motherhood simple living

Stages of Family Life: Our Intentional Transition to a Faster Pace 

Our unbusy years were beautiful.

I mean, I was physically exhausted, like all moms of young kids are, but I was living in a way that felt right for me as a person and for our family as a whole, and there’s peace and beauty in living a life that fits.

I enjoyed one hundred casual meet-ups at the park with my friends and their kids. I walked leisurely laps around our neighborhood, day after day, pushing a baby in a stroller while our toddler explored our little world by foot.

On rainy days, we played in the lobby of our building, just to get out of the apartment. We knew our mail carrier, pool guy, and UPS man by name (Fernado, Forest, and Ray, in case you’re wondering), and they knew ours.

We explored our greater world on the weekends, keeping sacred Saturdays free for family drives to the coast or hikes in the redwoods.

Tevi Hardy Photography

Life was small then, and it suited me to a T. As an introvert and—personality types aside—a total homebody, life near home base is where I’m comfortable.

Luckily, the lifestyle I’d picked for us was supported by current research and parenting vernacular, which pointed to the benefits kids gain from unstructured play, time to get bored, and open stretches of nature to engage with.

I was sold, hook, line, and sinker. I still am, actually.

All Good Things Come to an End

But lately I’ve been feeling the tides shifting for our family, and although I’ve been stubbornly (fine. vigorously) resisting, I’m starting to realize I need to follow the flow.

Our kids (our boys, in particular) are getting older… Most of their friends are active in sports and extracurriculars, which makes it hard for them to find friends and neighbors to play with after school.

They’re also not toddlers anymore; they’re less excitable now. Their eyes don’t light up with utter glee when we pull up to a park or when I pull out some construction paper and tape. A scooter ride around the neighborhood doesn’t quite have the appeal it once did. (I know. My heart’s breaking too!) 

Plus, they’re expressing more interest in activities outside our home. A season of swim team is behind us, and a season of soccer is ahead of us. They’re joining band and scouts and talking about trying out for the school play.

Like I said, I can feel the tides shifting, and I know I need to follow the flow.

It’s time for me to start rallying. To start preparing myself mentally for a new stage of family life.

I know I’m not the only parent out there caught in the gentle tug of war between simple and busy, between life at home and life outside of home. As I make this transition, I’d love to hear your advice along the way. Until then, this is what I’ll be doing to help myself handle it with as few faceplants as possible.

Stages of Family Life: 4 Tips to Help You Transition to a New Pace

1. Accept. Accept. Accept. 

This one might actually be hardest for me. And maybe for you? When you love a lifestyle as much as I’ve loved our low-key, home-based years, it’s hard to accept change. But until you do, you’ll just keep dragging your feet, making yourself miserable, and maybe even making your kids feel guilty for wanting a life beyond home.

Purposefully choosing to accept a new stage is essential; it’ll help you quiet the inner conflict.

2. Take it one step at a time, and protect pockets of white space. 

I’ve always said I’d follow my kids’ cues and—when the time came—carefully balance their personal interests against the best interest of our whole family.

We don’t have to jump into a hundred activities all at once (or ever); we can take it slow and still protect pockets of free time. I know families who only do one activity per season or who opt out of Sunday games, keeping one day a week just for faith & family.

3. Ask for help.

So many of us are do-it-all-yourself moms. We know no one else is going to do it quite like we do, so we don’t ask. (Ahem, me.) Or we feel like we don’t have anyone to ask in the first place—no family in town, no supportive village.

My advice to myself and to you? Look closer.

Parenting wasn’t meant to be a solitary experience. We need each other.

  • Ask a fellow soccer mom if she’d like to start a carpool.
  • Ask your spouse to be in charge of all pickups that coincide with his drive home.
  • Ask your mom (or a friendly neighbor with a sewing machine!) to alter that dance uniform.

Yes, you won’t have the control you’re most comfortable with. Your kids’ll have to get used to riding in someone else’s car, and they might have to wait a few minutes after practice sometimes. It’s okay.

You don’t have to do it all alone.

4. Recognize the value of expanding your circle. For them and for you.

Recently, right before our son’s first band performance, I watched as he—a kid who usually leans shy—chatted happily with the other trumpet players on the back row. I met a couple of teachers from our school that I’d never met before and caught up with a fellow band-mom-turned-friend.

This is good for us, I thought. Both of us. 

Then as the elementary band teacher stood and raised her hands for the first song, I saw our boy’s eyes darting around the audience instead of looking at his sheet music. I waved my hand and caught his attention. He smiled subtly—satisfied—and raised his instrument, turning his eyes to his music.

Yep, for the time being, this is where we’re meant to be. Both of us. 


I asked on Instagram if any of you have gone through this transition, and it sounds like many of you have (or are!). You know I’d love to learn from you—

What helped you accept this new pace? And what are your tips for maintaining a degree of balance? Advice welcome! (And thank you!) 

PS. If you’re interested in building a stronger family, check out my ebook on just that:

How to Craft a Family Purpose Statement: A guide to discovering the “why” of your family and building an identity that will stay with your family forever

photo credit: my talented friend and San Francisco-based photographer, Tevi Hardy

10 Comments

  • Reply
    Calypso in the Country
    January 23, 2018 at 6:24 am

    I can totally relate! My boys are 11 and 14 now and I think the hardest part is accepting and letting go. I have to realize that I am not in control of everything anymore. I remember the days of hanging out with the moms when they would have play dates. Now, I drop them off at friends houses and I leave. I swear there is no easy age for parenting…and I can’t even think about when my older son will be driving in a few years…ugh. Great post!
    Shelley

  • Reply
    Rachel Thueson
    January 23, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Oh man, hearing (and imagining) about Trenton in a band performance–makes my heart burst! I wish I could be there! You’re right, what a new and slightly overwhelming stage of life. I will revel in my small, home life for now. Sometimes I feel guilty Sierra is not involved in more activities but 1) that costs money and I can’t always seem the benefit other than business 2) there will be lots of time for that stage in life, right? 🙂 We will stay little for now!

  • Reply
    Marie
    January 27, 2018 at 6:31 am

    I have 4 children. 3 very close in age- I was parenting under one umbrella (much easier looking back). Our caboose arrived 5 years after our 3rd born. Sooo as we ease/transition into the busy phase of life I have found planning meals ahead & having a healthy/substantial after school snack help keep people’s moods in check and help avoid the fast food lines. When going to one child’s event with others in toe keep a bag of tricks with you. Make good use of the time that one child is at a piano lesson- head to the library with another or have a got chocolate date. Take a big step back and set up a household schedule – everybody has two simple jobs a day (ie unload dishwasher & collect towels from bathroom) this keeps the household moving so when you do get those breaks of free time you don’t succumb to housework. Keep music playing throughout the house and keep your board game collection lively & fun. Keep taking lots of pictures! Audio books are great for the car. Make yourself a cup of tea/coffee before leaving the house. Having that tea while watching your kid at their event feels like a treat. I miss the days of nature walks and exploring with our kids- we got a dog which forces us out on hikes- amen! Loved your blog, it really spoke to me!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 30, 2018 at 9:14 am

      Thank you so much for all these tips, Marie! I especially loved the idea of music playing often and capitalizing on piano or sports to take another child on a little date. Thank you so much. Hope you have a lovely day!

  • Reply
    Kristen Keena
    January 28, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Hi Erica,
    I’m an older mom, almost done now-25,23,17- and remember feeling nostalgic for the baby young child years…just wanted to mention that i found the elementary school years really fun, pleasant and easy. The kids are mostly into smooth weekday routines, they are exploring their own passions, you can take on more paid work if you like, and if not, there is more time for yourself. More time for your marriage, too. It’s less labor intensive, but still as ‘snuggly’. My biggest challenge? Tech, and keeping it on a leash. Sports and after school stuff really helps here. Plan ahead for the inevitable smartphone decision…they will ask for one. Enjoy it! It’s all good and if your own life is interesting (to you) each phase is fun, and the so called empty nest is awesome because you see their success and and your own new life ahead.
    Kris

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      January 30, 2018 at 9:12 am

      Thank you so much, Kristen. I really needed to read this today. Sometimes a few words from someone a bit farther down the path than you is just the right thing. All the best to you and your family!

  • Reply
    crunchycake
    May 14, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Well coming across your post is incredibly timely for me. In the fall, my kids will be in 2nd grade and kindergarten and I have a job interview tomorrow. I’m not struggling with the idea of working a 9-5. I’m struggling with understanding what life will be like for/with my kids. I quit my job and have been a ft mom since my oldest was born. I know things are different than they were, even 9 months ago. They are more independent and as much as I love this life I’ve lived with the three of us together, three little peas in a (messy, beautiful, chaotic, close) pod, I think it’s time for all three of us to flex our wings a bit more. I think it’ll bring some much needed balance and like you said, it’s good for them. But man…it’s hard. Thanks for the reminders of how to do it. The comments here are also helpful. I think planning/preparing meals and schedules in advance will be key for us to feel grounded.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      May 16, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      Agreed, friend! On all levels! Wishing you all the best with your transition. Your comment reminded me of something I’ve often heard Gretchen Rubin talk about: capitalizing on the power of a fresh start. A big change like a new job is a great time to form new habits, because the freshness of that energy carries over into other areas of your life. So if you feel like weekly schedule- and meal-planning would make a difference for you, I suggest designating a time *now* when you’ll do that, going forward. Or something along those lines. Any way to utilize this fresh slate you’re looking at. Best wishes to you and your peas in a pod!!

  • Reply
    Kayla
    June 5, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    This was so beautifully written. We are getting to that stage. I am a firm believer in free-time and unstructured play as well. But suddenly, my oldest is ready to venture out and try new things away from our cozy home environment. I love how you say it is good for you too. I can see that in my own life. I feel like I am actually making some new friends (introvert mom here) now that we are a bit more involved in things!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 6, 2018 at 2:44 pm

      Introverted moms unite! 😉 I’m with ya. And thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Kayla. It’s comforting to know that other moms are going through the same transitions.

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