#realmothersdiversevoices : Bethany Douglass
I am thrilled to be sharing a new interview series with you each and every week: #realmothersdiversevoices. In this series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values.
It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.
Today I am honoured to welcome Bethany to the Whole Family Rhythms community. Bethany is a homeschooling mother of four and the editor/creative director of Cloistered Away, a lifestyle blog dedicated partly to memory keeping and safeguarding the slippery years of parenting and partly to encouraging other mothers in their own journeys. She also shares much of her family’s days on her gorgeous Instagram account too.
Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?
Hello! I’m Bethany, married to Mark, and mother to Liam, Burke, Blythe, and Olive. Mark and I married in a whirlwind while I was still in university finishing up a degree in writing and literature over 16 years ago. I began graduate work in writing not long afterward, but soon decided to give up the academic plan to become a mother and stay at home instead. No regrets. About ten years ago, we decided to homeschool our oldest, and somewhere around the same time, I began a small family blog to share our ongoings with those we love. I continued working part-time at a local college tutoring writing and wanted to find a way to merge both my time and love for being at home and home education with the creative work of writing and photography. I decided to transition my blog to a larger platform about 5 years ago, and have since partnered with several brands our family enjoys and have written for several publications on topics of motherhood, homeschooling, and living more simply that have helped grow more income for me to do exactly what I love at home!
What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?
I find deep joy in watching my children evolve, in knowing that one day very soon, they will each go out into the world on their own and somehow make it a better place. I have enjoyed the little snuggly years and watched the curiosities burgeon alongside them. They have been my greatest investment and joy, and I love spending my days with them.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?
Oh goodness, just one? 😉 Patience, although it has looked different over the years. When my children were little, parenting required a very pragmatic patience as they learned so many new skills all the time: potty training, sleeping, kind hands/feet, etc. As they have grown older, parenting requires a more abstract patience, a willingness to let them make mistakes and become who they are. It’s challenging not to swoop in a “fix things” or micro-manage their tasks.
What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?
I think of a drum, the way it indicates musical tempo and synchrony. Home life also has a tempo and changing energy, sometimes bursting and other times soft and slow. I suppose, I’m always listening for our own and trying to establish a seasonal routine to complement it.
Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?
Family meals, our faith, the priority to listen. The family meal is my favorite way to end a day and reconnect. Whatever has happened beforehand, the family meal allows a common space to let it go, to share the highlights and pitfalls of our days, and to of course eat something tasty. Our Judeo-Christian faith is very important in our home, a cornerstone in everything we do. We hope the conversations and faith-based practices we share will carry each of our children through their lives. And listening feels intuitively connected to all of it, and increasingly more important in our tech-driven-everyone-is-talking world. We hope to impart the priority to listen in our children, not just to hear the words others say, but to really listen.
How do you hope to pass these values on to your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values into your daily rhythm?
Our family eats dinner together every evening, often with other families, too. We try to share the best/worst part of each of our days and practice listening. We also began practicing a weekly Shabbat meal (borrowed from Jewish practices) as a family, to stop our work and enter into a 24-hour period of rest from work and online life, with an intention toward one another and spiritual connection with God. We also memorize Scriptures from the Bible and dialogue about their importance, and also pray together regularly throughout our week.
Naturally, like most homes, we have moments where the home feels frantic or like everyone is only considering themselves. When this happens, we pause whatever we’re doing and discuss how we can listen to one another more. I often have to model script sibling quarrels to help reconcile. For instance, I might say: “Olive, were you listening when your brother asked you to leave his room?” Olive: “Yes!” Me: “Were you listening and being respectful of his question or were you choosing what you wanted instead?” In other times, I might turn to the brother and ask, “Did you use a kind and respectful tone when asking your sister to leave or were you more bossy and commanding?” I find prompting them with these types of questions give them clear options and language to use. Respect for others is also a high-priority in our home.
Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your children. Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare?
Our routine relaxes quite a bit in the summertime. The kids sleep an hour or so later and stay up later, too. For most of the year, this is how our days loosely form.
5:00/5:30 a.m. – I wake up, drink a large glass of water, and move my body in some way. More recently I have been taking the dog for a quick run, but other times I’ll enjoy yoga practice. I use this time before the house is awake to pray and prepare my heart and head-focus for the day. Some mornings I read the Bible and journal, and sometimes I listen to music or a podcast and tidy up something undone from the day before. The point is: this is my time. My needs change, but this time is to take care of myself before the needs of home are tugging.
7:00 a.m. – The family is up, eating breakfast and taking care of home care routines. Sometimes this requires a lot of reinforcement and direction. 😉
8:00 a.m. – Mark begins morning studies with the kids, while I head to the backyard studio or a coffee shop to work.
NOON – Lunch for everyone, and I transition away from work and again toward the home.
1:00 p.m. –I set apart projects and excursions for this time. We often have afternoon read aloud and nature drawing, and also take trips to the library or park or meet with friends during this time.
4:00 p.m. – We clean up our messes from the day (often substantial), and begin preparing dinner.
5:30/6:00 p.m. – Dinner.
7:00 p.m. – Kitchen clean-up, baths, and read aloud.
8:00 p.m. – Kids head to their beds to read independently. I head to the bath and begin getting ready for bed.
8:30 p.m. –Lights out for girls.
9:00 p.m. – Lights out for the boys. Mark and I try to have time to ourselves to connect in whatever way we need it. Sometimes we’ll have a glass of wine together on the porch or sofa. I always look forward to this time of day, which is so much harder to protect with older children who love staying up later. Afterward, I read in bed.
10:00 p.m. –Lights out. Ideally, although often it’s closer to 10:30.
When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?
Things always get a little off when Mark or my work get very busy, when we travel, or even with the seasonal change in light. It’s harder to begin earlier bedtime routines when it’s still light outside, or when so many activities are still happening.
Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?
Definitely. We inventory our routine and home life in large ways twice a year, before the new academic year and before the new annual year. We also tweak things when we feel like our plan isn’t working for whatever reason.
When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?
I often step outside and pray. Sometimes I’m simply tired or needing a quiet moment. Sometimes I need to encourage my soul. If I can’t recover within a 15 minute break, I tell the kids I need some alone time, a perk of older kids. 😉 When they were younger, I might let them watch a 30 minute show to buy a little time. Or pack them up into the car for a trip to the park. It just depends. Nearly always taking time outdoors (aside from mid-summer here), resets my perspective and calms me.
If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be?
Simplicity Parenting and The Soul of Discipline by Kim John Payne; also The Art of Homemaking by Francis Schaeffer.
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