It’s just after 1:00 p.m. My three-year-old daughter and I make the slow walk from her school back to our home. It is a walk that takes me seven minutes alone, but with her, we take about a half hour. It’s filled with questions: What’s that flower? What’s under that pile of leaves? Why is that man walking?
This is her time. A time to meander and to not be pushed. A space to become fully immersed in that timeless state of childhood that I am sad to admit is not possible in all parts of her day.
Such as the morning. On the way to school, I push her in a stroller. We are expected to be there at a certain time (a deadline about which I seem to be the only one who cares). We move faster in the stroller. But on the way home, we have no deadlines. So I let her pause me. We walk under the amber rays of the afternoon sun. I join in her wonder of what these flowers and leaves and walking men are all about.
I didn’t always value such slow walks. In fact, for the near decade when I lived in New York City, I prided myself on my fast pace of walking. Even striding along in heels I could outpace most people hustling from one part of their packed schedule to the next. I was terribly impatient then, prone to outbursts if tourists blocked my path by daring to pause and look up at the forest of buildings.
And then I decided I wanted to get pregnant. I approached this with the same attitude I had used for the rest of my life. It was a goal. Here were the steps I needed to reach it. But while I could bulldoze my way through everything else in my life, my ovaries simply would not budge.
This process of getting pregnant forced me to strip many things from my life. I left my marriage, my fast-paced career, and many toxic friends. I stood naked without identity or purpose. It was the darkest, most difficult time I have ever experienced in my life. But I am grateful for it.
And then, two years later, Leonie came. Born on a cold March night after 52 hours of labor, her introduction made me question everything I had assumed about the pace of life.
I choose to stay in for two weeks after her birth, and I never imagined it would be so hard. I was pressed into a chair by a little suckling babe who wanted nothing but to fall asleep at my breast. I was forced to be still. Sometimes I didn’t have my phone, computer, or a book nearby. I literally did nothing.
But with her on my lap, the idea of doing nothing became entirely redefined.
Doing nothing meant watching my breastmilk turn a tiny babe into a chunky yearling.
Doing nothing meant silly songs that made me feel sweet and playful.
Doing nothing meant witnessing every tiny step of her growth, from the first time she picked her head up to her first bite of solid food.
I learned to mark my day by her schedule of naps and meals. I only accepted social engagements that wouldn’t cause us unnecessary stress. My career simply became another expression of who I am, but it was no longer all of me. My husband and I spent our evenings at home, writing, reading, or studying. With this shift, I settled into an earlier bedtime, waking before dawn, and consistently starting each day with two-hour practice of yoga and meditation.
I found myself releasing the impatience that once defined me. I found myself softening, caring less about planning my next big vacation or career move and more about living life in the presence of her daily growth.
My childless friends thought I was a hermit. Some tried to drag me out of the house as if I was a princess locked in a tower. Sure, a night away is nice, but it can’t replace the feeling of my daughter laying her sweet head on my chest.
My old New York City self laughs when I tell her that our family recently moved from the U.S. to a small Mexican pueblo of 8,000 people. Here our simplicity has been lifted to an entirely new level. We walk more, passing
Here, a sense of spaciousness has replaced the old restlessness, and it suits us quite well. Now, I relish a slow walk after school with my daughter, exploring the world from her curious eyes. Mine has become a slow, lovely life, and I credit my daughter with giving me what I never knew I wanted.