It’s hard to slow down as a parent with three children under the age of 10. There are meals to make, homework to help out with and after-school activities. Food to buy, birthday parties, sports and so on.
The day starts with the alarm clock and races without pause until the dishes are washed and put away, the dog is walked and you’re in bed at last.
Through all this, you’ve got to make some cash to keep the machine in motion and, oh, to go out and enjoy yourself, have a beer, play a game of soccer, go surfing, sit down with a book or, as of late, to watch all those movies and series that made a splash unbeknownst to us while we were having babies and changing nappies.
Is there another way?
My first thought is: publish a book and make a mint so I can throw in the day job and slow down.
I’ll give it a shot. But what about in the meantime?
I do have a proposition. It is a simple plan based on the premise of consume less, work less. The trouble is that it’s not so simple in practice with young children, at least not yet. Sure, our youngest daughter, who is four, has a killer wardrobe of hand-me-downs from her nine-year-old sister and older friends. That’s a help on our finances. And we’ve done a lot of cutting back this year as inflation screws our monthly budget. It’s 25% annual and thought to be speeding up in Argentina, where we live. So I’ve downsized my banks and trimmed the supermarket-shopping list: more fresh food, less processed. And I’ve become an ardent street parker. There are many ways to cut back, and more will follow. But still the pace of life continues at a fast clip – and my book remains unfinished.
So a couple of weeks ago I picked up a book to help out: How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson. It’s a sort of loafer’s manifesto with tips and reasons to slow down, work less and enjoy life more. Yeah, it sounds a bit of hype, but it has sound foundations. What to do? Shun mass consumption, for one thing. That’s no problem for me. I’m not flash. So spending less, in theory, means you can work less, play more and sleep more, even take an afternoon nap. This is tough to apply for an American brought up in a society of the Protestant work ethic even as I tried to live as a surf bum and as a writer in the vein of Ernest Hemingway or Henry Miller enjoying the café life in Paris while spinning out prose.
Now I’m 44 and the realization has struck. I’ve been speeding for too many years, so it is time to slow down, and what better way to start than at mealtime with slow food. So I turned off the computer, inched my way to the kitchen, poured a beer and started slowly preparing a meal of locally sourced foods to savor casually.
My children sat at the table doing homework, drawing and playing a computer game. They seemed rather impressed to see me so casual at such an early hour of 6 p.m. I am a reporter, which means deadlines and fits of work, especially in chaotic Argentina.
We got to chatting as I peeled carrots and prepared a dinner of roasted pork with oven-baked vegetables and Yamani rice. No hurries. Everything will be savored in its time with a bit of Bob Marley playing along.
I took a sip of beer and a deep breath, and then suddenly something happened.
My youngest daughter’s belly rumbled.
“I’m hungry!” she said, sternly.
This was met by “me, too” from her brother and sister, followed by, “When’s dinner ready?” and, “I’m starving!”
Resolute in my newfound approach to a slow life, I smiled and said, “In a while. Don’t worry. It’s good to take your time.”
The youngest wasn’t having this at all.
She scowled at me and said, “If you don’t give me my dinner now, I WILL SCREAM!”
I looked at her nervously and resolved to try slow food another night because now was the time to work at the pace of McDonald’s.