If you want a book that makes you feel awesome about doing less, pick up Minimalist Parenting by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest. Or if you are already a rock star at managing a full schedule, read it still. Seriously.
I was at our public library not long ago and stumbled across this gem of a book. The tagline says it all “Enjoy modern family life more by doing less”. (Actually, the book had me at “minimalist” and “parenting” in close proximity). I suspect that if I surveyed my peers on the negative emotions most often experienced as parents, some top choices would be “overwhelmed”, “guilt” and “fatigue”. Our modern life is an overwhelming world of choices and information. As parents we have more information and resources available to us than any generation before. And not just with information but in material affluence and, dare I say, “stuff”? You can buy pre-made, crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your kid for goodness sake!
The overwhelm feeds into the guilt because we know we can’t keep up, we can’t possibly provide all the good things for our kids that are available. Most of use are so busy when we do have time that is not scheduled, all we can feel is fatigued.
My husband and I have felt strongly for quite some time that we don’t want our children’s extracurricular activities to be the ruler of our family life. We are protective of our family time at home together. We all need our time to relax and recharge. Over the years, especially as our kids are getting older and their peers are busy with sports, dance, karate, music and the like, we often have felt the parent guilt. When this happens, we often need to take a step back. look at our values, our budget and carefully select our commitments. Or we carefully select NOT to make commitments. I’ll be honest, I have felt like the odd parent out often. This summer is the first time any of our kids have been in an organized sport. Our 9-year-old is on the summer swim team. And it was a really great experience for all of our family. Going forward, we will continue to be very thoughtful about our commitments to activities. We do better when we have unstructured space and time to be together. More time for spontaneous family adventures to the park. More time for our kids to make up elaborate games with the neighborhood crew.
A main theme of Minimalist Parenting is that parenting is a path as unique as you are. It is a book of encouragement, suggestions and guidelines. No absolutes. Parents and children need to practice listening to their OWN inner voices rather than all of the outside voices. Trust that you know what is best for your family, pursuing that and then being able to LET GO OF THE EXTRA. We spend too much energy on extra distractions, extra things even extra expectations that really no one cares about.
Two favorite phrases from the book are Course correction beats perfection and Make room for the remarkable. If I was all Pinterest-y I would make these phrases into wall art.
As I was reading this book, I kept stopping and reading sections out loud to my husband. It was validation that maybe we had been on the right track all along. There are other parents out there who feel the same way! Many of us are overwhelmed and ready to simplify to what really matters. And what really matters are happy, balanced, well-adjusted kids who feel a part of a loving family. Families who seek experiences not the newest toys. Kids whose birthday parties may be a store-bought cake at the city park and just time for kids to run amok. Party favors? Just say no. (Music to my ears.)
I gleaned a lot of great ideas from this book and look forward to continuing to implement and learn more about minimalist parenting. Sections I felt extremely helpful as a working mom were the sections on meal planning and cooking. Koh and Dornfest include helpful exercises in taking inventory of how you are currently spending your time and energy as a family. And from that inventory, there are concrete suggestions of how to make changes to align your time more closely with what you REALLY value. The book is peppered with great comments, ideas and wisdom from parents.
So keep up to good fight my dear readers. You are uniquely called to be the parent of your children. You have gifts that they need and our children can help us grow in innumerable ways. Simplifying our lives and our possessions allows us more space and time to really experience the joy of family life. Koh and Dornfest’s Minimalist Parenting is wonderful encouragement amidst the overwhelm of modern parenting. I’m now recommending it to everyone.
We aren’t slackers – we are minimalists!!! (And minimalism is so hip right now).
Here’s to making room for remarkable!
In health and joy,
Learn more about the authors, the book and check out their podcast at minimalistparenting.com
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