My Daily Roadtrip

Slower and simpler mothering

Being a mother is one of the hardest things … actually, make that the hardest thing I’ve ever done over a longer-term basis. Despite it being so, it’s also one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of. I think most moms can probably appreciate the complexity of such a statement.

Moving overseas made things a bit harder in the area of being a mom, as I explained a bit about in this post. While my philosophy behind parenting did not change when moving to Thailand, my personal stress level and amount of struggle did, as did the tools and resources with which I usually mothered. During my now almost 6 months of overseas living, I have thought much about being a mother and about the kind of mother I have been since moving here. There have been days and weeks when I have been a “worse” mom here than I was in America. (No need to comment and reassure me that I’m doing just fine as a mom – it’s not a bad thing to do some self-evaluation and see if changes need to be be made, while keeping in mind my true identity in Christ, right?) I have struggled with the same things, but to an even larger degree, that I struggled with back in the States. Things like anger, impatience, and selfishness have resulted in countless times where I have not been the mom God calls me to be.

However, at other times, I find that I’m a “better” mom than I was back in America. Now living outside my home culture, I see how easy it is for American mothers to become distracted. There are classes, co-ops, playgroups, and activity after activity to sign your child up for, no matter how young. There are numerous friends to have numerous play dates with. There are “mommy wars” and the pressure to make sure your child doesn’t miss any kind of opportunity for “growth.” (I happen to live in a city where there is a large western presence, so I face some of the same things here, but to a lesser degree.) Please hear me say that I don’t believe most of these opportunities are bad in and of themselves. However, I think it is far too easy to let them distract us from living slower and more intentional lives with our kids and family.

Since arriving here we have made some friends, whom I’m grateful for. We continue to meet more families, and we’re grateful for that as well. However, Abigail and Elijah have one consistent playmate – each other. For over 3 of the 5.5 months we’ve been here, I did not have a vehicle in which to take us places, so we have spent much more time at home, taking walks around our neighborhood, or going on outings to nearby places we could easily get to via “public transportation.” I have spent a ton of concentrated time with my kids around the home – we’ve read a lot of books, cooked together, created things out the materials we have lying around the home, and read more books.  I realized that I was living a slower, simpler life with my kids one day while I was reading the book (full-length version), Dumbo, for the 2nd time in one day. This book takes 20 minutes to read from front to back with interruptions (yes, I timed it once out of curiosity). It then occurred to me that, while I did read to the kids in America, things were often done in short increments because we needed to run out the door to this or that.

This concentrated time has been great. It has also made me a little crazy at times, lest you think I’m the mom who now wants to stay home everyday and all day with my kids. Also, there have been times where I haven’t handled the concentrated time well by putting the kids in front of one too many movies, escaping to social media, or coping in other unhelpful ways.

my kiddos after going on a nature walk

my kiddos after going on a nature walk

But, this simpler life has led to good things that I cannot deny. I am learning that it’s ok to not have to be on the go all the time, that staying at home with your small children all day for multiple days each week will not kill you. Seriously, it won’t. It might be uncomfortable and you may feel that you’re losing your mind at moments, but it won’t kill you. I’ve learned to be creative with the resources I have at home. I’ve learned things about each of my kids that I may have missed if we were too busy running from this to that or always spending time with other people. I’ve been reminded over and over that it’s good for children to have alone playtime and be allowed to just be, rather than having everything scheduled or being guided toward what to do every moment of their day. I’m learning that child-paced exploration is an invaluable teacher. I am figuring out how to better love, encourage, and correct each of my children and, on the flip side, the things that I do that can easily discourage them or tear them down.

It’s good. It’s hard. I’m learning. As we get to know more people and I learn about more kid-focused opportunities here in Chiang Mai, I know I will be tempted to return to a life that is too busy, too fast-paced, and less intentional.

But, although sometimes harder, I’m finding that simpler and slower is better.

******************

I am not against having your kids (or mine) involved in organized activities, nor do I think that particular seasons of life won’t ever be busier than others. I think it’s great if our kids have more than one friend and/or if we own vehicles (which we now do). What “slower” and “simpler” looks like for one family may be different than what it looks like for another family. I am proud to be American. I hope this clears up any misunderstandings or feelings of judgement experienced from reading this post. 😉 End of disclaimer.

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13 thoughts on “Slower and simpler mothering

  1. I’m sitting here at my desk mid morning on a rainy day in North West England. I’m slowly working my way through Elora Nicole’s writing course prompts and up comes your email notification. I pour another cup of coffee and read it slowly. And I really feel uplifted. I think it’s because what came across for me was your determination to live as fully as you can wherever you are. In Thailand you are thrown more on your own resources and you have faced this challenge and found much in it that has helped you to grow. You are not passing through your days mindlessly (which can be done under any circumstance) you are examining them, sifting them for opportunities and sharing this with others. I love reading your posts but I rarely comment on things, English reticence? Who knows. But I felt this was written just for me and I want to thank you for it.

    • Juliet, what a kind comment! Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I write and let me know how this particular post spoke to you – I really appreciate that.

  2. Ha! I love the disclaimer! It’s too bad that some people get so easily offended at other people’s opinions on their blogs!

    I can relate to the enjoyment of the slower life. We have had seasons of slow and busy and I can for sure say I think we all enjoy the slow life around here! It is difficult as a mom to not feel guilty not having your child in this, that and the other thing, but my husband always reminds me that those things generally do not matter in the long run, but time spent as a family does. We live in a small town and have a limited income- we enjoy finding our own ways to have fun and learn and be together with our little family- and I am practicing letting the guilt go!

    • I’m glad you appreciated the disclaimer, Amy – I had fun writing it. It was somewhat done tongue-in-cheek, but also with some seriousness. I think moms (including me) are one group that can so easily feel judged for how they’re doing/not doing things … there’s just so much pressure and comparison – ugh. I was trying to add some humor and let ppl know that there was no judgement in the writing of this post.

      I love what you shared and love that Brian reminds you of the good in the slowness. I think I will always somewhat be tempted to think we need to be doing this or that or that my kids are somewhat “missing out” if not involved in particular things. You are giving your kids a great gift in the time as a family and all the things they are learning about being able to live more slowly and intentionally, enjoying the “smaller” (but bigger, really) things of life. Good job, mama! And yay! for letting go of guilt … I am there with you in trying to do the same thing – not easy.

      Thanks again for sharing, friend.

  3. i love to hear about your mommy life in Chiang Mai. 🙂 So wish I could have met you there in the past 5 times that I have gone… hope to meet you some day in the future in SE Asia! 🙂 Tim and I are now living in South Korea for the next few years. I’m enjoying the “simpler life”, reading more about it, and cooking simpler too. I love you sister!
    Maren

    • Maren, so sorry I am just now replying to this. I always enjoy hearing from you! Yes, I too wish our times in Chiang Mai would have overlapped, although you never know where we might meet up in the future. 😉 Yeah for learning more about, and incorporating, a simpler life – I am curious what that looks like specifically for you and would love to hear more if you ever have a few minutes to share. Blessings to you and Tim as you settle into life in S. Korea!

  4. I enjoy reading your updates, Dawn! Even though I don’t have kids, I think the same can be applied to adults. It’s okay to simply “be” and not always “be doing.” I know I struggle with that, I can only imagine how much harder it gets with kids!

    • Kristin, YES. I totally agree that simple and slow can apply to anyone, at any season. I’ve really enjoyed reading more blogs, etc. on minimizing (not just stuff, but commitments, etc.) and more “mindful living,” in the last few years. Thanks for reading! I’m still waiting to hear when you might be booking a show in Thailand – let me know. 😉

  5. Totally get this. One of the things I love most about our life – which is in busy activity-filled Minneapolis – is our choice to only have one car. Sometimes I sense pitty from other moms, but it is such a great boundary for us. When we do need to get out further than a stroller ride, we take the bus and the girls love it. There are sooo many days where, in the end, I think, “Why didn’t I spend more time reading with them?” Thanks for the reminder.

    • Naomi, I love what you shared about not having a 2nd car and how it’s a great “boundary” for you. And how cool for your girls to get to experience public transit, such a part of life in the city! (and for you to experience it all together – I can imagine my kids also loving it). I really enjoyed this – good stuff!

  6. Brooke L M Stage on said:

    Have you seen the book “Slow Family Living”? http://slowfamilyliving.com/the-book/ I have a feeling you’d like it. 😉 I got to meet the author this year — she inspires me, much like you do. ♥

    • Brooke! 🙂 I have not yet seen the book you suggested, but will look into it. Sounds like good stuff! I have a feeling I will be fighting the temptation to make life/let life become more complicated than it needs to be throughout my entire life, so I need to keep hearing more from others who are keeping it simple! Thanks for passing it along … and for your kind words. 😉 Hope your doula-related things (training? Or are you actively doula-ing 🙂 now?) are going well!

  7. Brooke L M Stage on said:

    My doula-ing is picking up speed. I completed my training in August, and actually a client of mine gave birth last night! It’s absolutely the perfect line of work for me at this point in my life. (Who’s to say about 5 years from now? I don’t know, but that doesn’t matter. I’m working on the whole “take one day at a time” thing. 🙂

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