Stella Mayes often finds herself feeling guilty for not being the perfect parent when reading blogs and magazines. Armed with a desire to change she shares the first steps towards creating the life that you want to lead.
I’ve been known to lurk in cyber space, browsing blogs of stay at home mamas, green living gurus and parents who seem to be juggling it all, with perfect lifestyles. I get exactly the same feeling from reading the blogs as I do browsing through a magazine… inside me this little voice is saying “you can do it all, you can craft, you can become a plastic free zone, you can cook with completely organic ingredients and redecorate the house using only reclaimed items“. Then I set myself up on a guilt trip, and the hump, which I take out on my partner, whilst he has no idea why I have the hump, as I‘m not in the position to make a full transition. Quite frankly I can’t have it all, and neither does everyone else.
I’ve spent endless evenings feeling guilty about the fact that I want to take part in a more sustainable way of life, building a family that doesn’t fill its home with electronic gadgets and for a long time I thought the only way that I could do that was if I gave up working to be at home full time with my curious life loving two year old. I always felt that I couldn’t possibly be able to comment on blogs that I found fulfilling or helpful because I wasn’t truly worthy of joining the club. What I have found though through my time reading magazines and trawling the net is that whilst some parents are in a position to stay at home, there are a million other parents who do just as fantastic a job creating family traditions and building a unit with a rhythm that promotes their own personal family life, whilst holding down a nine til five.
So many Mamma’s like myself feel as if they are not sure where to start when it comes to creating changes in their family life, so I’d like to share with you a few rhythms that we have adopted into our working household to create a sense of calm in world full of busy days. These are ideas that I have pinched from some of the superb articles that parents are sharing. Just because your not baking fresh bread everyday or sewing for as often as you wish to be, does not mean that you can not make just a few changes, without turning your world upside down.
Re cycle: Do what you can, no matter how busy your day is, if you make space for cardboard or bottles and organise your time ,you can make sure your doing your bit. So many councils offer facilities such as scraps bins and collect them frequently, but if not, then local supermarkets have recycling facilities within their car parks. Cardboard boxes can be great for using in projects with your little ones too, be imaginative you can make anything from star mobiles to houses and towers.
Create a rhythm: A rhythm is different to a schedule or timetable. A rhythm is a natural flow, led by the seasons. It’s not based on what weeks, days or times you complete tasks, it’s about developing a family rhythm that can help you bring a spiritual and natural environment into the home. Children adore being outside with nature and so as they grow they can begin to learn about yearly events based on the seasons. Daily rhythms might include lighting a candle to give thanks at meal times, whilst weekly rhythms might involve family night every Friday, snuggled inside together playing board games in the Winter, or staying out later in the garden on long Summer evenings.
Build a nature table: We have a little area in our house, it’s the top of a small wooden cabinet, which gets covered in all sorts of finds from foraging adventures, to trinkets brought back from holidays. The contents of the table changes gradually depending on the season, in Summer it’s laden with shells, feathers, seaweed, summer flowers and summer time fabrics. It’s a concept frequently used in Steiner inspired homes, but the concept is not exclusive. A nature table is a lovely way of teaching your children about the seasons and the movement of life. It should not be about going out and buying items to feature on your seasonal table, shelf or window seal, it should be able building it up year on year. Quite often now my daughter will pick up items whilst we are out on adventures at the weekend and request that we can take them home for the nature table. Children develop vivid imaginations and nature is such an amazing way of installing magic and excitement into their lives.
Choose toys that suit you: I have friends that have gone completely plastic free when it comes to toys, it’s such a brave and courageous move in a consumer driven world. I’m not saying that plastic toys are in abundance at our house, because I feel that we have always been about quality rather than quantity. I thought about rounding up all the plastic toys but instead we have begun to gradually replace them with wooden and imaginative toys, that generally have more than one use. My daughter received some fantastic presents at Christmas and they are already being used far more than the colder, more limited plastic toys. It was such a joy knowing that the presents she was opening up on Christmas day did not need to be powered by batteries, or would be flashing bright lights at her. Wooden fruit connected with Velcro that she can cut, gets used over and over again, and a wooden till is frequently used throughout our imaginative play. The wooden toys are often warmer and feel more inviting to play with. Playmais has been introduced to our house too, it’s bio degradable cornstarch foam, dyed with food colorants that sticks together with water, to form amazing creatures, people and anything that your imagination can conjure up. Invest in good quality toys that will last a life time, and speak to friends and family about the gradual changes that you want to install into your family life. Remember it can be tough convincing others that you know what’s best for your family, so be strong.
Limit TV: I , like so many other parents battle against the clock every evening. Once I’ve left work, picked my little girl up from nursery and driven home it would seem easy to let her watch a little bit TV whilst I do dinner, but it’s such an unnecessary choice. My daughter is two and loves standing on a chair in the kitchen watching and helping with dinner. She loves her food and getting involved in the cooking process gives her a real sense of achievement. When she was younger she would play with a saucepan and pasta on the kitchen floor whilst I whipped up a dinner for us, but as she’s gotton older she’s become interested in helping out too, even with setting the table. This is now a part of our family rhythm, luckily for me I have a chef as a partner so he cooks when not working, and she loves helping her Daddy. Getting your child involved in many activities will automatically decrease your need to have the TV on at all. Watch how your child smiles when they are pretending to be hovering alongside you, or polishing the shelves, children crave independence and love to learn.
Have a seasonal books basket: We have an abundance of books in our house, I adore childrens’ literature and have found myself collecting so many books that are childhood nostalgia trips for me, as well as opening up a new imaginative world for my daughter’s mind to explore. Perhaps reading a bedtime story is already part of your bedtime routine but don’t forget that books can be indulged in at any point of the day too. That’s why we have adopted a seasonal book basket, so that we can read a morning story based on the weather we spot out of the window first thing, if the fancy takes us. Weekends are a perfect time for everyone to have a morning snuggle in the family bed with a story, or an afternoon story on the sofa. As with the nature table, creating the seasonal book basket can be developed over years, it might become a tradition to buy a seasonal book for your children based on their birthdays throughout the year. As the seasons pass, your favourite stories and poems will come out time after time.
Moving into a greener and more natural way of life is not about disregarding everything you knew before, it’s about allowing yourself and your family to get on board with this exciting journey. Small changes will allow you to steer your family in the direction you dream of. You may not be able to pack up shop yet and cart your family off to a farm in the county, but being a working mum does not mean you can’t lead a more natural family life. I’m going to continue lurking in cyber space at the fantastic blogs that so many parents have made, and keep reading the magazines that make me want to craft. I’m so pleased that people are sharing their ideas, tips and skills because it’s helped me begin a very exciting journey for my family. Having it all would be boring right?