5 Simple Ways to Slow Down your Family Life

how to slow down in life with kids

Leaving our shoes behind, we grabbed a basket of blankets, a few lawn-chairs, and made our way to the backyard. Grandma and I were going to build a backyard fort. Not just any fort, but a fort beside a beautiful sandy beach (read: Grandpa was filling the kiddie pool, and dragging the sandbox across the yard). We spent hours outside that day drinking lemon aid, reading books, cloud gazing, and following ants. There was no expected outcomes, no agenda, just free space for imagination to flourish.

When life tells you to slow down

It has only be a small handful of years since I felt the need to slow down as a family. It started with the birth of our third child, when keeping up our pace grew to be a wearisome task. My body took an extremely long time to heal, and ultimately, through a series of high stress events that followed, I landed myself with a diagnosis of an autoimmune. Unable to get out bed, I watched as the dates of our calendar began to turn with one event after another being cancelled on account of my health. Looking back prior to the diagnosis, I can see now that my body had been trying to get my attention to slow down long before I crashed. Funny thing is, whether we take note and change course, or not, our bodies will eventually take the rest we need, with or without our approval.

The problem I had was that slowing down felt like such a foreign concept to my westernized brain. As I lay in my bed I often thought back to my younger years as a child. Like the story of Grandma's backyard fort, the lazy summer afternoons of my childhood were past, and I pondered how that might look as an adult, for myself and for our family. 

While I might be a dreamer, I can say for certain, that these memories comes with a very real and practical problem. Not everyday is for dreaming and imagining, errands can only be put off for so long before one must continue the so called “daily grind”. I couldn’t help but to think there was a better way to include the mundane and often necessary and still find space to breathe and rest. As I scoured the internet trying to make sense of what I was feeling verses what the culture was saying, I began to stumble across page after page of people like me who wanted to a slower pace. There was a secret underground slow movement brewing, and I wanted in.

How do I reclaim my life?

The question really becomes: How can I take back control of my life and let go of the need to be busy? Misty from "Our Quaint Colonial" shared with me that the word busy is just an acronym for “Being Under Satan’s Yolk”. Never have I heard the definition of busy spelled out so clearly. Perhaps as you read this, you find yourself pummelled by the sea of busy, and feeling the weight of that yolk. As I pulled back and sought out the slow and simple life, what transpired was unexpected time and freedom for last minute needs to be met. In the letting go I was finally able to see the former of yolk of Satan and his fast moving schedule and all that it was robbing us of as a family. Let me back up a second and explain.

To live a slow life, does not mean you do nothing. Slowness and idleness (or slothfulness as the Bible often calls it), are not synonymous terms. Slowness is not nothingness, but rather a more careful curation of time. When you value free space, whether it be for time to rest for yourself, or space for your kids to play, you begin to reprioritize what you say “yes” to. 

I have heard it said that to slow down requires a giving up of what the culture sees as valuable, which to some degree may be true, but not at all in a negative light. Besides, what society deems valuable, and what God deems valuable rarely match. When you say no to busy, you are saying yes to a beautiful sort of freedom that is lost in the shuffle of today. In many ways, our slower schedule allowed me to finally feel awake and energized from the bizarre and weighty hum of busyness. 

That brings us back to the unexpected time and freedom aspect. 

When we look at the Proverbs 31 woman, we see a long list of what may be perceived as her “to do” list. But upon closer inspection we can see that her weeks are filled with rather ordinary things, she cares for the needy (think: bringing soup to a sick neighbour), she works with her hands (perhaps cleaning the laundry), her husband is well known (so she likely sits and listens to his day from work). She doesn’t eat the bread of idleness, but you know what all this things she does do have in common? They require time. To make soup for a sick neighbour requires space in the day to cook an extra meal. To listen to her husband and tend to her children while he works, requires the space to be a good listener (to both husband and child) without feeling the need to run to the next task. In short, the Proverbs 31 woman carefully curates her day to leave allowances for and breathing space for what is important.

When we say no to the unimportant, and build a curated schedule that is focused on a slower pace, then, when we hear of a neighbour who is ill, we actually have time to lovingly prepare for them a meal. When we aren’t busy running our kids from one sports class to the next we have time to sit and enjoy the company of one another in a good conversation. Yes, we may give up soccer, but the blessings of being present and available to those in need (including a deeper quality of relationship with our own kids), far surpasses the need for speed from one event to another. The goal isn't about offering our kids a chance to experience every aspect and prospective career choice by age 10, but rather to teach them the value of the deep and meaningful things in life, like what it means to invest in each other. A freer schedule allows for space and time to both bless and in return, receive the blessing of having offered a helping hand or a listening ear.

Creating an intentional life

In our home, slowing down as a family, and curating our schedule meant saying no to every homeschool field trip that arose. It also meant limiting extracurriculars to one per kid per week. From a more personal aspect, it meant I needed to let go of accomplishing so dang much in a day. I valued each check mark on my “to do” list a check of pride of just how much I was capable of. But, as I mentioned before, what we think we are capable of, and where and what God needs from us in a day is often two different things. 

Read this famous passage from The Message and hear it slightly different that we usually hear it:

slow and simple parenting

 If God doesn’t build the house,

    the builders only build shacks.

If God doesn’t guard the city,

    the night watchman might as well nap.

It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,

    and work your worried fingers to the bone.

Don’t you know he enjoys

    giving rest to those he loves? (Ps. 127:1-2)

We’ve created for ourselves these hurried lifestyles of running from one appointment/class/engagement to the next, instead of allowing space in our days for the Lord to build our day. And you know what God loves to put in our schedules? Rest. Or, worded differently, God loves to gift us with space to acknowledge that time itself is His, as well as the stillness to hear His quiet whisper. How can we stop and wonder at His creation if we are continuously rushing to the next stop? How can we allow ourselves the gift of curiosity, that all too often enriches our sense of the Creator, without the space to explore? In contrast, being shackled to the bustle of Satan’s busy yolk makes us tired without rest, and creates noise over the whispers of God’s leading, and keeps our eyes fixated on the calendar instead of God's abounding mysteries. It drives a wedge in our relationships with God, and leaves us weary and lacking in nourishment for our bodies and our soul. 

When we stop trying to please man, including our own inner need to create a life that looks productive, only then can we please God (Gal. 1:10).

Here are 5 simple ways to bring about a slower pace in your home:

1. Limit your appointments to one day a week. In our home, I only book our doctor/ dentist/ optometrist/ furnace cleaner/ whomever requires an appointment for Fridays. If that particular company doesn’t book on Fridays I choose a different provider. Understandably there have been times when we cannot work around this, but it creates more rhythm in our routine, and space elsewhere to relax without scrambling to the next appointment. 

2. If you are homeschoolers, try a four day week. I was able to figure out a schedule that allowed us a 4 day week. What this did was give us a flex day, those are the days where you can catch up if something else arose in the week that you needed to make space for, or for your Friday appointments (without leaving you feel like you need to make up lost time to catch up).

3. Make supper every other night, by cooking double batches. I must admit, this is one I’m still working on, but has so far it has proved to be highly effective when I pull it off. When supper is simply leftovers, it gives me as a wife/mother a reprieve to be able to sit and visit with my husband/kids, fold a basket of laundry, or simply rest.

4. No kid’s programs on the weekend. This one was a huge one for us. Saturday mornings were for ballet, and they robbed us of our one leisure morning we could have as a family. Since Monday- Friday was often the bustle of school (and work for my husband), and Sunday’s were church, an early start our Saturday meant we hit the ground running 7/7 days on the week. It may take some ingenuity on your part to create this sacred Saturday morning space. Many hockey teams, for example, run on weekends. In reality, although we all want to give our children the option to be the next big superstar, the likelihood that they will become one is incredibly slim (although don't let this suggestion stop you if you genuinely see a future Gretzky in the making!). A community league, or church team usually offer a more tame option, and one that doesn’t cramp the schedule while still offering them the chance to play sports.

5. Learn to say no. For me this is the hardest of them all, as I constantly worry about letting people down, or get excited by a new idea only to realize it took away too much time from something else. Last year, I committed to one year of “no” to allow myself the space I need to physically heal from my autoimmune. And, in case your curious, God did still use me, and I did not spend the year on my couch. My extra flex time allowed me space to have an open home for those who needed to come for coffee in a difficult year. It allowed me phone time to chat with lonely people. It also allowed me an abundance of time to help my children navigate through a few difficult life challenges. In short, it freed up time for God to interrupt and lead me to exactly where He needed me to be. And, you know? My body did indeed heal at the slower pace!

I hope this helps you in your need to slow down. After a few years of sorting and curating, I am finally feeling like we are arriving at a pace that is not only more manageable, but life giving. Be patient, go slow, and as the speed gears down, I hope you'll find a new freedom in the unhurried life.

All my love,

Like Grandma Did

Like Grandma Did

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[name=Sarah Slanzi] [description=Old-fashioned homemaking steeped in God's grace] (facebook=https://www.facebook.com/hiddenmotherhood) (instagram=https://www.instagram.com/sarah.slanzi) (pinterest=https://www.pinterest.ca/hiddenmotherhood/)