Helen Hayward’s philosophy on family has completely changed my life, and in ways I never expected it would. Many of my friends and family members would be stunned to learn, for example, that I now actually enjoy the housework.
One quote from Helen’s new book, A Slow Childhood: Notes on thoughtful parenting, found its way onto the bedroom cupboard door even before we’d exchanged contracts, because it made me completely rethink the way I was setting my priorities: “Start doing whatever you care about most today”. Not what you want most, or need most, but what you most care about.
Unsurprisingly, I found myself cutting back my work hours to spend more time with my children after reading Helen’s manuscript. I started heading to the school library twice a week with my four-year-old while his brother was in music lessons. I took the seven-year-old out of the Spanish lessons he hated and booked him into drawing classes instead. Now he’s spending late afternoons immersed in his drawing book instead of asking to watch TV or play electronic games. They’re both going to bed earlier and spending more time listening restfully as we take turns reading them to sleep. The Narnia books filled our summer nights, with the Faraway Tree series lasting through much of autumn. We’ve always read to the boys, but it was a chore before, eating into time we thought we needed for us. Now it’s my favourite part of the day, and theirs.
It’s the housework revelation that has been the most surprising for me of the changes Helen has inspired, though. She has made me appreciate for the first time ever the value to my wellbeing of working to keep a tidy and pleasant home.
“… Done in the right spirit, housekeeping can be just as uplifting as any other activity,” Helen writes in A Slow Childhood.
“There is something rather wonderful about being on top of it … It’s the domestic arts that give rhythm, depth and style to family life.”