There is no praise for doing less.
No one at school says “That is so great you didn’t sign up for PTO,” or “Thank you for not helping at the Valentine Social.”
Most praise, and subsequently most stress, comes from doing.
I found myself doing things in my daily life to receive praise from others. I wanted my spouse to think I was doing it all and I wanted my kids to have epic adventures daily.
I thought my job as a mom was to keep myself and my kids as busy as possible during the day. If we were all exhausted and cranky at bedtime it was a successful and productive day. Days sitting at home reading and relaxing were strictly prohibited, or reserved only for burn out and sickness.
But I no longer feel this way. My new title for myself is Pace Manager. The best thing I can do for my spouse, my kids, and myself is manage our pace. If I succeed at keeping our pace slow and leave space in our schedule, then joy, spontaneity, and thoughtfulness creep in the cracks. If my days are so crammed and all the cracks are filled, these precious things cannot creep in. Slowness is critical because it creates these cracks of time where life happens.
Here are some ways we slow down our days:
- Say No
- Sometimes in life you have to do things you don’t want to, and you just have to suck it up. But there are many instances where you have choice and choosing “no” leads to greater joy and slower pace. (i.e. Not joining PTO the first year of school)
- Planning and Visualization
- Every Sunday my husband and I sit down for 10-15 minutes and talk about the week. We plan morning work outs, who gets the car, special activities or school events, etc. We talk about potential stress loads on certain days and try to think about how we may feel. Doing this quick week planning makes the individual days less stressful because it feels like we have rehearsed them already.
- Finishing what we start
- When I asked K what helps him with pace, this was his response. He said he does not mind feeling rushed in the morning from regular demands, but doing yesterday’s work adds unnecessary stress. For example, he biked home from work on Friday and noticed his front tire was wobbly. Technically, tightening the tire could wait until Saturday and he could totally justify waiting. But he knew biking on Saturday would become stressful and less likely if it required the extra step of tightening his tire. So he did it Friday and didn’t have to think about it again. Doing that extra thing feels hard in the moment, but it leads to slower pace later.
- Less Stuff
- The more physical stuff we remove from our home the less we have to clean and maintain. This leads to slower pace because we think less about cleaning and have less to clean
- Plus Activities vs. Minus Activities
- K and I talk a lot about whether an activity adds or detracts value from our life…whether it is a plus or minus activity. We try to limit minus activities and increase plus activities. Hiking as a family is a huge plus activity for us. We leave the trail feeling refreshed and energized. Crowded community-wide kids activities are a minus. They leave us feeling depleted and frustrated, so we limit these to very specific ones or meet friends there to limit the stress. Discover which activities leave you feeling refreshed and do more of those!
- Another suggestion from K. He told me straight up, “Sometimes I forget to breath.” So if you feel like your pace is out of control, maybe a few deep breaths can slow the roller coaster down a bit. I recently tried the free app Insight Timer to help me spend 10 minutes by myself breathing and stretching. The calm music worked wonders.
We continue finding more joy in life as we pull back on the reins. I no longer list off all my daily accomplishments to K or drag my kids from one activity to the next. Sometimes my favorite days are spent folding laundry with my little girl and watching my son fly through chapter books. I want our story to be slower and more intentional. And I want to find more creeks like the one above :).
(This post also appeared on No Sidebar)