There are only 24 hours in a day and an hour will always be sixty minutes; no more, no less. When we’ve been cramming too much into those hours it shows up in negative ways: children get cranky, routines become rushed, and things just feel tense and wound up too tightly.
If only every day could move with the warm, peaceful pace of an afternoon at the seaside instead of the tic-toc, tic-toc and blaring alarms of the typical week day’s calendar?
What busy parent doesn’t wish for more time in the day?
While I may not be able to actually create an extra hour, I have found that I can give myself the illusion of more time. When life has been hectic, and things are starting to feel rough around the edges, I know that I need to take the time to make some time.
So, how do I create the illusion of more time?
I remind myself of my purpose: to slow down. Even if it means I have to reschedule plans or cancel them altogether, I make downtime a priority. I take a deep breath, accept that there are more important things at stake than finishing my to-do list, and I make the conscious choice to slow down and savor this time.
I make sure my kids know our intention, too. I might tell my oldest daughter that “we are going to have some quiet together time” and I tell the younger kids that we are going to “use our soft voices and our soft feet” – meaning we’re going to speak quietly and not run or scurry about. My kids also respond well to animal images. I might tell them “we are going to be sleepy bears” or “move slowly like snails.”
Set the Mood
First, I unplug by turning off the television. I usually turn off the radio, too (I leave it on sometimes as soft music playing in the background or if we are listening to an audio book). I don’t run the washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, or other noisy appliances.
If having a lit candle won’t cause stress or a safety concern with young children around, you might choose to light a candle. My mom lights a stick of incense after dinner to signal that the quiet part of the day has begun.
I don’t use this time to answer email. I don’t answer the telephone. I don’t even answer the doorbell. This is the time to disconnect from the outside world and focus on the world inside in my home.
Be Like the Sun
If I want time to slow down, I have to slow down. Following the advice of one of my favorite books, I like to imagine that I am the sun: my young children revolve around me, my little planets. If I am hurrying across the sky, they are hurried. If I move slowly across the sky, they move slowly with me. I have found that, even if they are running around wildly beforehand, if I sit still the children eventually will join me.
“Be the Sun! Move slowly and compassionately, especially in disciplinary situations, bringing warmth and light – it’s a tall order! You may need to practice.”
-Sharifa Oppenheimer, Heaven on Earth
Do One Thing … Or Nothing
I pick one quiet activity for us to do and only one: reading a book together, having a family art or handwork time, doing a puzzle, or playing a board game. Some families I know have an afternoon Tea Time, providing a small snack and a peaceful break in the day.
Even better than doing one thing, do nothing. Be still. Be an observer. Stare out the window and watch the birds in your backyard. Watch the raindrops slide down the windowpane or count the snowflakes, depending on the season. Sit on the porch swing and watch the clouds roll by.
A Day or An Hour
Once a month we try to make sure we have a weekend on the calendar where nothing is planned so that we don”t have any obligations or travel commitments. We call those “pajama days” and we stay in our pj’s all day to ensure that we aren’t tempted to go anywhere. Those quiet days help to slow down the month.
But, more often than not, our slowing down occurs over the course of a few quiet hours scattered across our week.
The hours that seem to zoom by when I”m on the computer, running errands, or busy with household chores are the same length of time, but somehow those quiet, still hours seem to last longer. It may not actually be more time, but it feels like more time.
That illusion is one I will gladly believe in.
Are you always “on the go” with your family? How can you tell when your family is too busy? What strategies do you use to slow down?