked – often. Visions of structured days and non-stop activities, where I am chained to the demands of my children are some of the anticipated answers. But it’s actually the opposite.
We purposefully create spaces of quiet and nothing for the children to explore all sorts of something.
Most days we set aside time, often hours for the children to be still. This means no scheduled play-dates, no sport activities, no running around to drop them off and pick them up from place to place. It’s just space that is empty.
For the kids to be bored.
Hear me out though, it’s not because I’m a lazy mother and can’t be bothered to apply myself on their behalf. It’s because I want them to find their own spaces of magic and creativity with me as their side-kick, rather than their facilitator.
And those few moments of boredom gives them space to stop and think and dream, then channel that emotion. Into something fun and creative to do. All without my assistance.
If you allow your children space in the day where they have free and unorganised time to do whatever takes their fancy, it will be one of the greatest gifts you can give you children and your marriage.
Maybe, you and your partner find yourself on the treadmill of keeping the kids amused, happy and active all day long and it’s a strain on your relationship because you literally have no time alone for each other, except when your child falls asleep. And by that time, you’re too exhausted to put one foot in front of the other at that time of the night.
Make sure the two of you spend time together and build into your relationship. So you at least like each other during those often tumultuous years of bringing up children!
This can be the difference between a strong marriage/partnership and one that falters and tears at the seams. Time with your children 24/7 is a sure-fire way to place a drain on your relationship and the cracks appear.
It’s also not great for your children to be the centre of your attention all day.
In this big wild world, this won’t be the case at all. They will have to learn to wait their turn, be patient and most of all, know not everything we do in life is fun. Having already experienced times of being still and tuning into their own creative rhythms and imaginations will help your child to learn that they can handle certain things themselves. Without our help.
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.”
Mary Lou Cook
The mind likes to wander, especially when given the space and time to do so. And it is never more alive than when it has nothing to do.
Boredom sparks daydreaming and daydreaming turns to creative thought, which our children will need the skill of more and more in the workplace. Problem solving on their own, thinking outside the square, applying logical thought-patterns to a problem, are all skills that flow from spaces of sitting, thinking and working things out. All from a bit of boredom.
Rather than giving in when your child or children begin to tell you they have nothing to. Next time, gently steer them towards their room of toys or the shelf of books.
Encourage them to go outside in nature and find sticks and flowers to create something. Your children may just reward you as they play for hours in a game they have made up and can’t bear to stop. All because they are having fun which stemmed from a bored moment and a bit of creative thinking to kickstart them on their way.
Remember, boredom isn’t a sign of bad parenting, it’s a nudge towards new and exciting discoveries for your children to treasure and expand their minds.
I haven’t always been a stay at home mama. In fact, I worked when my firstborn was just 8 months old. Full-time. I hated it and after a few months and lots of tears, mainly mine, I took on a part-time position at Singapore Airlines (same company, different position) in the Sales Department, for three days a week.
Still, I found it difficult being apart from her. I would leave home at 8 am and not see her sweet little baby face until 6 pm that evening, my mum and dad selflessly stepping in to take over the child-care for those three days a week.
And I felt guilty. So very guilty about everything.
It was hard to balance the quality over quantity line that everyone speaks of. I didn’t relish the idea of missing out on many of her firsts. I just felt sad that I wasn’t there all the time, guilt eating away at me. But we had a mortgage over our very first home and lots of debt so I didn’t have a lot of choice about our situation.
After my first, I went on to have five other children and work was weaved in and out of those new arrivals. Some seasons I was able to stay home full-time and others, I actually chose to work because I needed that time away from home to build back into myself.
The difference in my mental state from working when I had one child to working when I had six, was worlds apart.
Not that it was necessarily easier to leave the children, but my mindset was different, a lot calmer and realistic about what I could and couldn’t do and I stepped off the guilt train and never got back on it. That was just a one-way destination to messing with my mind.
This Is What I Learnt Working As A Mama:
I Was Still Their Mother.
Even though I wasn’t at home 24/7 that didn’t mean I wasn’t, along with my husband, their main caregiver, the one whom they ran to when hurt or upset. Just because I worked didn’t mean I was any less of a mother than one who stayed at home with them. And I realised that whatever choices we made as a family, they were the norm for our children. Because each family is unique, with their own set pace of rhythms and choices.
No Mother Is Perfect.
There isn’t a mother under the sun who gets everything right all of the time. Sure, you have those mama’s who appear to have to it altogether, but pause long enough to really look into their lives. You will see frantic paddling feet and cracks appearing – just the same as you and I. Because motherhood is a really difficult and demanding job. Honestly if we didn’t find it hard, then we wouldn’t be half the mothers we are.We worry because we care and love so very much.
Don’t Compare Yourself.
I say this all the time about comparisons in parenting. If you were to line up ten different mothers, you would find at least half of those mothers had their own beliefs as to how they want to raise their children. And just because each one is different, doesn’t make it wrong. We all have different children who respond to parenting styles very uniquely. So don’t compare what you do with your children, to what the lady next door does with hers.
Trade-Offs Are Inevitable.
At some point, you will find that you can’t stay for that extra 10 minutes to settle your child or attend their assembly or award’s celebrations because you have to work. It’s not always easy or practical to take time off for these events and be assured your child will not be damaged for life because you miss a few. Sure, they will be disappointed for a little bit but they will only remember the times that you were present and these times will be sealed in their memories rather than the odd occasions you couldn’t. And grand-parents or close friends are always fabulous stand-ins!
Give Yourself A Pat On The Back.
It’s ok if some nights you can’t face to cook a hot meal and the kids have cereal instead. It’s perfectly acceptable to declare you want a night off and get MacDonald’s for a treat or rustle together some leftovers and make that dinner. Nobody has a pristinely perfect life like we are led to believe. The most important thing is being with your children and showing them the very best version of yourself, and if that means having a night off now and then, do it, and do it regularly for your mental wellbeing.
You Have Made The Right Choice For Your Family.
Don’t doubt yourself and the decisions you have made which are the best for you and your family. Every family situation is vastly different and nobody has the right to tell you otherwise. If you do find a few snippy comments about being a working mama, coming your way, dust them off your shoes and don’t allow them to reside in your mind. After all, it’s your life – not anyone else’s. You are the mother to your children so don’t let anyone tell you that your journey is not right. Nobody should be given that sort of power over you.
Lastly, It’s Ok To Work And Enjoy It.
Don’t feel guilty about enjoying having a break from your family and home. Working brings enormous benefits, not only financially but emotionally as well. I wish I had known way back when I first started to work, what I know now. That I would soon thrive in having the distinction between parent and employee.
I would love the fact that I could dress nicely, do my hair and makeup and use my brain towards something entirely different other than looking after lots of small humans. Working made me focus on looking after myself and it was a precious gift I gave to myself. I stopped for lunch, I sat and drank my coffee in peace, I made work friends and enjoyed a full social life. All separate from my family.
I found working to be a hugely positive decision towards finding myself again, after having been surrounded by children day in day out. And enjoying that experience didn’t make me a bad mother.
It made me a profoundly better and happier mother.
“Your children learn from you all the time. Just because you spend time at work doesn’t mean they’l miss out on your deep and abiding love for them”.
Life is so much simpler when you stop explaining yourself to other people. When you just focus on what works best for you and your family. Celebrate this working season of your life and don’t let yourself be hindered by those who don’t agree with your choices, for they quite simply, aren’t your people.
Your children learn from you all the time and just because you spend time at work does not mean they will miss out on your deep and abiding love for them. In fact, they will benefit even more from having a happy and fulfilled mother who has other interests and tasks to complete, besides her family unit.
Presently, we home-school four of our six children, ranging in ages from 9-14. My husband and I both manage Holding Arrows and just this year, we are also setting up an online business.
Working from home has its own unique challenges but it is no less work than if we were to be in a city office.
I write for US-based parenting magazines and online family forums. This takes up two full days a week of me sitting in my office.
But we make it work, this balance between home and financing, bringing up children and educating them. For we are as different as your family and what works for us, surely won’t work for you. This is why you should work with pride (or not!). What you do and what we do is exclusively right for our respective families at this time.
Your family, too, will slot right into your working life much more effortlessly than you may think. So, mama, work with pride in your heart and conviction in your steps and be proud of your achievements.
In your children’s eyes, you are quite simply their entire world, regardless of whether you work or not.
It has been said that 99% of parenting is trying unsuccessfully to sit down. My mum always used to say to me when I was little that she hadn’t sat down all day and I remember thinking, “How is that possible? To not place your bottom onto a soft seat ALL day?” “Who does that?”
Well now I am a mother myself, I know of course, that my mum was absolutely right! She was trying to sit down all day but life gets in the way and prevents you from resting.
We are currently reading a book called “Sitting Still Like a Frog”, by Eline Snel. It is primarily a book on mindfulness exercises and practices to help your children deal with anxiety, improve concentration and handle difficult emotions.
One of the examples was of a six-year-old girl who was given a bike for her birthday, having no previous experience of cycling. She immediately hopped on and began to effortlessly ride her new bike. When her parents enquired as to how she knew what to do she said, “I pictured riding in my mind”
This example begs me to question how powerful our mind is and the need for us to not only want to rest but visualise the benefits of such a practice.
We should equally know that in order for a plant to not just live but flourish, we need to give it love, water, sun and attention. Sadly, mother’s attentions are most always on everyone else and their own needs are at the bottom of the pile, most probably the large and ever-growing washing pile!!
“If the mountain seems too big today then climb a hill instead. If the morning brings you sadness it’s ok to stay in bed. If the day ahead weighs heavy and your plans feel like a curse, there’s no shame in rearranging, don’t make yourself feel worse. If a shower stings like needles and a bath feels like you’ll drown. If you haven’t washed your hair for days, don’t throw away your crown. A day is not a lifetime, a rest is not defeat. Don’t think of it as failure, just a quiet, kind retreat. It’s ok to take a moment from an anxious, fractured mind. The world will not stop turning while you get realigned. The mountain will still be there when you want to try again. You can climb it in your own time, just love yourself till then”.
It has encouraged me to stop pushing myself to exercise so much when every muscle is screaming for a break and my heart sighs at the thought of putting my trainers on for another day. Yes, exercise is so beneficial but not if it depletes me more than build me up.
Maybe you too can take the same advice and remember that some days beg for rest and recuperation. It’s totally ok to gift ourselves that important downtime.
And whilst all the pretty pictures (like above!) promote lovely, soft images of milk baths and sweet smelling roses, quite often simple is key. A nap in the afternoon, a stroll outside, buying your favourite magazine and curling up in a corner with a warming brew, makes an enormous difference to our bodies and minds.
Just ten minutes sitting quietly and letting your mind drift away can be the difference between feeling anxiety rise like bile in your throat and a complete change of attitude towards your situation.
All because of self-care. And remember self-care isn’t selfish, it’s as important as breath in your lung. So go and water your own garden before you tend to someone else’s.
“Parents must resolve that teaching in the home is a most sacred and important responsibility” -T Perry-
Do you bribe your children?
This was a question I was asked a while ago when we were in church ministry. Our family of eight attended church once, sometimes twice a week and all six children sat in their seats without us snarling under our breaths or threatening to take away any privileges (mind you, our eldest was 20 at the time, so one would hope she was well behaved by that age!!)
Following church one day a lady leaned over the pew and whispered to me, “Hey Catherine, do you bribe your kids? Or give them sedatives?” I kid you not. Sedatives haha.
The short answer is no, we don’t bribe our kids but that isn’t because they are angels or naturally beautifully behaved souls! That said, I couldn’t honestly admit that bribery hasn’t taken place over the 21 years I have been a parent, cos, you know, we all have those days where for at least 10 pence you would sell your child to the lowest bidder.
Thankfully, those days only happen, oh, about once a month around a certain lunar-phase of womanhood, where you swear your children have suddenly turned into a pack of wild animals. Or maybe that’s just me (but please tell me it isn’t!!) So, yes, believe me, they have their moments at home and in public.
What we do massively focus on, when I am a rational and kind mother, which fortunately is most days, is to teach them how to listen and respect us. Those two words – listen and respect- are not easy ones to master and the hard work started from the moment our children were born.
We taught them the blessing that their siblings were so they didn’t feel the need to compete. Also, we instilled patience into their little hearts so they learnt to wait and respect what we were telling them, which in some cases meant they couldn’t have all of our attention all of the time, cos you know, life just isn’t like that. We didn’t want our children growing up thinking they were the centre of the universe when actually they weren’t. I’m not saying they aren’t the centre of OUR universe but not EVERYBODY’S, so raising obnoxious kids who think they know everything and can do anything, just wasn’t something we wanted on our radar. Ever. We modelled to them what respecting another person looks like. My husband opens doors for me, serves me first when he can. In turn, I serve him back, ensuring his needs are met.
Guess what happens in this scenario? Your kids begin to build up their moral warehouse of how to treat others. They know they have to listen when someone speaks, they understand that interrupting is rude and as adults, we don’t (or shouldn’t) do it, so they don’t as children. They model patience and understanding to each other because they see it lived out in their own lives.
And you know what else friends? It is H.A.R.D. parenting this way. Because those virtuous attributes don’t happen over weeks or months but years and years of you, their parent, showing them exactly how to be and exactly how to treat other people. Yep, they learn most things through you. Well, in fact, they learn everything through you, their parents, in their formative years.
Parenting is H.A.R.D. No doubt about it. It’s a choice we make every day to put someone else’s happiness and wellbeing ahead of your own. To teach the hard lessons. To do the right thing, even when you’re not sure what the right thing is, necessarily. And to forgive yourself, over and over for doing it wrong because we ALL get it wrong.
“I want to scream that behind the gorgeous children sitting quietly on the church pews, is years of crafting them into luscious humans”.
I am in no way saying my husband and I are perfect because we are far, far from that. We fail daily and slip up as much. There is no such thing as perfect parenting. Life isn’t perfect, nobody is. But use your mistakes and mishaps as opportunities to grow tolerance and teach. There is such a thing as happy accidents. Love, love, love and listen, listen, listen and you will see what beautiful humans you have created.
Yet, when someone asks me if I sedate my children, it doesn’t make me feel proud, it makes me sigh a little. I want to scream that behind the gorgeous children sitting quietly on the church pews, is years of crafting them into luscious humans. I didn’t pop them out and just make a jolly good batch. Admittedly, some were easier to parent than others, but they all need guidance and shepherding along the way. And still, do. I have devoted my life, along with my husband, to teach my children to be lovable adults. The kind who give without wanting to instantly receive back. Who put others before themselves and know how to wait for something instead of having everything all at once.
We all know that children learn more from what YOU are than what you teach.
If you see a family who has well-behaved children, tell them!!
Believe me, it will massively impact the parents to hear their hard work is producing fruit. And if you see parents with terribly-behaved children, don’t tell them their children are out of control! Encourage their parents that it is the hardest job they will ever do and they are doing just fine.
For that is the journey of parenthood and that is the community, the tribe of people we need to be surrounded with to raise and empower this next generation of incredible humans.
And don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one!
It has been said, that the woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd, but the woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before (quote by Francis P Wernig).
How would you describe yourself? A natural follower or a natural leader? Maybe a bit of both? Or possibly a 60/40 ratio? I personally don’t think that followers will necessarily not go anywhere in life. I think we need people who follow and people who lead. This dynamic lends itself to a fluid rhythm of give and take. Yet, I tell my children all the time to not follow the crowd. I say to them that they need to stand up for what they believe in and not be swayed by majority influence.
I impress this upon my children because I was a stoic non-follower growing up. If there was something that I didn’t agree with, come hell or high water, you would not get me onside. And whilst that all sounds very valiant and brave, it had disastrous consequences for me as a teenager and young adult.
I was the recipient of vicious bullying, simply because I was different. And by different I mean, tall, academic, a bit of a goody-two-shoes (at the time – certainly not now) and the perfect target for being picked on.
It wasn’t confined to my school years either. As I grew into a young adult and entered the workforce and the world of modelling, I found myself ostracised even more.
“Grow through what you go through and lift that beautiful head high”.
I was seen to be snobby because I was quiet and perceived to be timid, even though you couldn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to. I guess that was really the problem. Others thought I was the sort of person who never put a foot wrong and life was handed to me on a platter, consisting of catwalks, photographic studios and backstage passes to exclusive events.
But of course, reality is entirely different. Modelling was far from glamorous. It was long, long hours of standing in one spot, often freezing cold or boiling hot. Of being picked apart by the camera lens and the people who paid me to look a certain way. It was catty co-workers (aka other models) and poor pay. And oh my goodness, it was sore feet! I’m talking toes bleeding because they had been shoved into too small stilettos which then had to glide gracefully down a runway with all eyes upon you.
So, whilst I wasn’t a follower, I wasn’t actually a leader either. I was more a loner who learnt to enjoy her own company because she perceived most of the people in her life to be pretty uncomplimentary.
In fact, compliments barely came my way in the form of a kind word or sweet gesture. Other than from my family and you know, everyone is loved by their family.
But here is the good thing – I cut my baby teeth on being bullied. It made me who I am today. A fighter. A woman who isn’t knocked easily. Who has broad shoulders and can now answer back with determination and courage and rip you to pieces if you hurt her family. And whilst my voice may shake a little, my spirit is strong. Basically, after years of feeling like I had lost, I remembered who I was and the game changed. I changed the game, called my life, and I won and I’m still winning today.
If you are feeling beaten and down-trodden today, I hope my story is an encouragement to you. Don’t you dare forget how wildly capable you are.How much growth can spring from the seed of adversity and how the struggle of your battles and war-wounds will become a breathtaking mosaic of your victories.
You, my friend, are quite simply triumphant, by being you. Whether you are a follower or a leader or something completely different, grow through what you go through and lift that beautiful head high. No more casting your eyes to the ground because you have a story to tell and an audience to hear it.
Shame is an ugly word. It’s not something I like to say often, or at all.
Friends, just because someone speaks words over you doesn’t make them the truth, so don’t allow them to settle upon your soul and change your beautiful unique heart. For we were never meant to carry a crown of thorns, only a crown of roses. The thorns that held the weight of shame was dealt with a long, long time ago.
Entering into a fresh and brand new season, we have reflected, as a family, on what we learnt during our time of sitting in the sand and waiting for the storms to pass.
Our biggest hurdle to overcome was the feeling of shame. The definition of shame is being disappointing or not satisfactory. We collectively as a family felt both of these and so much more.
Shame has a way of entering one’s bones and staying there for quite some time. Eating away at all the healthy marrow and tissue, inducing weakness and a feeling of insignificance.
“For we were never meant to carry a crown of thorns, only a crown of roses.”
We were told that we didn’t work out in church ministry. Maybe we were too much, too little, too late, too soft, too strong, too kind, not kind enough….. The list goes on and on and on.
Truth is we will never know what we actually were. What we took from that experience was the crushing weight of shame. And for at least 365 long days we carried bloody great big boulders on our backs. Doubled over with the weight of unspoken words and cruel actions.
But here’s the thing – that shame wasn’t ours to carry. Not for one single moment were we ever meant to lug those heavy weights around.
We weren’t even meant to pick up a tiny stone of shame and place it in our pockets. We were meant to walk away with our hearts intact and our heads held high.
Shame has a way of lying to hurt hearts and it can take a long time for the fog to clear enough for you to see the truth set before you.
“Shed the shackles of shame that others place upon you and instead wear your unique coat of freedom that was always yours to be worn”.
If you find yourself or loved one on the shame-train today, maybe this journey we are on isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place. In other words, shed the shackles of shame that others place upon you and instead wear your unique coat of freedom that was always yours to be worn.
Even a grain of sand can grow into a rock, so the minute you feel the sting of shame on your shoulders and you know it’s not the truth, flick it off and step forward in expectation with the right coat on, and see the wonder of freedom unfold.
“You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no”.
So friends, I have a little secret that has been bubbling away in the corners of my mind and the recesses of my heart. And it’s about living slow.
You know we all hear about FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out)?
I was one to scoff at the fact that anybody would ever have the sort of mindset of missing out on something, anything. I mean literally a snort of disbelief.
Who are these people too scared to commit to anything because a very important something else might happen upon them that will complete their very existence. And all the happy fairies will sing in the woodlands and well – life will be thoroughly glorious.
Yeah – that’s kind of what I thought about FOMO.
Because slow living is the absolute opposite.
It’s a gentle, considered pace, where nothing feels rushed or urgent. It doesn’t yearn for inclusion or belonging but rather a smaller space of being with loved ones at the right speed. Pacing oneself instead of rushing. It’s not about losing time by going slowly; it’s about gaining time by doing the things that are most important to you.
We choose to live slowly and simply.
It’s a conscious effort to free up time on non essentials so you can be more and do more with the ones you love.
But here’s the secret friends – it’s not easy to practice. Whilst I am sure the FOMO’s out there must live in some sort of state of decision-induced anxiety, slow-living isn’t all roses either.
“It’s not about losing time by going slowly; it’s about gaining time by doing the things that are most important to you”.
When we began living slow a few years ago, I had visions of muted, neutrally aesthetically pleasing decor. My children would only play with organically sensitive wooden toys that had been hand-crafted from the depths of lone mountain women from Peru. We would shop solely from local sources and our ecological footprint would be mild, almost non-existent.
But – reality. Always comes knocking on the purest of intentions and plans.
I discovered it’s not so easy to say “no” to an empty space in my diary when I could possibly squeeze in an hour doing something fun. Those mere 60 minutes begging to be filled.
But the fact is that I may very well speed to get to my destination, stress about a clear parking space, swear that I don’t have the correct change for said parking space, leg it to my meeting, apologise for being late, set an alarm so I don’t overstay and get an £85 parking ticket on my return. That’s the truth of squeezing time out of space that needs to be slow. And it’s not at all easy or peaceful to put in practice.
It’s not easy saying “no”. Not one little bit.
My family of six children plus a mummy and a daddy means we have a B-U-S-Y lifestyle and that lifestyle looks like a lot of me saying “no” in an attempt to curb our fast pace.
Friends, I’m still learning and failing and picking myself up and starting all over again.
Some days I wake up and think, “Today I will write that book I’ve been dreaming of”. Or, “Run a 10k whilst listening to a podcast on how to speak French in under an hour”. That sort of lovely but silly-punching-above-my-limits sort of behaviour.
And other days, it takes all my effort, a huge kick up my butt to move my body, buckets of coffee, possibly tears, just to teach my kids their timetables and feed them.
So, no, my secret is, as much as you may look at my life and think “she has that down pat”, I don’t. At all.
The truth is, it’s hard work. This slow living. And my family and I are a work in progress.
But there is one huge reason I keep yearning and trying for slower and it’s this. After a while, we found our own stride and pace amongst the busy and the frantic. We realised that all those “No’s” meant a whole lot of “Yes’s”. “Yes” to sitting with a hot brew and marvelling at birds flying against a grey and moody sky. “Yes” to home-cooked dinners that took time rather than speed.
“Yes” to doing absolutely nothing, where boredom gave way to space, budding wings of wild and outrageous imagination. “Yes” to the beauty of the unknown places that reside in all of our hearts and long to be released.
To dream and wonder and settle in that magical place called slow.
The short answer to this is, I am unable to make sense of the end of life.
I know, of course, that none of us will remain earth-side forever. We are not made to be here indefinitely. We are created with a beginning and an end. Our bodies ageing from the day we are born.
But we all have an order and rhythm to our lives. A justifiable pattern of childhood, adulthood, career, family, retirement, freedom, a full and colourful life of purpose, love and living.
For me, this is how it should be. Our rite of passage in life.
Yet, this past week, my family lost one of our own. A fine and outstanding young man, with a loving wife and young family.
My much loved and deeply respected cousin, Anthony, in one of life’s freak accidents that feels impossible to comprehend.
And the threads of life that I hold onto, feel looser and unsure. A path that has diverged from its original destination, leaving me wondering how life can be so spectacularly cruel.
The world as I know it, will never quite be the same again.
Ant, as I always called him, was driving with his family on a highway in rural Australia, behind a boat being towed. A canopy came off the boat and the object smashed through the windscreen of the car. Ant suffered catastrophic injuries and was not able to sustain life.
My older brother, Gavin, and I grew up with Ant and his family in country Western Australia, alongside his older sister, Holly, who was more my childhood sister, than my cousin. Holly and I were born only months apart and quite literally spent our formative years at each other’s side.
“We ate and played and ate and played
and lived a wonderful life of embracing the true spirit of family life and belonging”.
Collectively, we all spent gloriously long summer days together, splashing about in rubber paddling pools. We ran through slow-moving sprinklers under the hot Australian sun and rode our bikes to the local tuck shop for a 50c bag of lollies or ice cream.
We were blissfully unaware of any dangers, or the need to wear bike helmets during the late 70’s/early ’80s, let alone a seat belt.
There was no such thing as air-conditioning, only the promise of an afternoon’s natural respite from the sea-breeze and possibly a sleepy electric fan, shifting stale, sultry air around a stifling room. Christmas seasons spent at my precious late Nan and Pop’s, with our other cousins. So much love and food and presents and belonging.
This was my childhood and it was truly magical.
As an adult, I have the fondest memories of spending it with family. Something I took for granted at the time and later realised how truly enchanting and sacred they actually were. So many weekends, high days and holidays, our extended family would spend together. Something of a rarity these days, with many families, spread all over the globe. We ate and played and ate and played and lived a wonderful life of embracing the true spirit of family life and belonging.
My cousin, Holly, and I would annoy the boys and try to play cricket with them, only to be sent away due to our lack of coordination and poor ball skills. Not that that deterred us gate-crashing their serious cricket matches, with threats from my brother of a cricket ball between the eyes if we didn’t vacate the backyard immediately!
Holly and I didn’t know what banter really was, but we sure knew how to wind the boys up. We argued and made up more times than you would believe but every day, with our scuffed knees and full hearts, we knew what family life and love looked like.
We walked together as a family whenever we could and played almost constantly. We ran in the rain, swam in the sea, puffed our way through the stinking hot and dry Aussie bush. Sweated buckets and explored and never once felt scared. We meandered in the wonder that is life and in the awe of something new and exciting that awaited around the corner. As only children can.
That is the beauty of childhood. Free and unencumbered, allowing breathing space and time for adulthood to settle in the corners of one’s heart. That is the pace we all feel entitled to. Which is why an early departure is so hard, so extremely difficult to face.
It’s quite simply grossly unfair and wrong. Too cruel to accept.
As it should be, we grew up, married had children of our own and those lazy summer days became truly wonderful memories, stored in the precious warehouse of our minds. Yet the foundation of that unified wonderful experience, stayed with us, formed the groundwork and paved the way, to create the people we became.
We were blessed to live a safe and secure existence and the most wonderful part of it is that we leave the memory of these times as a legacy for our own children. Our shared experiences, our wonderful childhood, will continue to live on, forever in the hearts of our offspring.
RIP Ant. Your precious children, your devoted wife, Kelly, with the help of so many other people, will continue to carry your light and love forward. And you will never, ever be forgotten. Not a single day Ant.