With three kids under the age of four, you would think the life of former middle school English teacher and current stay at home mother, Amanda Watters, was anything but simple. However, her life is quite the contrary. Amanda lives each day with intention and has created a cozy nook on the web, Homesong, where she shares stories and tricks on how you too can achieve this simplicity.
Considering that we share a passion for simplifying healthy living, we couldn't be more giddy to share a day in the life of the lovely and talented Amanda Watters with you. Our hope is that you leave with a newfound confidence in your ability to simplify life to only the things and moments that truly matter.
1. Tell us a little bit about what you do and why you do it…
I am a stay at home mom and look after our three little ones each day. I used to teach middle school English and really enjoyed the challenges and creativity involved there, but became a stay at home mom once pregnant with Theodore. I have wanted to be a stay at home mom for as long as I can remember and am doing my dream job getting to be here with our children each day, present for all their milestones and scuffed knees and nap times. Mothering was something that I always had a lot of respect for while growing up, a special vocation I looked up to and knew would be something I would find a lot of joy in. Staying home, or at least working from home, had always been a goal for me when looking ahead to the future, and a rewarding one at that. I think teaching really helped prepare me for the patience and organization that goes along with raising little ones while blogging day in and day out. Sharing and writing in my online space called Homesong is a passion of mine and I do it when able. Of course my contribution there is fairly sporadic since our kids are all under four and are in need of constant attention, but I dabble in it when I have time or am feeling inspired.
2. What does healthy living mean to you? How does that influence how you raise your kids?
Healthy living means choosing the path of intentionality and presence as we go about our day together. It stretches beyond the borders of eating well and making sure we cook with a lot of greens and veggies, although that too is important to us. For our family, to live healthy means incorporating consistent rhythms for each of us that benefit our whole selves, like spending time outdoors on the weekends as a family, using essential oils for wellness, taking trips around the city to the library and museum for cultural purposes, spending time to read books before bedtime, and letting the kids make art and be creative each day. We make most of our meals from scratch because I love to cook! I try to get the kids involved too because they are getting to be really interested in all the things mommy does around the house, cracking eggs and stirring bowls has gotten to be their favorite. Because I stay home with them, I am able to infuse a slower-paced, mindful style of living into our day to day and I really value that.
3. Living a simple life in the world today is not an easy task. Living simply with a family of 5, well that seems impossible. What advice can you offer to those of us who are struggling with where to start?
To us, living simply while raising a family means paring down to make room in our home and our hearts for all the things that matter. There’s a quote by Annie Dillard I love that says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We chose to fill our days with the things that we care about, things that are important to us, and we stick by those values when it comes to how we go about spending time together as a family. For me this is much more about what we do rather than what we have. We do a lot of things by hand here in this house and we love that these tasks force us to slow down and savor the moment, even if that means they take a bit more time. Hanging clothes to dry is one example of this simple kind of living. By using pins, a rope and our hands while letting the breeze dry our clothes, I feel we are connecting to something that is bigger than ourselves. For me, this chore of laundry, and a never ending one at that, is much more enjoyable when done outside with the sun and the birds. My advice to those who are wanting a calmer, simpler life is to make a list of things that matter most to you, things you consider a priority to your mental and physical heath, and find a way to incorporate them into your family’s daily rhythm today. Start small and go from there. There are always ways of pairing down and creating space for the things we love, it just means we have to let go of other things from time to time. It does one good to do a good sifting of priorities now and again. Sometimes this means saying goodbye to things that are of little or no importance, detaching from expectations of others, and sometimes moving on from obligations to be in the moment and connect with those you feel your time is worth investing in.
4. What does a day in the life of Amanda Watters look like? Or at least, what is your ideal day?
One thing I love about staying home with the kids is that every day is different. There are a few constants like breakfast in the early morning, nap in the afternoon, some sort of craft, movies and books if it’s rainy, and time in the backyard if it’s sunny, then more afternoon naps and supper prep. I suppose the framework of our day as a whole is the same throughout the week but the things we do within that is always changing. If we have errands to run or have a little adventure planned the day just flies by! My favorite days are when we don’t have any plans and allow ourselves the freedom to just do whatever. Sometimes we’ll bake. Other times we will go exploring in our backyard. Because the kids are growing and changing everyday, I feel as though I am always adapting to their needs and reevaluating how we should spend our time. My ideal day would include going for a long stroller walk on the nearby trail, messing up the house playing and then tidying it up again before Andrew gets home, and making supper while listening to good music and having a glass of wine...a day where nothing and everything happen all at once.
5. Tell us about your family garden. Why did you start the garden and how has it influenced your family for the better? What are some of your favorite fruits and veggies to grow?
Our family garden out back is one of my favorite parts of our home. Right now we have three medium sized beds and various terracotta pots growing delicious things for our family to pick and eat. It honestly doesn’t look like much, but this little plot of land has provided so much food for our family! This spring we grew varieties of lettuce, spinach, herbs, fennel, radishes, onions, peas, and a fun assortment of greens. The kids love checking on this space and help me water it daily. Taking care of it is built into our list of chores and has helped instill responsibility with the kids. If Theodore sees me with the watering can he’ll run over and take on the job for himself, spilling most of the water in the grass. Stella loves checking on the progress of the veggies and enjoys the eating process like her mama. We sampled the radishes we grew from seed for the first time the other day and she seasoned them up with sea salt after cleaning them herself in the sink. Sharing this growing experience with our kids is something I know will leave a lasting impression on their beautiful minds. Gardening teaches us patience and gives us the gift of gathering together to enjoy things we have spent time nurturing.
6. What is your philosophy when choosing clothing and toys for your babies? Is it important to you that the clothing is organic and locally made?
When it comes to clothing and toys we like to keep that simple, too. You sense a theme here? Haha. We realized pretty early on that the kids get easily overwhelmed when presented with hoards of things and too many options. It stifles their ability to focus and grow their imaginations, which is the whole point of playtime! Thus, we like to think in terms of quality over quantity concerning what we bring into our home. Opting for organic materials when given that opportunity fits into that frame of mind as well. I do a lot of pairing down and donating to keep our home simple and clutter-free, so it is also important to us that we spend our money on items that are going to last. Wood toys and nature puzzles and books and toys that help engage in make believe are our favorite items to have around the house. Theodore is big into trucks right now, Alfie is getting the hang of stacking and sorting and Stella is all about drawing and crafting. I enjoy supporting those who hand-make items and so I do that often. My favorite items to date are all the ones that have been tended to with care, something I value and appreciate as a creative myself.
8. You are the queen of essential oils. What essential oil could you not live without? How have these oils come into play with raising your babes? Do you have a go-to oil for the kiddos?
Oh my, you’re way too kind to say that. I feel like such a novice in this big old world of essential oils because I am constantly learning about them! There’s so much to know on the topic but I enjoy reading up on oils because they help our family so much. The one oil I could not live without would be lavender. Our family uses it everyday to help calm and soothe, to help heal and restore...honestly, I could list about a dozen ways right off the top of my head we use it daily. It’s a really versatile oil and one that smells so good with extraordinary calming benefits. There are so many products on the shelves of stores that contain harmful and toxic ingredients and once I started really paying attention to those labels I was shocked by what we were using to clean our home. That is not the only reason we use essential oils, but it certainly helps that they are a nontoxic way to keep our home clean. The kids all have routines with their oils in various times throughout the day. They use little roller bottles I’ve made them before bedtime and if going outside to keep the bugs away. We use oils in their bath and if they have come down with a cough. Natural wellness is one way our family is more mindful about what we put in our bodies and how we take care of one another.
9. Let’s chat about meal time. Do you have a meal that you all eat together? Any advice on prepping for a week of healthy meals for a family of 5? What’s on the menu tonight?
I have mentioned that we are fairly consistent with a few things with regard to parenting and meal time is one of those. Three times a day it anchors our family, bringing everyone together to share something we’ve made. We do our best to eat most meals together at the table in our kitchen nook. Every now and again we will eat at the big dining table in the room off the kitchen, but it’s easiest to eat in the kitchen so we tend to gravitate there for supper. Meal time is our chance as a family to hit pause and interact without distraction. I really enjoy the cooking process and find it very therapeutic, so preparing a healthy meal is rarely approached as burdensome for me. On Sundays I like to look at the week ahead and will scribble out a tentative meal plan that helps me stay organized as the week floats on. If anything, it gives me ideas to fall back on if the day has gone awry and we are in need of a easy supper before bath and bedtime. Tonight we are having pork chops. It was my plan to grill them but since it is raining I think I’ll do them on the skillet in a creamy mustard sauce with sautéed greens from the garden on the side. As far as prepping goes, if you can take one night out of the week to cook your protein or use a slow cooker, you will be surprised how much more smoothly meal time can go!
10. What are some of your favorite pieces from Noble Carriage right now and why?
I really love neutral basics that are soft and play-friendly. The sweet bonnet + bloomer combination is my favorite for this warmer weather we’ve been having. These pieces go so well with onesies and are very practical in terms of giving the kids room to move around and play. And a baby in a bonnet, how timeless and darling is that?! Everything made by Goat Milk and Gray Label is also wonderful quality. I love how soft the playsuits are and how they allow you to layer with other pieces, a must for weather here in the Midwest. Right now Alfie wears the grey playsuit almost every other day and I wish they made a big one for mamas! It’s the coziest. I appreciate that Noble Carriage is well-curated, you really can't go wrong with anything from this selection.
10. You offer a ton of advice on motherhood and living a slow and simple life. You offer advice we can relate to and trust. What are some of your most trusted healthy resources?
I am a pretty avid reader and gravitate towards books that reflect the simple, hands-on parenting philosophies that Andrew and I enjoy implementing with our family. I have drawn a lot of inspiration from Kim John Payne, an author who has written many parenting resources, but more so, social researchers and educators like Brene Brown, William Martin, Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori have influenced our parenting approaches and how we view child-rearing practices in general. A thread these individuals have in common is their emphasis on supporting the whole child to help develop their sense of empathy and wonder through imaginative play, along with nature-based family rhythms practiced inside the home. We believe in the importance of seeking out the magic in the mundane whereby we choose to celebrate and foster simple rituals with our three little ones that feed into connectedness as a family. Aside from what lingers on our bookshelves, I would say Andrew and I lean into our intuition and most often just follow our gut regarding what feels right and true. As parents we trust that wisdom most, and practice grace when things don’t go as planned. We try our hand at what we think is right given the circumstances, and we have found more often than not the answer lies in slowness and simplicity.