When I first heard the title of Christine Koh and Ahsa Dornfest’s new book, Minimalist Parenting, I felt a wave of calm and relief come over my body. Finally, I thought, a parenting book which cuts to the chase and addresses the root of so many modern parents’ anxiety, worry and over-parenting issues, giving us the tools to manage our time based on our values and true priorities in life and family. I expected the authors would give us an opportunity to think clearly about the kinds of families we are building, and offer tools and skills to make our vision for family life a reality.
Minimalist Parenting’s main message is about living joyfully while staying true to your values:
At the heart of Minimalist Parenting is formal permission to step off the modern parenting treadmill, and to have fun while you’re doing it. You’re not blowing your children’s shot at success – just the opposite. Living a joyous life that’s in line with your values (instead of some manufactured version of “successful” modern parenthood) will give your kids room to grow into the strong, unique people they are meant to be…More importantly, this way of being will provide a model that shows your kids how to trust their instincts as they move toward independence and adulthood. Finally, Minimalist Parenting will allow you to claim space in your own wonderful life. This is your journey as much as it is theirs….As you embrace Minimalist Parenting, the roller coaster of family life goes from anxiety provoking to fun. You’ll still experience the white-knuckle drops, the ups and downs, and a few blind turns. But you’ll be strapped in with direction and confidence, and you’ll enjoy the crazy ride.
Doesn’t that just make you breathe a huge sigh of relief and start gathering your sanity again?
I most enjoyed the section in the book that helped me to identify my “time style” and offered time management exercises. One of the authors described how she and her husband didn’t discuss their different time styles until they were married for ten years! My husband and I have only been married 4.5 years. In that time, we’ve had two kids, a move to a new house, a job change and a new business. We definitely haven’t had the chance to analyze our time style differences. This book is helping us to do that now.
For example, if you were to have an ideal day off, how planned ahead would it be, how full of activity would it be and how many people would you want to see? In answering these three questions, the book offers three dimensions to consider in determining your time style — planned-ness, filled-ness and peopled-ness. For many couples, each partner’s time style would be completely opposite, affecting the success of different family scheduling practices. In our family, my husband and I differ on all three dimensions of time style as defined above. I tend to pack our schedule with activities that are planned in advance and are social in nature, because given a perfect day off, that is how I would spend it. My husband would be spontaneous, chill out and maybe see a friend at one point in the day. And our kids move more slowly than I do, too. So when I go into uber-planned, activity-filled, social mode, I am inadvertently tiring out the whole family and our older child has tantrums. This book helps me to see how considering the entire family’s time style will help me to make a more reasonable weekly schedule for our entire family.
The book also takes the reader on a journey of decluttering the home, decluttering finances, understanding the value of educational opportunities both inside and outside of school, simplifying extracurriculars, streamlining meal planning and aligning celebrations and vacations to prioritized family values.
The Minimalist Parenting website offers a free online MinCamp, which may be a great way to start your journey. Another idea is to work through the book with parents from your moms group, school community or neighborhood, book-group style.