How doing—and buying—less may help you bring back the joy in parenting.
With two kids, a house, work, and a slate of extra curriculars, my life felt like a juggling act—and I quickly depleted my energy struggling to keep all those balls in the air.
"How do people have more than one child?" I often wondered. "One is demanding enough." When I had my first child, I totally bought into the idea that I needed to have every baby item imaginable, keep my child entertained on a constant basis, and keep all the balls in the air. But after a lot of dropping the balls, I realized that many of the demands of parenthood end up just being the demands I put on myself.
That's why I was drawn to The Minimalist Mom by Rachel Jonat (creator of TheMinimalistMom.com), which introduces the concept of "less" to modern parents: "Less stress. Less mess. More love" is the book's mantra. (Which sounds pretty good to me!)
The Minimalist Mom breaks down the areas where you can minimize into three sections: home, gear and clothing, and time, and asks us to examine what we really need, while giving us examples of how to unclutter each of the categories. For instance, the first year of parenthood should just involve being with your baby, as simply as possible—no more to-do lists. Postpartum is for learning a new schedule, sleeping when you can, and getting to know the tiny person that you brought into the world. Do you really need 100+ newborn outfits and every gadget on the market to do so? Not really. In fact, it's just a whole lot more to clean, maintain, and generally, trip over. I wonder how I might've experienced less stress if I'd been more minimalist from the get go. My daughter's nursery was stuffed with piles upon piles of clothing that she never even got the chance to wear. We had rockers, swings, bottle warmers, wipe warmers—many of those got returned to Babies"R"Us after sitting in the box for six months taking up space. I was basically stressed and overwhelmed with my unending to-do list all the time.
Planning for exactly what you need is one way to minimize. For instance, if you're having a summer baby, just a few onesies should do the trick wardrobe-wise. Hand-me-downs and used clothing are always a great idea since babies grow so quickly, and constantly buying clothing just doesn't make financial sense. Instead of having three different car seats, opt for one that grows with your child to save time and money. Also, you don't need every wrap, sling, baby carrier and stroller on the market. Chances are, you'll only use one anyway, so save yourself the space (and a few hundred dollars).
In terms of other obligations like baby and kid classes, Jonat suggests that sometimes, they can be more stressful and financially straining than they're worth. Babies and young kids pretty much think everything is new and exciting anyway, so simply meeting up with other moms and kids works just as well and helps kids learn how to make their own fun, too.
Despite our best efforts, we might not always do our best at being minimalist parents—and sometimes we might be totally overwhelmed by the stress in our lives rather than the love and the joy. That's when we have to remind ourselves to slow down. In the author's own words, "when you guard your space, money, and time when you have children, you'll simplify a lot of the challenges that new parents face. And when you make things simple, you make life a bit easier, a bit slower, and a lot more enjoyable."