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