Mama to four, Austinite, and co-founder of SlowFamilyLiving.com, Bernadette Noll just released her latest book, Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy.
I first heard Bernadette speak at the Texas Conference for Women last fall when she and her SlowFamilyLiving.com co-founder Carrie Contey spoke on the topic of creating more joy in our families by slowing things down. Slow down? How on earth can I do that, I thought. My mind? Was blown.
My days only seemed to get busier, what with one child in elementary school near our home, and one in preschool across town. I spend a large portion of my days in a minivan, shuttling around the city. We had just added soccer and theatre to my daughter’s extracurricular schedule and we had homework and birthday parties and work and dinner and laundry and extended family commitments to boot. Also I figured it was part of my parenting responsibility to keep my kids moving and learning and playing, every weekend, all the time. But I was juggling a zillion balls and, our of sheer exhaustion, dropping many of them. Up until that point, I figured being busy is what having a family is all about, right?
When Bernadette and Carrie reminded me during their talk that family is about joy, I almost cried. In fact, I did get teary. I realized in that moment I was too busy and tired and cranky to feel joyful. And realizing that made me wonder how my kids were feeling! I started reading Bernadette and Carrie’s blog right away. I’ve been slowing my family down, little by little, ever since (although I’m sure my husband would love it if I’d slow down even more!).
When I heard Bernadette had a new book coming out, one full of creative ideas to help families reconnect, I smiled. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy—which I will do this Thursday at The Twig (Details on Bernadette’s San Antonio book signing below. Join me there!).
In anticipation of Bernadette’s visit to San Antonio this Thursday, I asked her a few questions about what it really means to slow your family down.
You and Carrie Contey started blogging about the Slow Family Living concept back in 2008. What, in your family life, led you to it?
Carrie and I were doing a workshop on creating a Family Mission Statement. During the afternoon, the recurring theme was that people felt pressured to perform and to live family life a certain way based on the messages from society, from the media and from friends and family. We joked that like Slow Food, there needed to be Slow Family, to give people permission to step back and to allow them to find joy and connection to the process. That afternoon we sat down and wrote the manifesto – the very same manifesto we have today. And we realized that we had come across a really big idea that could really help a lot of families.
Has your perspective evolved over the last five years on what it means for families to slow down? If so, how?
I really want people to realize that is not more dogma to add to the pressure of doing things a certain way. In the beginning I think the slow meant doing nothing, now I interpret it to mean slowing down long enough to ask yourself if the way you’re living is working for your family. Slowing down in a way that allows families to connect to the process. So though slow may have originally meant doing less, now it means doing things intentionally, consciously.
It has given us permission to step back from all the things that come our way and assess each one individually. Will this party work for us this weekend? Can I go to this committee meeting this weeknight? Do we need to be out? Or do we need to pull back? It has given us all a new language to use too – the idea that if something doesn’t feel “slow” it doesn’t feel right for us, at that moment in time.
What three tips can you share to help couples (parents) reconnect?
The partnership needs to have focus too! As my mom always says, if you don’t pay attention to the partnership while the kids are little, all of a sudden the kids will be gone and you’ll look at each other and say, “Who the heck are you?”
- For us the biggest shift in our partnership has come from our appreciations for each other. Everyday we share appreciations for each other. Make a list of five things a day that you are really appreciating about your partner.
- Know when to say when. Sure we can try to convince each other to see things our way but sometimes we just have to recognize that we all have our own perception.
- Get a lock on your bedroom door. If you don’t have one, put it on. If you do have one, use it. I’m not saying don’t let the kids in ever, but I am saying don’t let them in sometimes. It helps you get a few minutes together (a quickie if you will) and it helps the kids see that it started with two people.
Does social media use still have a place (for parents and kids) in this style of Slow Family Living? How do you keep it from intercepting family time?
We try to regulate it as best we can. We have screen free times and screen free zones (like the kitchen table). It is a part of our world for sure, but it doesn’t always have to have a presence. We also try to model what we want to see in our own kids – if I don’t want them texting during dinner or while we’re talking, then I have to do it too. As our kids get older, it definitely has more of a place in our home but we really try to keep it intentional and thoughtful.
This Thursday, March 14, from 5-7pm, join me and other San Antonio mom bloggers and parents at The Twig. Bernadette will sign copies of Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy.
The Twig (at Pearl) | 200 E. Grayson | Suite 124 | San Antonio, Texas | 78215