motherhood simple living

In Defense of the Small Life

We know the name of every pet in our neighborhood. (The bunnies down the street are practically celebrities around here.)

The local grocery clerks notice when our kids get haircuts.

The UPS guy, whom my kids revere on a Santa Claus level, talks to them by name every time we see him.

Our best afternoons involve lightsabers, Tinkerbelle dresses, Netflix, and our front lawn.

And our very best afternoons involve exploring a field of wildflowers or the rows of neatly planted squash growing two blocks down.

For many of us in the trenches of raising children and earning a living, life has never felt so small. But small doesn't mean unimportant—In Defense of the Small Life

I think we all have that voice whispering in our ears to go big with our lives. To go big or pack it up and go home. There’s nothing wrong with the pull to greatness; it’s a force that stretches us to be new and better people.

But with so much information only a keystroke away, our access to the world around us sometimes makes it feel like everyone is doing big things while we are doing… very little at all.

What’s the value of mediating a sibling fight or weathering a toddler tantrum when that woman you follow on Facebook just started a nonprofit?

What’s the worth of yet another quiet day at the office or the classroom or the kitchen, for that matter (after all, that’s where I seem to spend most of my time), when you know people who are chasing down their dreams of working in New York City or designing stationary full time or traveling the country in a mobile home?

For so many of us in the trenches of raising children and earning a living, life has never felt so small.

But small doesn’t have to mean unimportant.

Small doesn’t translate to “without meaning or purpose.”

Small can be beautiful. And profound.

For many of us in the trenches of raising children and earning a living, life has never felt so small. But small doesn't mean unimportant—In Defense of the Small Life

It’s always in the smallest moments that I feel that familiar wash of gratitude settle over my body.

It’s always in the smallest, most unseen moments that my son confides in me about how he felt when a friend called him a name.

It’s in the smallest, most unexpected moments that I feel the spiritual nudges I’ve been seeking.

God can work with small. In fact, sometimes I think that’s where He works best.

For many of us in the trenches of raising children and earning a living, life has never felt so small. But small doesn't mean unimportant—In Defense of the Small Life

One of the problems is that small can feel boring.

When you wake up and realize that today is going to look almost exactly like yesterday… or when you change your eighteenth diaper that day or clean up yet another spill, ANYthing else feels about a million times more glamorous.

It takes effort—sometimes colossal effort—to enjoy the small moments.

We have to look for them and appreciate them and then do it all over again the next day and the next and the next.

(Moving to New York City is starting to sound a whole lot easier.)

For many of us in the trenches of raising children and earning a living, life has never felt so small. But small doesn't mean unimportant—In Defense of the Small Life

But maybe this process of looking for beauty in the everyday is just a training ground. A loooong training session we may never think we’ve gotten out of.

Because here’s another thing:

Sometimes all the small things add up to something big. The quiet push that leads a person down a new path. The faith it takes to get through the hard stuff. A life spent in love and service. Years gone by in work, loyalty, and listening. In the end, there’s nothing small about those things.

But day to day, life might feel small. And that’s okay. We can trust that our small is leading us somewhere.


For more inspiration on living with your heart and eyes wide open, sign up for my quarterly newsletter! With each edition you’ll also receive the link to my top 16 resources—4 blogs, 4 books, 4 TED talks, and 4 podcasts for wholehearted women. Thank you!

30 Comments

  • Reply
    Lynnette
    March 22, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Yes! There is a part of me that wants the excitement and notoriety of a big life. But I do believe that small is where life is lived. Small is what makes us who we are. Small is where the magic happens, even when it feels rather insignificant. I often do not realize just how powerful small is until much later when I look back and realize that small, ordinary things have shaped me in a beautiful and undeniable way. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 22, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Thanks so much, Lynnette! Well said! I’m glad I get to know you on this small living path. :)

  • Reply
    Rachel T.
    March 22, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Very reassuring. Thanks for the boost!

  • Reply
    Sasha
    March 22, 2016 at 9:11 am

    This was such a thoughtful and whole-hearted post. I also embrace small living as what is best for my family. Other people love bigger moments and new adventures, and that’s great for them, but I’ve realized it’s not what’s best for me. I need space and familiarity. That is when I can function as my best self.
    (And like you said, even when we know what’s best for us, the bigger brighter newsfeeds still lead us to question our own path. It’s irresistible.)
    Thanks for articulating this so carefully!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 22, 2016 at 9:33 am

      I love how YOU said it, Sasha! It IS irresistible at times. That’s when I’m gonna come back and reread this post. Haha. :) Thanks for chiming in, and best wishes!

  • Reply
    Jenna
    March 22, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Oh my goodness I needed to read this article! Thank you for writing this and reminding me of the importance of the small life. Too often I’m comparing myself to others and what I see as their fancy life! Social Media – a blessing and a curse.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 22, 2016 at 8:17 pm

      I’m so happy to hear that this reached you at the right time. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jenna!

  • Reply
    Amy
    March 22, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Everything you write speaks to me! Can you please never stop?! ;)

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 22, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      You win the prize for comment that made my MONTH! Thank you so much, Amy! I say we have a deal. ;)

  • Reply
    Lisa Avellan
    March 24, 2016 at 10:27 am

    WOW! I so needed this! Thank you! I feel the smallness of life so often and it is always in the smallest, most mundane things that I find the most joy and gratitude. I wonder how it would look to wake up and instead of feeling dread of another groundhog day but feel expectant for what the mundane will bring. I love this post!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 24, 2016 at 11:08 am

      I’m so glad it meant something to you today, Lisa! Cheers for small living!

  • Reply
    Face-Painter Bristol
    March 28, 2016 at 4:04 am

    It is the little things in life that matter at the end…… Lovely article thoroughly enjoyed. I get this a lot as a childrens face painter most Mums can look down their nose as I’m not a Doctor, Lawyer, High Flyer type… but painting happy little faces makes me smile all day long!!!

  • Reply
    Amy
    March 29, 2016 at 4:48 am

    Lovely, lovely reminder of what is truly important. Thank you. Going out on a limb here, but if we dare to turn off the computer and ‘phone and focus on the life that God has given us–the small life for most of us–we will be more content.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    March 31, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    As someone who has lived and worked in NYC and who designs stationery full-time, I can tell you it’s not all it’s cracked up to be…and it’s extremely hard! I’m expecting our first child and I’ve been struggling with putting certain things on hold in preparation for our baby, while enviously watching others around me “live big.” But it’s all about perspective, right? Many couples who have gone through the painful experience of infertility would love to have this kind of “small life.” Your post reminded me of what’s important in life. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Fisch
    April 1, 2016 at 5:38 am

    I needed this wisdom today. Just last night as I watched ultra-marathoners on Netflix, they talked about doing hard things, setting goals.

    Am I setting myself up for mediocrity for thinking small, and being OK with simplicity? My heart says yes – but it’s still not an easy pill to swallow. Thank you for the reminder that there’s NOTHING wrong with small.

  • Reply
    Sue
    April 1, 2016 at 7:30 am

    I really needed this today. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      April 1, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      I’m happy it came to you at the right time, Sue. Best wishes!

  • Reply
    Link Lovin’
    April 1, 2016 at 7:37 am

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  • Reply
    Misty
    April 24, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Everything I read of yours speaks to my soul. You say what & how I think & feel. Thanks you for being a kindred spirit. God bless you!

  • Reply
    Haili
    May 3, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Hey Erica!!!
    Not sure if you remember me, but I’m back in the blogging game now! Ha ha! I absolutely love what you said. So much. You have such a way with words!

  • Reply
    Madalina
    May 18, 2016 at 9:43 am

    A bit late to the party, but my 2 cents:
    After having had a burnout from all the glamour/carrier stuff, I couldn’t wait to be loving the “small” stuff
    The small stuff is actually the things that have meaning to me. Have been waiting for this for a looong time, 7 weeks in report- it’s better than I dreamed of.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      May 18, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Thanks so much for your comment, Madalina! Congrats on making such a big shift, and I hope it continues to be everything you are hoping for!

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    June 17, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    I just came across your blog and believe it was meant to be. Your writing really speaks to me and I’ve been reading all your amazing posts and crying for the last half hour. Thank you for speaking from your heart to mine! I really needed it tonight.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 17, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Best comment ever! Thank you for making my night (my week, really), Cynthia. I’m so honored that anything I’ve said has touched you tonight; that’s exactly why I write. (Well that and to work through all the chaos in my head!) ;)

      Hope you have a great weekend, and keep in touch!

  • Reply
    Jen Horn
    June 30, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Small doesn’t translate to “without meaning or purpose.”
    – I’m not a mom but this resonates with me completely. :) In a world where people are all about “changemaking” and “gamechanging”, it can be easy to feel like you have to keep up. But at the end of the day, we live our lives for ourselves (even if it is in service of others), and we need only to listen to what is in our heart of hearts after pealing back all the layers of doubt, insecurity and social pressure, and when we live lives of true compassion for ourselves, that is when we can be of the best service to the world, and when we make that happen, people will take notice, and hopefully be inspired to think, speak, and act with compassion as well. :)

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  • Reply
    Ana
    October 6, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Thank you for this post. I feel that this is the path for me to go too, and I am walking it with grace and patience, enjoying (mostly) the home-bound life, never ending spills and mess. When I am alone I see a lot of value in what I do for my family and children in particulat. But oh boy, what a pressure I feel from the outise world, it so often shakes my ground. People start conversations with a question “so, do you work?”, they mention things where bottom line is: oh you poor thing, scrapping poo from nappies, you did a lot to get your degree and now you are doing THIS! Do not despair, you’ll be back to work force soon, it is a SHAME that you are wasting those skills…. An so on… Most people totally do not see value in me being at home. And when I talk to them, I start to doubt it as well. Only when I read posts like this, it all becomes right again. Thank you!

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