Kay Haupt Explains the Joys of Slow Parenting

The irony of our modern lives that while technology is incessantly invented to saves us time, we end up using it to do more and more things! But what happened to just hitting the pause button? Life moves at such a fast pace that it passes us by before we can really enjoy it, and the same goes for our children.

The slow living movement advocates for a cultural shift toward—you guessed it—slowing down life's pace. Slow parenting (also called simplicity parenting) is an extension of that notion, and Kayla Haupt is a huge proponent. She is a co-owner of Under A Tin Roof, writer, blogger, master gardener, small farmer, fiber artist, and single mother.

“I have one son, Tad, who is two,” she told us. “We live on a small 5 acre farm in eastern Iowa amongst one of the largest Amish settlements west of the Mississippi. We often spend time working the farm, going to farmer's markets, visiting Amish stores, or simply driving through the country.”

Even if you live in the big, bustling city, you too can slow down life for you and your children. Kayla has some tips for us. But first, a little backstory…

Have you always been attracted to slow living – were you raised that way, or did you convert?

We didn't always live here; I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and was often attracted to city life, shopping malls, and consumerism. While the town I grew up in was considered a small, farming community, its 14,000 residents does not compare to the 1,000 residents of the town we live in now! We lived in Houston, Texas for a few years, too. That was a mind-blowing experience and what really caused us to rethink what we wanted out of life. Everything there felt so fast and dangerous. You couldn't go for walks anywhere, you had to drive, and the highways were terrifying. That’s not to say Houston is a bad place, it just wasn’t for us. We found ourselves overspending on things we didn't need and constantly feeling pushed to pay money to have fun. We moved to Iowa a month after Tad was born and have felt so much more at home amongst a slower way of living. It was a culture shock for sure at first! I am now feeling more used to seeing Amish buggies on the highway.

What does slow living look like for you and how strict are you about it?

Every family is different. I’m not strict at following any particular rules of a "lifestyle," and I never have been. I have my morals and my beliefs on how a child should be raised, sure, but I will never be completely pure. I definitely think some social media communities, Instagram for instance, can be overwhelming when you see everyone comparing their slow living beliefs. Everyone has their own take on it.

For me, slow living mostly means we don't give in to consumerism, i.e. purchasing unnecessary clothing or toys or technology. Do we still watch movies and play on the computer? Of course! I think we're on the Internet as much as the next person. One type of parent that I always promised myself I never wanted to be was the one that hands my child a phone while I am out at a coffee shop or in the grocery store. I always hated seeing that. I could take my time a little slower and talk with my child rather than hit the easy button. Do I hit the easy button some days? Yes. But I try to limit myself and just take a lot of deep breaths during wild moments. The best advice I can give on keeping excessive technology is to limit yourself to it and find a balance.

Tad really doesn't play games on my phone. I have just never let him, and he doesn't know any better! Obviously, I would be a huge hypocrite if I did not allow my child to enjoy technology while I sit on my phone and post to Instagram.

Personally, I don't think kids should be taken away from technology - they learn it so much faster! I was allowed on the computer at a young age and knew how to code websites by the age of 11. The tech world isn’t going anywhere, and these kids will be the next to find jobs in that world. That being said, we just try not to overdo it on the computer or the phone. We go outside a lot and dig in the dirt, we play games inside, and I take a break from working to play with toy race cars and dinosaurs. We’re pretty normal; we just cook at home a lot more than the average family and hang our laundry on the line. Ha! I suppose the best way to put our lifestyle is that we enjoy technology, but we do not depend on it for entertainment.

What is the #1 advantage to raising your children slow, and what’s your best tip for getting started?

That truly depends on what your vision of slow living is. For instance, I see a lot people pair nature schooling or Waldorf homeschooling with slow living. Or like you've said, that maybe slow living means that you heavily limit your tech time. For us, slow living has everything to do with our home practices of living in a waste-free home, cooking all of our food from scratch, growing our own food, and living off of the land. We want to live a life that is less focused on stuff and more focused on doing everyday tasks that are useful, natural, and give us a life worth living. Essentially, we live more slowly by returning to the land.

Some days I have to run to Wal-Mart and rejoin the real world. It's a balance, and every day is different. If you are wanting to live more like that, more minimalistic and without the hustle and bustle of a commercialized life, then the first step would be going through what you already own and be honest with yourself about what you can let go. Is it your clothing? Your television? Your collection of Beanie Babies from the 90s? We started almost six years ago when we moved from Illinois to Texas. We sold all of our furniture and belongings so that we didn't have to pay to move them. That purge helped jumpstart this entire movement.

Are there any drawbacks to the hardcore slow-life?

Ha! If anything, when it comes to calling yourself a lifestyle brand, you have to laugh at yourself. I love this! If I am being completely honest, I have not met hardly any drawbacks to letting go of unnecessary items or habits. I suppose the biggest drawback is giving into old habits and forgetting the practices that I have tried so hard to implement in our lives. We've finally gotten the hang of living waste free, but we struggled for well over a year before we found a system that worked for us. I think a drawback might be getting frustrated when all of your lifestyle changes don't work out perfectly in the beginning. It's definitely a process!

I’ve heard some people wonder whether bringing up Tad with a slow living lifestyle will deprive him of career opportunities…but that's totally up to him. I never went to college, and I don't think that I have been unsuccessful; I've made some sort of career out of this lifestyle. I think our society is way lacking in young people being interested in blue collar jobs, and there's nothing wrong or less impressive with wanting to be skilled in a trade. Right now, at two-years-old, he's already learning how to run a small farm, and if he wants to continue that business as an adult, then he will already have so much more knowledge behind him than I ever did. If he wants to design video games, I won't keep that from him. I am all for letting him chase his dreams.

Is it ever too late to start? You know what they say: “Once they’ve seen the big city, you can’t keep’em down on the farm!”

No! No way. That saying 100% does not apply to me! I grew up in the city and knew that I needed the farm. Ha! I think we all have this inborn sense of wanting to be among nature.

I think the best way to get started is to weigh what you might miss from your old habits. You can live "slowly" anywhere in the world, but what about this lifestyle do you want to bring in? Is it simply minimalism or is it living in the country? I think when you live in the country you’re kind of forced to adopt this lifestyle; it takes a lot longer to get anywhere or even go grocery shopping. You're secluded, but we have found that we are more connected to people and less to our phones than anywhere we've ever lived.

It's almost as if you depend on your neighbors more in the country than you do in the city; they are your connection to the world and your helping hand. We love our neighbors! They are our family.

When you start spending time making all of your own things at home, your kids just somehow get involved. We cook and bake together every day, chore the chickens, and work with plants. I make sure that Tad is always involved, even if it makes my jobs harder or longer.

What is the biggest misconception about the slow lifestyle?

I mean, maybe that we don't watch television or that my child doesn't throw tantrums! My life as a parent is still the same, in that sense. We still get frustrated with each other, and I don't sprinkle any magic plant dust or hand my kid a paintbrush made of twigs and leaves to help him calm down. If anything, I think it’s more of a mental state that you have to approach and ask yourself how you want to spend those moments with your young child that are so precious to their entire personality and development.

It's an interesting internal battle watching other mothers on the Internet showcasing how they are schooling or raising their kids. I personally don't have any interest in homeschooling, but I want to be able to share a more natural type learning with Tad through experiences rather than lessons. Letting him cook with me, or taking walks and naming plants and animals, is a great way to instill a love of nature and simplistic activities that so many children miss! I have already noticed that Tad sees the world around him and is aware of the presence of plants and animals much more than other kids he’s been around. I just try to share that love with him.

You advocate the whole foods diet as well. Is it difficult when it comes to raising your child in a world filled with fast food and easy snacks?

Eating whole foods as a family has been the best decision I have made as a parent and as a human! For anyone wondering, that just means foods that are not processed – only foods that are made completely from scratch. We also try to grow most of our own food and source other things locally like meat, dairy, and grains. It was difficult to source all of our ingredients at the beginning. We had to find the best options for us based on affordability, quality, and other considerations.

Kids will eat whatever you put in front of them. To any parent that says, "My kid will only eat this or that" there is a fine line between having a picky eater and pressing the easy button of heating up some chicken nuggets. And I say that because there are days where I still press that button!

I talk a lot about easy buttons. But parenting isn't easy. I have a picky eater; my picky eater hates eating meat and prefers to eat fruits and vegetables. He eats food straight from the garden, so he has a sense of where vegetables come from and a love of eating them raw. We still enjoy treats every now and then like a piece of candy or a snack cracker. Again, we're not purists.

The advantages? There are so many! Health benefits are, of course, high on my list. Another might be that your kid will be more open as an adult to trying new foods and most likely interested in cooking their own meals. That’s all I can hope for with Tad; that he knows how to cook himself a wholesome meal from raw ingredients and not out of a box!

What’s something you really love about the slow lifestyle?

Every season since switching over from feeling so plugged in, to living more intentionally, has been so beautiful. I am reminded of the beauty in a changing flower or the simple complexity of how the light strikes a room in my home. For me, since disconnecting and living more in the present, I feel a little more human again, more grounded. And it makes me a better, more intentional mother.

What are your thoughts on slow parenting? Share your stories with us!

Tags : motherhood   parenting   slow living   simplicity parenting   

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