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A few words about slow living


I have been thinking a lot lately about the social media pressure we have on us nowadays to live seemingly perfect lives, and I have to be honest, but I think the slow living ‘trend’ contributes to that pressure.  It has been troubling me somewhat, because I don’t want to be part of that.  As a supposed slow living advocate, I quite happily went along with the label, answered questions, gave advice and my opinion on the subject.  But I think it is about time to be honest.  I don’t actually live slowly, boy, I would love to, but I have 2 children, limited child care, a husband who doesn’t get home until 8 pm most weekday evenings, I blog, I run workshops and I do styling work too.  Do the sums on that and I’ll tell you, it definitely doesn’t equal slow!

In fact, I would say that I live most of my life with a side of stress.  I try to limit it of course, and in fact I have in some respects, which I will share in other posts.  But as an example, walking to school each morning with a 4 year old, who either shuffles along slower than a tortoise, or runs the entire journey.  And if you’ve seen the trip hazards that are Brighton pavements, factor in a condition she has that makes her heart stop if she hurts herself, then I think it is fair to say my day gets off to a pretty stressful start.

I realised last week that I am stressed almost constantly, because I always try to do too much, fit more in the day than there is actually time for.  I can’t leave the house without tidying or washing up the lunch things. Which usually means after trying to be a good mother (self imposed pressure this time) and take Dottie to the park or the beach in the mornings, and factoring in my supposed slow living time for a 5 minute cuppa, I eat my lunch standing up because I am cleaning and tidying as a gulp it down, in order that we can go to the park after school with Elvia!  But why, why am I putting pressure on myself, because of this perfect slow life I am supposed to be living perhaps?  I’m trying to have it all, and that is why I wanted to come clean, because I don’t want anyone to think I do have it all and that their life is a poorer version, because it isn’t picturesque, or hand-made or perfectly co-ordinated.

I also realised last week, why I don’t ever share photos of my girls on social media anymore.  It is because they don’t fit with my feed or with each other for that matter.  I don’t dress them to match so they clash in every photo, and we can’t have that!  How many people dress their kids these days so they look good on Instagram I wonder.   In my house, Dottie is currently sporting a Darth Vader outfit and Elvia dresses like an Olympic athlete crossed with someone from the film Grease.  Not really a look that goes with my perfectly crafted feed, and I have to tell you, as a lover of clothes, I find that one a struggle.  But I have decided to let it go, she needs to find her own path with fashion.  A subject for another post perhaps.

When it comes to slow living, I have my suspicions, that most of the people who come under the banner, lead a pretty similar life to me; they have kids with snotty noses, piles of paperwork on the kitchen table,  a mound of dirty washing, fish-fingers in the freezer and the added pressure of depicting a perfect life.

I have been to a few ‘slow living’ events and I can tell you, most of them don’t feel very slow, no-one is living in the moment, they are too busy photographing their food, or the surroundings or each other.  It feels a far cry from the slow living concept, having to stand out of the way of someone whilst they re-arrange the table for a photo.  Surely slow living is about enjoying the here and now, not spending ages getting the perfect photograph of it.  It has made me chuckle before on a few occasions, watching people standing on chairs, getting in the way of waiters, taking things off of other tables.  The world we live in now, sure is strange!  But there is that pressure again, the pressure to fill up an Instagram stream with a beautiful life, but whats the point if you are too busy photographing it to actually live it!

Now of course, I’m not saying that is the case with everyone, I’m sure there are people out there who do have it all, stylish children, a washing line of co-ordinated clothes billowing gently in the breeze, and a slow-cooked casserole in the oven ready to be enjoyed when everyone sits down at the table without moaning at the end of the day.  And I aspire to that,  of course I want my life to be like that, but I’ve decided to take the pressure off of myself for a bit, and so should you.  Sod the washing up, because slow living isn’t about perfection, it is about slowing down and giving yourself a break in every sense of the word.

Emma x

PS   You might be wondering after all that I have just written, how I reconcile myself with what I do, and by that I mean, sharing styled photos on social media and not only that but teaching people how to style their own photos.  Well I will tell you, because my images are my creative outlet, they are my art, they are my moment of slow.  When I take time to style a still-life, I am not pretending that it is my real life, I am taking pleasure in the moment of creating it.  When it comes to my actual life, I very rarely photograph it, you won’t find me taking a photo of my lunch before I eat it, but you will find me styling a recipe because that is part of what I do as a job, and that is a separate thing.  I make no apology for the fact that I want the images I share to be beautiful, they are my portfolio after all.

32 comments on “A few words about slow living”

  1. Very well said Emma! I couldn’t agree more. I suspect that slow living as a concept , is the way many of us would like to see ourselves living but in reality for many life is busy and frantic and anything but slow! It’s wise to take social media ideas like this with a pinch of salt! All good and well to aim for this lifestyle but certainly not to stress if actually unachievable. I approach many of these photos with a healthy sense of cynicism and try to enjoy them for what they are, stylish images and concepts.
    I adore your work and your honesty !

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Carol, and I am pleased you liked the post. I think you have the right idea with your approach, it sounds very healthy to me.

  2. So much truth in this, Emma. I had our second child six weeks ago and I’d been starting to feel really bad about all the other newborns in coordinated outfits with adoring siblings in perfectly lit bedrooms on Instagram. This was not our reality and in the postpartum haze it was actually starting to bother me. Then I had a bit of an epiphany and actually felt a bit sorry for the new mums who on top of everything were having to curate styled photos for a hungry Instagram. Maybe it was effortless for them, but maybe it was an additional pressure and massive distraction from previous time with a new baby.
    So thanks for being honest and I hope you do find some slow time soon, x

    1. Hi Bex. I am so glad you had your epiphany, time with a new born is so special and it goes so very quickly, personally second time round, all I wanted to do was cuddle my little one. A much better way to enjoy it x

  3. Gosh this resonates with me Emma. I think the fact that after all this time we haven’t met up goes to show how frantic our lives are. I didn’t realise Dottie had such a stressful condition. As you know – I deal with type 1 diabetes and Theo has a skull condition meaning he is visually impaired. The pressure to be a ‘good mum’ along with trying to make things beautiful is massive. In some ways I like living in a building site because it is an excuse for things to be a mess. The conclusion I have come to is that life is like a beautiful painting(“all part of life’s rich tapestry”). It has to be balanced. It has to have beautiful tones and some of those tones have to be dark to accentuate the brighter parts. To make them sing. Those bright parts are the little moments. The robin in your garden. The moment that your heart swells with love when you catch your child doing some small magical thing. Also the much needed moments of creativity . . . when you lose yourself in making something personal and beautiful. A bit of your soul. And the dark moments are there too. The hideousness of being in a hospital and frightened to your core about your child’s life. Losing a beloved parent and soul mate. Then there are all the shades in between. Amongst those are the mundane parts of life. The neutral tones – so important to set of those darks and lights. The neutral bits are the boring bits. The daily routines. It doesn’t matter if those bits are messy and imperfect. So long as you try your hardest to look after yourself along the way. They don’t diminish the other elements . . . they provide the balance. In a painting they are a rest for the eye – and in our lives they are about coping and surviving. They are the days when your children aren’t picture perfect. The fish finger days. Be kind to yourself. Its okay to be good enough. More than okay. x x x

    1. Hello Robyn. Thank you for commenting here, you made me cry with your honesty, kind words and beautiful description of life. I really hope that we do manage to get that meet up sorted, just message when you are ready. Emma x

  4. This is a very thoughtful and lovely post. It is a strange thing, ‘Instagram’ and quite odd when you think of what it takes to take a photo…a toddler and a baby hanging off me for every one. But yes…the concept of slow living is also a bit inconsistent with rushing around to take a photo of that perfect moment that would fit in your feed. This really gives me a lot to think about and thank you xxx

    1. You are very welcome Jessica, thank you for taking the time to comment. It is a strange world we live in nowadays, that’s for sure, which is why I think a bit of honesty from time to time is important x

  5. I do relate. I think as time passes there’s going to be a backlash to all the perfection. Maybe in 5 years. I love taking my IG pictures and making the artwork. I too have wonder about the pictures of children in so many feeds. I wonder if we all want to peaceful lives we share in our images, like some kind of dream that is unobtainable. All this said, I do enjoy all the outstanding photos on IG.

    1. I think you are right, I suspect there will be a backlash at some point, and as someone who sees Instagram as part of my job, I am very aware of that. And yes, I suspect, mostly it is aspirational living.

  6. Good post, Emma, my slow living are moments here and there, more so on the weekends and my rest day. Now that both my children are older and venturing on their own, i’m getting more time to myself and really striving for those slow living moments even if its a walk with my dog. I so desperately need it. I need it for reasons of not necessarily that i want a slow life only but its the only way that I can connect with myself and here myself talk and get in touch with who I am. I neglected myself for so many years when I homeschooled my two and so now I’m giving myself permission to take time out for those slowing moments. It helps bring balance to my world. I’m wishing you are able to have some time to yourself too as you continue with your beautiful photography.

    1. Hi Carmen. I am so glad you are finding time for yourself now your children are more independent. It is very hard to do that when you have young ones. But I do think it is important to try. Last summer I ‘treated’ myself to a babysitter once a week, so I could go somewhere by myself in the evening, mostly it was just to sit on the beach for a couple of hours but sometimes it was the cinema, it made a great deal of difference to how I felt. I hope that I will be able to do it again this year. You enjoy your well deserved slow time.

  7. Such a great post…and such a relief! I can’t tell you how many times I wonder how all those Instagrammers with perfect-looking lives do it all ?

    Thank you for your honesty and authenticity!


  8. Well… this is a post I wanted to read!!! I met so many people who try to present their life as perfect in social media but at the end its nothing like that, its total illusion. I can’t get it. Why do we need to dress our kids and use them as prop? Why we can’t enjoy our meal without taking thousands of images and then eat cold food? Some time ago I decided its not for me. I want to enjoy moment, without thinking on IG !! I want to feel the breeze and see my kids (badly dressed) running around and doing their things without puling my phone!!
    Thank you

    1. Hi Sanda. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It sounds like we share the same views, and I’m glad you are enjoying the moment, I bet your children are glad too.

  9. Thank you for such honesty. I feel the same as you do ……especially regarding the perfect pictures, the slow living events and such. Never miss a moment of life with your children in order to get the perfect photo. I am proud to read someone with such honesty.

  10. I spotted the incongruency of “slow living” at the outset. And, the “being real” posts that truly and clearly still aren’t real. And, also, at what point did working hard become something we need to avoid?? This is a very wonderful post. And, I’m sorry to hear you have that stress with your daughter. Oh my. We, it seems have outgrown a seizure disorder with both my two youngest and wow, was that ever stressful. That is one reason why I blogged about pretty things too. For goodness sakes who wants to look at “real life” in pictures?! ha!! No one buys a magazine hoping to see pictures of unkempt homes but then they get on another false tangent of wanting “real” and “slow”.

    1. Hi Jill. Thank you for commenting. It sounds like you went through a similar thing with your two youngest, it is incredibly stressful isn’t it. I am so pleased to hear they have grown out of it, I hope Dottie does soon too. I agree, a bit of escapism is absolutely fine, as long as we don’t feel the pressure to imitate it.

  11. I have never had children, but when I look at anyone who has I can’t believe that they can do the slow living thing. Personally I think that a busy mum is a good role model especially to daughters, who will need first hand experience of the juggling and multi-tasking and the time it takes to build your own employment or career. I bet if you put your mind to it you could take great photos of whatever your girls are wearing but it really doesn’t matter if they are on the feed or not. I too have felt the pressure of social media when I feel I put so much effort in for so little reward, but you just have to take a step back and realise the good things it has brought, like meeting and making friends, having tiny snatches of conversations, and getting lost in the fantasy of it. Creatives are just a little bit too self-critical and perfectionists, which is your strength and downfall all in one fell swoop, but I do like the idea of myth busting so I try to keep it real on my blog and with my words even if the pictures are ‘saying’ something else, very often the things in the photo are the ONLY tidy bit of my house. Love you Em xx

    1. Hello you. Thank you! And yes, when I get time to read your posts or see them on Instagram, I definitely feel like you do keep it real. It is also good to know that those exceptionally beautiful photos you share are like mine usually surrounded by mess! We do have a tendency for being too self-critical, that’s for sure. I hope that I am a good role model for my girls, but I do want them to learn that it is important to take a bit of time out for themselves too. However you are right, it is also important to me that they see me do something by myself, build a career. I don’t know why that is important, I think more for me than for them but I don’t suppose it matters why. Hope to see you soon xxx

  12. At 61 and three quarters I look like I’m living the dream and if someone would tell the inside of Mmu head I probably could be.
    My butterfly brain doesn’t allow me to focus on one thing at once hence I never complete anything as I’m so busy flitting from one thing to another, plus I’m nosey and love to learn new things and be inspired by other people.
    One day when I grow up I’ll get my act together and be as calm on the inside as I look on the outside haha
    Lynn x

  13. Wow! A friend just sent me this link and all I can say is THANK YOU! Thank you for being honest! The number of people I know, myself included, that worry about not having a perfectly instagrammable life is at an all time high! This was refreshingly honest!

    I’m actually starting to unfollow a lot of perfectly curated feeds because there is no depth to the account – you can’t get to know someone when it’s all airy fairy and perfect! I want to see real, a balance being set up and in the moment, I want to see behind the scenes! I actually want to see your children in their mismatched outfits, being children! That would make me smile so much more than seeing a child in a stuffy outfit being forced to pose for the camera!

    Thanks again for your honesty! Great post!

  14. Hi, I’m 52 and my youngest child, 23yrs, left home last autumn. I don’t think slow living is possible, when you have children at home., unless you have staff ?. Your slow moments, your me time will grow slowly, as they grow up. You’ll get there, but slowly xo

  15. Hi,

    I have just read your latest blog post and so much of it resonates with me. I have constantly thought that we live in a world where life can never live up to the images we are bombarded with from birth. Life can only be a disappointment in comparsison and having a young girl makes me acutely aware of this. But it shouldn’t be this way and we should embrace life with all its ‘imperfections’ and free ourselves from the pressure. Ironically I have just started a blog (www.paperandchalk.co.uk) all about the things I make and do at home which are my creative outlet which I need so badly being a stay at home Mum and wife.
    I also live in Brighton and was ‘diagnosed’ with Fibromyalgia in February, having suffered with a plethora of symptoms since October. This came at a time when I was finally thinking of carving out something for myself and had been carrying everyone else burdens for too long. I would love to chat more about it with you. I hope you are finally finding some answers and understanding on that matter. It is Fibrmyalgia/CFS etc. awareness month as well apparently. Thank you for your honest words. Becky

    1. Hi Becky

      Thank you for commenting on my post, I am glad you agree. I am sorry too to hear about your diagnosis, I hope that you are learning to deal with it, and hopefully finding ways to look after yourself. I think that doing something for yourself helps. I am always happy to chat, so feel free to email me. Thank you for the card by the way 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for your honesty. Not that I’ve ever thought you insincere or hiding the truth. But it is amazing to hear this from someone who has a stunning feed. And just to say I thoroughly enjoy your craft and love it when your images pop up on my feed. They help me to feel calm and I enjoy admiring the beauty of the objects you use.

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