The Slow-it-Down Day

Walking back to the car after the school run, I called to Sam to hurry up, then caught myself, realising that for once, there was no reason to hurry.

It was 9am. We had just dropped Clara and Emmie to school. And both were invited on playdates after school – both being collected by other mums. The stars had aligned. For the first time ever this school-year, I had no school run. So the next appointment would be picking them up at 5pm.

Eight hours. Eight whole hours off the clock.

No school collection. No coffee plans. No visits or visitors. Just me and my toddler and eight hours to do anything we wanted to do.

I can’t remember the last time we were off the clock like this.

The first thing we did was slow down. I mean literally – on the way back to the car. I told Sam, “We’re in no rush – you decide how slowly we should walk!”

He looked up at me, delighted, then slowed his pace entirely, taking tiny baby steps.

“Like this mummy? Me can walk slow this way like baby?”

And when I told him he could, he gave me a trademark “Yip-pee!” – something he reserves for really amazing events, like being allowed to watch an extra TV program or have a second piece of cake.

We smiled at a man out walking. I noticed a brass “66” in the shape of two swirly snails on a house we passed, and pointed them out to Sam. He picked up leaves and twigs from the ground. Just tiny events on our school-run, but much more enjoyable than rushing past the snails and the twigs and the leaves and the passersby, as we usually do.

smiley happy snails

When we arrived home, a feeling of calm washed over me – the kitchen was still a mess after breakfast, but who cares? I had eight hours to clean up! I might not even do it straight away, I thought. I might have a cup of tea first. No rush.

Sam got out his train set. We ate scones. I folded laundry. He sort of sorted socks. We chatted. I stayed offline. Mostly.

We decided we’d go to the supermarket after lunch. Emmie had made me a shopping list the night before – I called out each item we needed and she drew it in her copy book. All of the items looked quite similar in the end but I reckoned we’d work it out, the toddler and I.

bread, milk, crackers, apples, grapes, potatoes, salad – obvious, no?

We possibly should have done something amazing with our eight hours of freedom, but in a way we did – we kept it simple, we slowed down.

And there was no shouting, no crying, no stress. Not once. Bliss.
So, how to recreate this on a regular basis? I’ve thought about it. We’d need to drop a few things:

1. No work

My most stressful moments are often linked to work – going there in the morning or arriving home tired in the evening. Or one supremely challenging day when I had to go into the office while on maternity leave, three kids in tow, as I had nobody to mind them.
The kids changed out of their clothes and into princess costumes right at the moment they were supposed to be getting into the car. It was two years ago and I still feel horrible when I think about how I shouted at them that day. Giving up work isn’t an option right now, but in my hypothetical scenario of a stress-free utopia, not working – well, not having to be somewhere all day every day – would definitely be a prerequisite.

2. No plans

Plans of any kind can cause stress in our house – having to be somewhere at a particular time leads to pleas of “Girls! Can you put on your shoes and get in the car! Come out from behind the curtain! Put down that yogurt! Why are you taking off your clothes?”
I think most parents are familiar with this. So not making plans would be a solution.

Although it would be hard to never see my friends again. And even if we had a lovely day in this example, I think there might be some cabin fever in time, if we never, ever arrange to meet up with anyone again.

And let’s face it, we sometimes arrange playdates and coffees that suit the parents as much as (or more so than) the kids, but interacting with other grown-ups keeps us sane.
So I guess the solution is to have a balance, and to know that it’s OK to have some days with no plans.

3. No housework

I did a bit of laundry and some dinner prep but otherwise didn’t do any housework on our slow-down-day. It had been a busy week and I didn’t take much convincing to step away from the hoover. It’s hard to give up housework entirely though. For me, the key to avoiding “house versus child” related stress is to:

  • Start with top priority housework like clearing the dishes or making dinner, and work down the list
  • If kids are happy playing, let them play
  • If they’re upset or need attention, drop the housework till later

(disclaimer: house may not be clean if following above plan)

Office Mum: housework

And actually, even if I give up work, give up meeting people and give up cleaning my house, there’s still no guarantee that every day would be like our slow-down-day.
I’m sure there would be days that we’d go stir crazy cooped up in the house together (because of the whole not going anywhere in the car in case it gets stressful trying to get them to put on their shoes)

So we might just have to muddle along as we do, and take our slow-down-days when they come. Slowly.

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This is part of a linky on Babysteps – hop over there to check out some other mindful-y type posts!

For a very different type of day, and stories from other mums who had to think outside the box when childcare let them down or work needed them out of the blue, check out this article by me for HerFamily.ie:

The Diary of an Office Mum: How do you do it all?

HerFamily.ie Andrea Mara Diary of an Office Mum

 

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16 thoughts on “The Slow-it-Down Day”

  1. I had that exact same type of day last Friday, both the older two were going on playdates and it was just myself and toddle-boots. We paused all the usual stuff and enjoyed the day. I know these moments are fleeting so I really do like it when I actually stop and appreciate the now. Thanks for joining in!
    Aisling Lyons recently posted…Bad MotheringMy Profile

  2. I think you both did something amazing with your day, it probably did both you and the toddler a world of good! My youngest often decides she’s going to walk really (and I mean *really*) slowly. While she’s doing it I always think ‘will she ever get a move on’ and that then switches to ‘she is so dead right to take her time’ while I’m waiting forever for her to catch up to me.

    1. I guess we are just so used to genuinely being in a rush most of the time, it’s hard to remember to slow down at all, even when we’re not busy – that’s certainly the case for me anyway. Am determined to try harder. Our smallies are leading us in the right direction!

  3. I’m a big proponent of planning not to have plans, although I often do meet friends for coffee in the morning of my parental leave day it’s nice to hang out at home too. And I’ve stopped making plans for the afternoons,. we just do homework and play with Lego and make dinner. Nice normality, except it’s not our normal anymore, which is why it’s so nice.
    Sinead – Bumbles of Rice recently posted…Surprisingly Delicious Broccoli SoupMy Profile

    1. Yes, I find coffee plans in the morning, when the two bigger ones are at school, work really well. It’s the afternoons that are tougher, and it took me a long time to learn to stop over-planning everything. Or listening to the kids when they say “Mum please can we just stay in!”

  4. Days with afterschool activities and dropping the big kid off at her nana’s, dads or a for a playdate can be so stressful especially with a teething baby who hates his carseat.
    Today I had one of those day, my partner including. We done nothing. We didn’t even cook dinner, lazy sods. I’m rested. The boy had lots of fun. We needed it to be honest. I love slow it down days.
    Kellie Kearney recently posted…How to Have an Easy Life With a Four Year OldMy Profile

    1. I think we all need it from time to time. I know my house would fall apart if we slowed down like that every day, but I could definitely do it more often than I do. I’m glad you had your lovely day!

  5. That sounds like such a lovely chilled out day. My day always starts with ‘I need to do this, this and this’ Then I say I need to prioritise between what really needs to be done and what can wait, then I get frazzled and stressed and the whole day goes downhill.
    I need a chill out day!!
    Nicola recently posted…Kale PestoMy Profile

    1. You should gift yourself a chill out day! Easier said than done – I know. But so refreshingly lovely when it’s possible, isn’t it.

    1. Actually that’s a good point – even better when they creep up and you just find yourself unexpectedly in the middle of a slow-down-day! It’s a pity they don’t happen more often, but at least it’s a start if we can recognise them when they do.

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