“Look at all these leaves Mummy!”
We were walking to our local park and my son had insisted on walking the entire way – the whole 1km. Almost halfway there we passed a section of footpath that had been completely covered with leaves by a friendly neighbourhood bush turkey. I’m sure its scratching drives the locals nuts, but for my son this particular part of the footpath immediately transformed into a rushing river that we had to jump or swim across multiple times, then into a bridge, before we became turkeys ourselves and scratched in the leaves. However, the entire time he was playing I had to keep suppressing the urge to tell him to hurry up so we could get to the park.
But why? We had no plans for the rest of the day, and thanks to maternity leave I didn’t have to be home by a certain time to check emails or delve into work. The day was wide open, and I was struck anew by how used to rushing and pushing I am and how I was sweeping my family along with me.
Kids being the catalyst to slowing down isn’t anything new; stop and smell the roses and all that, but I’d thought I’d got the hang of this slow living thing myself. Turns out, not so much.
As the tiredness from being at home with a breastfeeding baby and a nap-relinquishing toddler slowly crept up on me, I started to examine a few aspects of my life that are supposed to make life slower, easier, and ultimately more sweet for me – as well as gentler on the planet – however were in fact beginning to leave me feeling stressed and tired at the very thought of just how much I had to do. Basically, I began to question if they are still serving me.
I don’t think I’m the only one to feel this pressure either. When you scroll through the “slow living”, “zero waste” etc hashtags on social media you are presented with a barrage of perfectly curated profiles of people who make everything from scratch, grow their own food, wear only secondhand clothes, are doing headstands on the top of mountains and spending their weeks writing letters to their local politicians with their kids or attending protests. It’a beautifully curated existence, but one that belies just how much work it can be. Further, I simply wasn’t willing to dig in that much when I was bone tired and the prospect of washing another load of nappies before running to the farmers’ markets, butcher, bulk store and bakery for the weekly shop – toting everything I needed so as to avoid single use plastic – while also trying to spend time together as a family, exercise, practice mindfulness, and make time to socialise was frankly almost too much. And isn’t the entire point of slow living to make life better?
Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home fame has said there is a misconception that when you start to embrace a lower waste life (I’m also inserting slow living in here) that you have to make everything from scratch and do everything yourself. And this was the rabbit hole I’d found myself falling down. Homemade is generally better/more delicious/cheaper/better for you and the planet. But with dwindling energy and time I simply had to admit this lifestyle was no longer serving me – I was serving it.
I love cooking from scratch, but in this season of my life buying a loaf of bread from our local bakery is easier than finding the time and energy to make a loaf (as keen as I am to eventually try it), and opening a packet of pasta means I can get a delicious dinner on the table quickly and minimise the amount of flour being thrown around the kitchen by an enthusiastic child.
So to find the joy again in this lifestyle I used to love I decided to take the pressure off myself and began experimenting with what felt good instead on a physical and soul level, rather than aiming for perfect.
I began with my non-negotiables: good food, time outdoors, social time and time for actual self care eg meditation and movement, and I went in search of slow again.
A strong morning rhythm helped to get me off on the right foot. I’d preferably wake before the kids, meditate for about 10 minutes, wash my face and make a hot cup of tea. But I also learned to accept that sometimes this would also look like wearing headphones while sitting on the living room floor and nursing a baby while ABC kids plays on the TV and Jman ran around the room. It’s all fine, as long as it happens.
The weekly damily visit to the Farmers’ Markets were supplemented by a farm box from a local micro farm, and I had to admit that grabbing a plastic-wrapped something from the shops would sometimes serve us all better than four separate stops around neighbouring suburbs while the car-hating baby screamed just so I could buy everything in my own jars and bags.
A bin full of stinky nappies went to the bottom of the list, so cloth nappies were added back in (because we were changing nappies anyway!), and prioritising mornings spent walking to parks or playing with friends combined with afternoons spent in the backyard pottering in the garden or playing with the hose, a book in the evening and ditching my phone early began to bring peace back to my days.
After admitting defeat, slowly but surely the slow life has become the good life again.
I know there are many low wasters/ slow living advocates who would seriously disagree with me. Here’s a post that proves exactly that. But at the end of the day it’s about what feels good, and what works for our entire household.
So let’s go slow, on our terms.