I aim for a slow and simple life. With time to ponder and putter. I love to feed my family simple, real food and spend time hanging out with them; it nourishes me deeply to do work that feels meaningful to me—to build my small community and encourage the women in my circle of impact.

But sometimes my slow living feels busy and stressful.

Sometimes I start to feel anxiety bubble up in my chest because I am aware of my ever-expanding to-do list. I feel guilt because all the muffins and granola are gone and there is nothing premade for breakfast. I see the threadbare kitchen chairs that need recovering, the linoleum that needs a good scrub, the book that sits unwritten.


Sometimes my plans for slow living are thwarted for weeks on end by unexpected illness, a new life challenge, a desire to serve the people who ask for my help. The time blocks I have set aside for rest get eaten up by work—even good work, meaningful work. I spend a week and realize I walked on my treadmill only a couple times because I felt depleted and instead chose to crawl into bed.

I loved and slept and accomplished many good things. But never quite enough.

And, let’s be honest, even the choice to continually declutter and let go of what was to make space for what will be can cause stress and tears. A bit of an emotional unravelling. Getting rid of the books we read together cuddled on the couch, helping kids prepare to leave the nest, learning to parent adult children with just enough space and just enough support—all of it can be hard. Busy and stressful and hard.

Although I purpose to say no and eliminate, to craft a slow and simple life, sometimes slow living can feel busy and stressful.

I plan for white space, for breathing room, I do my best to live an authentic life; I only recommend to clients what I am willing to live myself. And yet, taxes and laundry and client work cannot be ignored. Lunches and beds and appointments need to be made. Someone needs to pay bills, menu plan, attend kids’ events.

None of this is bad. I am not complaining. But I do feel it is important to acknowledge the truth because we can read articles on slow and simple living and set ourselves up for unhealthy comparison. Unrealistic expectations. If we are not careful, our efforts become golden calf not panacea.

We see the capsule wardrobes and minimalist dwellings. The articles about living a laptop lifestyle or the decluttering challenges. And we can jump to the conclusion that if we just follow the five simple steps, get rid of enough stuff, downsize to a camper van that all will be well. That finally we will live stress-free, perpetually joyful, feathers unruffled.

But sometimes slow living is busy and stressful. Period.

Because we are human. Because people are messy. Because we still have to eat and sleep and live in community. Because life is never as black and white or as simple as we want it to be. Because no matter how well we plan, life is rarely linear.

And I think it is healthy to admit this reality to each other.

A meaningful, beautiful life is not a stress-free life. A slow and simple life is sometimes too busy. A well-nourished mama at times feels depleted. But we ebb and flow, we dance with change, we learn to breathe and bend and become in the midst of it all.

Sometimes even slow living feels busy and stressful. And none of this bad. It just is.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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