In this interview 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 Emily Sims to the Whole Family Rhythms community. Emily is a mama to three rambunctious boys and together with her husband Alex runs a small regenerative farm business where they strive for a simple, wholesome life being kind to the earth and it’s creatures and produce delicious food in the process – you can find her on @hand_to_ground_emily and her blog www.emilyclaresims.com.
Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?
Hello! My name is Emily and I live in a red brick house surrounded by rocky granite hills and sheep just north of Melbourne, Australia. I live with my husband Alex and our little boys – Rueben (5), Beren (2) and baby Archie (0). We lease about thirty acres of land where we raise happy hens on the pasture for eggs and broiler chickens for meat. We also keep six warré beehives for beeswax and raw honey. I also bake gluten free sourdough bread and sweet treats to sell at markets and run a couple of workshops on bread making and homesteading throughout the year. We believe in “regenerative” style farming where we aim to leave the land in a better condition that when we found it, and to raise our animals as respectfully and organically as we can. We are first generation farmers and only three years into our small business, having come from very different professional backgrounds (fine arts, media production, immigration) but we absolutely love working with our hands and living creatures, and to be able to work from home with our kids. We also feel enormously blessed to be part of a close-knit, supportive local community. We may have grown up in a big city, but our hearts are most at home in small towns and countryside!
What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?
I love being able to view the world completely afresh alongside my kids; to notice beauty in everyday things like the way a spider spins his web or a trail of ants trail across a log. I love their sense of curiosity, tender affection and love of adventure. I am yet to experience anything as challenging and beautiful as birthing and breastfeeding three small people – it’s a privilege to love and be loved by them.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?
Probably the biggest challenge for me is being present, intentional and loving day in and day out – especially when I’m run down, lacking sleep, trying to juggle to much or all three at once! We all have those bad days, get into a rut, loose our tempers – I think it’s important to say when we’re struggling, and when things do go awry, to be gentle on ourselves and make honest apologies to our kids.
What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?
I have always preferred the word “rhythm” over routine; and when it comes to the home having rhythms for how we move, play, eat, work and interact through the seasons helps shape our days with purpose and joy rather than a structure we must conform to rigidly.
Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?
One would be the joy of meaningful work, and especially how to work together to problem solve and get things done.
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?
From a young age our children are involved in the work of the home and the running of the farm; obviously we are mindful of their age and capabilities – so it’s actively enlisting their help in filling buckets of feed, collecting eggs, laying out straw for the hens, watering vegetables, turning the compost pile, hanging out the washing, stirring the pancake batter. We learn that meaningful work gives us a sense of responsibility and capability – even though as parent this often means working slower (much slower!) and taking the time to explain and guide your children.
Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child(ren). Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare?
Our alarm goes off before sunrise, Alex gets up to tend to the animals and I stir. If I’m tired I’ll stay in bed until one, two or three little people come in to join me – but if I’m feeling particularly motivated I will rise before them to have some time by myself for a stretch, a quiet cup of tea and planning for the day.
Breakfast is usually porridge or muesli with fruit and milk, plus some scrambled eggs for whoever wants it. After breakfast, we wipe down the table so the boys can draw while I get the school lunch ready – then we all get dressed – often my eldest will slip outside for a little garden inspection for bugs and snow peas! Alex comes home and has his breakfast, then he will take my eldest to school, while the younger boys and I tidy up the kitchen. Then it’s straight onto the first chores of the day; hanging out washing, and the big daily task of cleaning and packing yesterday’s eggs – which usually takes 1-2 hours. This is when I’ll set the little boys up for some indoor play like books, blocks, drawing and occasionally will put on a dvd like playschool or thomas the tank engine for my toddler for half an hour or so. After eggs are done we have some morning tea. On Mondays, Alex and I spend this time having a kind of meeting WIP (work in progress) to discuss the week ahead and any particular jobs that need to dealt with for our business. Then it’s outside time – Alex attends to farm jobs, and the little boys and I get some exercise and fresh air – we’ll play in the sandpit, trampoline (“jumpoline” as my boys calls it”), kick around balls, go for a walk up the road to our post box or around the dam in the paddock.
Lunch time! Usually we have simple sandwiches, leftovers, omelettes or salad. I like to do the dinner prep at the same time, be it a stew that can slow cook or vegetables cut up and rice soaking for a stir fry. On Mondays I set aside a bigger portion of time to batch cook for the week things like gluten free sourdough bread, bone broth, trays of roast vegetables, raw vegetable sticks, hard boiled eggs, healthy cookies or slice for school and a cake or fruit bread for morning tea. After lunch we have some quiet time while the baby naps, and my toddler has a nap himself or quiet play like play dough or button threading. Usually Alex and I use this time to finish off eggs or get on top of some admin tasks like emails, book-keeping, ordering, bill-paying.
Time to collect my eldest from school, we’ll stop by the hens on the way home to collect the day’s eggs – usually around 300-350 eggs at the moment. Back home for an afternoon tea snack and then a few hours of unstructured play time – sometimes we go for a walk into the paddock, potter in the garden, or get into stuck into a craft activity indoors – but usually my older boys play together outside while I get dinner ready. We have big windows by the kitchen sink so I have good view of them playing and can open the window to call to them when dinner’s ready. They love to help me pick fresh herbs, salad or veggies to have with our meal and I’ve definitely found they are more likely to try a homegrown vegetable than a bought one!
We sit down at the table to eat dinner together and some nights light a candle and set out cloth napkins to make it “fancy”. My eldest helps by setting out the cutlery, cups and a jug of water. Some nights it’s perfectly civilised and other nights (when we’re tired) there are squabbles and fussiness but we just move through it as best we can! Every second or third night the boys have a bath, otherwise its scrubbing their hands and faces and brushing their teeth. One of us will read the boys a book each and tuck them up into bed with a hot water bottle and sing a couple of hymns or lullabies. The other, usually me, is tending to baby Archie – who gets into his pyjamas, has a nappy change, long breastfeed and a lullaby.
At dusk Alex goes out to close up the hens for the night, I might put on a load of washing or soak oats for breakfast the next day. The night before a farmers market we get everything ready and pack the car. In summer we do some gardening, or I might go for a walk by myself. In winter I will draw a warm bath. I really cherish that quiet time for us as a couple; when we can have a warm drink together or a bowl of homemade ice cream, read books, and often of a Saturday night we’ll snuggle up for a movie on our laptop. We don’t own a television but we do borrow documentaries, movies and TV series from our local library which we love. I’ve actually lived for six years without a television now and honestly do not miss it one little bit.
How important are higher belief systems, stories, literature, art, family history and creative expression to your family? How do you weave these into your family life?
Three things come to mind. Firstly our love of the earth and the idea of stewardship, that is caring for something we don’t “own” but wish to see thrive for future generations. This idea underpins the way we farm and run our business, but it also encourages us to be out in nature as much as possible; getting to know our local wilderness, flora and fauna. We look forward to camping as a family more and more as the boys get bigger to have that sacred, screen-free time in the wild! The second would be the power of stories and songs. I come from a family of avid storytellers and story-lovers – my grandma had an incredible repertoire of fables, folk stories, poems and rhymes which she’d recount to us throughout the day and before bed. I am fascinated at the way we can learn about the human condition and develop empathy through the world of make believe, art and music. Recently Alex and I have been learning about how Indigenous cultures use sophisticated oral memory keeping traditions – we yearn to develop and pass on a love of storytelling to our kids and develop some of our own stories and songs about our family and our land. Finally, as followers of Jesus, our faith is immeshed with all we do. We set Sunday aside as a day of rest and togetherness; starting with homemade pancakes and fruit in the morning, a service at our local church, lunch with friends in the park or at home in the sunshine, and a slow afternoon relaxing as a family, we will often go for a leisurely bush walk too. We pray before each meal and at bedtime, and once a week, usually Sunday night, we share our consolations/desolations for the week – the best and hardest things that happened. Easter and Advent are also very sacred times for our family – I like observing Lent – the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday – and Advent – the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas – with themed stories, craft, activities, candle lighting and other traditions that encourage thoughtfulness, gratitude and wonder.
When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?
Definitely when we’re unwell or especially busy. I’m getting better at saying “no” to things during these times and try to have a string of grounding days at home to just rest and catch up on things without having to drive anywhere or juggle to many commitments I definitely struggle to be realistic sometimes about what I can get done in a single day, and am learning to hold my to-do lists lightly – to be flexible and willing to change the plans as needs arise especially when we’re unwell or stressed. I’m also getting a bit better as asking for help when we need it – not long ago Alex badly injured his back and it took ten months to properly heal – so we needed to enlist volunteers that could come help us for a few months (in exchange for board and meals), and while it was tricky having more people living in the house, it was necessary for us to be able to keep our business going! Also in Summer we are prepared for the possibility of being evacuated when there’s bush fires burning nearby – that means having our fire ready bags packed and keeping a careful eye on really hot and windy days.
Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?
Yes we do. I love the idea of “seasoning”; letting the seasons inform our family life and rhythms – farming also makes me so aware of how dependant we are on the seasons to inform our days; Autumn and Spring are our busy months when the weather is mild and the grass green and we get a lot done, Winter gives us short, colder days to rest and catch up on indoor tasks, and Summer heat prevents us from doing too much in the middle of the day when it’s so hot, but the length of days let us fit in chores before breakfast and after bedtime. We make the most of what the season offers us; both in daylight and weather, in edible produce, but also in opportunities – one of my very favourite things about Summer is being able to put the boys to bed and have enough light to wander outside with Alex and potter in the garden, chat about out days, water plants, unfurl together…
When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?
Deep breaths. A phone call to my mum. Reminding myself of the mantra “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich) – remembering that I’m doing the best I can, that there actually isn’t a perfect balance of all the needs and wants but rather acceptance of the season we’re in and a sort of gentle “tilting” or shifting of energy and focus towards each thing as it arises. I feel most restored when I’ve been able to spend time by myself – like having a long hot bath, attending a yoga class in town, or going for a walk up the nearby hills. When my second baby was born, my sweet country-town maternal health nurse told me how when she was a mum of (five) young kids and desperately needed some “time” she would walk briskly out into the paddock around her house and chop thistle weeds down, it helped her vent frustrations but also feel lively and refreshed. I laughed at the time, but you know, it’s true! There’s really nothing a good stomp out in the paddock can’t remedy!
If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be?
Oh this is hard, but if I could choose two it would be “Mitten Strings for God” by Katrina Kenison and “Storytelling for Children” by Nancy Mellon.