I’ve spent most of my adult life being busy. In college, one of my neighbors used to holler, “Slow down!” as I rushed past his window every day. I would smile and shout back, “I can’t!” as I hurried away.
I stayed busy in graduate school and then after that as I entered my career. For a long time, I enjoyed it. There was something thrilling about having places to go, people to see, and things to do.
But occasionally, I noticed the pace taking its toll. So, I cut back on activities. I charted my time. I unplugged. I vowed to be more intentional with the hours of each day. Despite these efforts, I eventually returned to my fast-paced way of life.
When I became pregnant, however, the exhaustion and morning sickness really forced me to slow down and to embrace my imperfections. But it wasn’t until after my daughter was born that I truly learned to see the beauty of a slow, quiet life.
Now, with two kids under two, I have learned to guard my time more carefully than ever before. I have declared this season of life to be a season of slowness. I’ve done my best to banish “busy” from my vocabulary so I can focus on my marriage, my babies, my health, and my home. I see now that I should have embraced this outlook long ago.
Making a Change
We moved to a different state when our baby girl was one month old, so the first month of her life was anything but slow. Rest and recovery blurred together with packing, going to appointments, and saying goodbye to friends.
But once the move was over, our world became simple. Other than my husband’s new job, we had no commitments. This was a chance to reinvent the way we wanted to live, and I decided to live slowly.
In part, this was out of necessity. I have a heart condition for which the postpartum phase can be especially risky, so I knew I needed to focus on taking good care of myself. But more than that, this change was something I desired. I didn’t want to spend the first part of my daughter’s life being so busy that I missed the little moments. My calendar was nearly empty, yet life felt more full than ever before.
Sustaining the Slowness
Later that year, when I was pregnant with my son, my mom shared something that inspired me to stick to this slow pace of living. In the waiting room of a car repair shop, she had chatted with a woman, about my age, who also had two children close together. My mom told her about me and asked the woman how she had handled things after the birth of her second. This woman’s answer—which my mom promptly shared with me—was simple: for the first few months, she really didn’t go anywhere. She figured the rest of the world would still be there when she was ready.
The wisdom of that woman’s insight applies not just to the early days of motherhood, but to life in general. The busy world with all its demands will always be there. But each stage of life is so fleeting, and it’s OK to excuse ourselves from the hustle. Right now, my babies need me. And I need this chance to not just catch my breath, but to breathe deeply.
In this season of slowness, I have learned to cherish what life looks like when I’m not rushing through. This is a season for staying in our pajamas as long as we please, rather than hurrying to get dressed. A season to linger at the park when it’s warm outside, or to snuggle up and watch movies on the couch when it’s cold. If my daughter is having a hard day, with all her big toddler emotions spilling out in screams and tears, I can sit and hold her until she feels better. If my baby boy falls asleep on his playmat, I can let him sleep as long as he wants to.
Some weeks, we run a lot of errands, go out on library outings, and schedule a lot of play dates. Others, we mostly keep to ourselves. Individual days may fill up, but our overall rhythm is slow. This is a season of “no” to the outside world and of “yes” to us.
I’ve been reflecting on what makes this time different than my previous slow-down efforts. And I have realized that, in the past, I wasn’t really aiming for a truly slow pace―just a slower one. Before, I was slowing from a sprint to a jog. But now, I’m taking a stroll.
I’ve also come to see that the key to living a slow life isn’t just in cutting back, but in being selective with the commitments we take on in the first place. It’s kind of like a lot of other things in life. If we eat too much junk food, we gain weight that is hard to lose. If we spend too much money, we go into debt. If we fill a pot too full, it boils over. If we say yes to too much, we eventually burn out and have to cut back. And cutting back is painful. But when we’re more selective with each “yes,” we spare ourselves a lot of stress.
One way to be more intentional in living the slow life is to “accept and commit.” I’m simplifying here, but basically, this therapeutic technique involves accepting the circumstances for what they are, identifying one’s values, and then committing to behaviors that affirm that value. For instance, I can accept that I feel overwhelmed when we have something scheduled for every day of the week. Because I value a slow pace, I can commit to having one day a week in which nothing is scheduled.
Another helpful tactic is to take time at the end of the day to reflect. This could take the form of journaling, or just sitting in silence for a few minutes to think about how the day went. Ponder whether you felt rushed or stressed at all, and think about what you want tomorrow to look like.
Verily’s Mary Catherine Adams recently reflected on the importance of silence. She wrote, “Perhaps what at first seems like emptiness to adults will give us room to wonder, to see more deeply into ourselves and others, to see more deeply into things, than we could before.” The same could be said of a slow pace of living. When we slow down the pace, whether we’re mothers or not, we give ourselves more room to reflect, to observe, and to simply be present in each moment.
I know that someday, when the kids are older, life will once again be busy. Our days will be filled with homeschooling, ballet rehearsal, golf practice, music lessons, or whatever the kids are interested in. But for now, I’m leaning into this season of quiet, and I’m finding my identity in something other than my to-do list and accomplishments. Simply being myself is more than enough.