Instead of cramming more into your family life, we look at the benefits of doing less.
In an era where being busy is often equated with success, there are times we can get pushed to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion. Perhaps instead, in the quest for stronger family relationships we need to be looking at a different measure for success?
Kelly Exeter, author of Your Best Year Ever and podcaster on Straight & Curly, was determined to make the absolute most of every day. She thought the more she crammed into her schedule, the more she was in control of her life.
“I loved being that person who caused the people around me to shake their heads and say, ‘I don’t know how she does it.’ Unfortunately, I pushed too far, and finally a combination of extreme stress and depression
caused me to have a breakdown,” Kelly tells.
Kelly’s recovery was long, and she realised that some major changes were needed in her life if she was going to avoid being that position again.
“A breakthrough happened when I set aside portions of my day where I could be deliberately inefficient. Where I had, say, 45 minutes to get through 20 minutes’ worth of jobs or chores. These portions of my day acted as buffers. They allowed me to move slowly,” she says.
Kelly also found that slowing her family down gave them all more space in their lives to simply ‘be’.
“We live in an age where we as parents don’t want our kids to miss out on any ‘opportunities’. So, our kids end up being as overcommitted as we are. As adults, we need to protect space for our kids. In my family, we are very protective of our evenings and weekend hours,” Kelly says.
“I find it’s during those periods that we gain the best insights into each other, the best connection, and have the kind of fun and sweet moments that kids tend to remember and appreciate the most.”
The concept of living a slower life doesn’t have to be only about reducing the busyness, but can also be applied to simplifying other areas. Photographer and blogger at Practicing Simplicity, Jodi Wilson, regularly shares her thoughts on living a simpler yet, for her family, more meaningful existence.
“For us, simplicity is about reusing and recycling, not spending money unnecessarily and, ultimately, being mindful
of how we live. That's not to say it's easy or that we do it all the time and with grace. Far from it!” says Jodi.
This lifestyle shift happened after she had children. Living a frugal and mindful life means Jodi and her husband have fewer overheads, so they can work less and spend more time together with their four children.
“I think this quote by Abigail Van Buren sums it up: “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.”
“We have given ourselves the opportunity to be with our children as they grow because we live simply and within our means. We go to the library instead of buying books, we rarely eat out and I meal plan to stretch our food and minimise food waste. Our weekends are spent at the beach or pottering at home. So far, no regrets,” Jodi says.
Not everyone will find this style of simple life easy to achieve, but being mindful of how busy you are and when to pull back and schedule some down time together may help you to savour those little moments.
“Busy can lead to just going through the motions and missing those ‘little moments’ in life. We are all busy sometimes and it can be unavoidable, but if we place too much pressure on the family, it can lead to anxiety, conflict, miscommunication, and sadness. It’s trying to find a balance that’s key,” tells family psychologist, Dr. Sasha Lynn.
Dr. Lynn suggests the key to balance is looking at what you ‘absolutely must do’ and then recognising what can be dropped from the schedule and saying no to things that may stretch the family.
“The key is not feeling the need to fill up every single second with things, allowing our standards to slip every now and then. Looking to outsource where possible and using that village that is around us. Scheduling in a ‘nothing’ weekend once a month could work wonders,” says Dr. Lynn.
“There’s a big push on minimalism and simplicity and while it all sounds grand, we have to be realistic about what can be actively achieved by families. Simplify doesn’t always mean having to give away a whole bunch of things and live off love,” tells Dr. Lynn.
Finding the right balance will be different for every family, so remember to take stock regularly, have open communication about how everyone is feeling and take time to just hang out together and build precious memories in the little moments.