How I Simplified My Parenting

I am a big fan of minimalism. The fascination started out for me mainly in the area of physical possessions. I very much like the look of less stuff. There’s hardly a better feeling to me than decluttering a room and getting rid of unnecessary things. It’s freeing. It makes me feel calmer, less anxious. Marie Kondo is my hero.

But the idea of minimalism and simplicity is about more than physical objects. Every aspect of our lives can be simplified.

To me, simplifying means cutting out the unnecessary and making time for what really matters. So in the case of physical stuff, as Marie would say, only keep things that “bring you joy!” This means you have to actually take time to figure out what exactly brings you joy, and what things are possibly worth giving up. As Ron Weasley would say: you need to sort out your priorities.

I recently decided that my parenting needed an overhaul – a simplification, if you will. I knew there were important things that I wanted to do as a mom, but it seemed like there was never time to do them. It felt more like I was trying to get through each day, rather than enjoying the precious moments with my child that I would never get back.

I’m a full-time working mom, so on the weekdays it really doesn’t leave a lot of real quality time for me to have with my son, Calvin. He’s 4 years old (4 and a HALF, I’m sure he would want me to say.) In the mornings, it’s a race to get all of us ready and loaded up in the car to get to daycare and work on time. In the evenings, it feels like a race to get dinner fixed for everyone, do the dishes (if they get done at all), and maybe have a bit of time to be together before it’s time to start getting Calvin ready for bed.

BEFORE simplifying our parenting…

We let Calvin watch t.v. in the evenings after getting home from daycare. We had previously agreed upon a set amount of t.v. he was allowed to watch (3 episodes), after he cleaned up his room. Well, by the time he cleaned his room and watched all his episodes, lo and behold, it was pretty much time to start the bedtime routine. We had even (I’m embarrassed to say) been letting him eat dinner in front of the t.v. most nights because otherwise there was not enough time for him to get all three episodes in. I felt frustrated – I knew that it was important for us to be eating at the table together as a family, but there just didn’t seem to be enough time.

Plus, there always seemed to be unfinished tasks that needed to be done: the dishes, folding laundry – and letting Calvin watch t.v. was useful in that it allowed my husband and I time to finally get some of those things completed. (At least that’s what we told ourselves.)

Our bedtime routine was as follows: a Bible story, 2 more books, brush teeth, say a prayer, and 5 minutes of (quiet) fun time (right now it’s coloring or drawing). At this point, around 8pm, we would leave Calvin in his room, tell him to be relatively quiet, and hope that he would eventually fall asleep. Many times Dean and I had something planned right after 8 (a Zoom call, a movie we wanted to watch with friends [also via Zoom], etc.) and so we would try to get started on an activity, and inevitably be interrupted multiple times by Calvin coming out to say he was scared or hungry, or that he needed to know exactly what colors we thought he should use in his coloring book (or other similar non-emergencies.) Many times he would not end up falling asleep until 9, 9:30, or even 10pm. I knew this was not ideal, but I didn’t know what to do about it. If I sat in there with him until he fell asleep, I would be late to our evening activities, and I didn’t want to make people wait on me. It felt like there were no other options.

Sorting out my priorities…

I knew that I wanted things to be different. When I got pregnant, I had dreams about the kind of mom I wanted to be, but life was not turning out to be anything close to what I imagined. I had lots of feelings of guilt, knowing that I should be doing better…

When I sat down to really begin thinking about what mattered to me as a mom, I had 3 big goals for our evenings:

  • Eat dinner at the table as a family
  • Have more quality time together as a family
  • Get Calvin to sleep earlier

I knew those were things that mattered to me, but as I mentioned earlier, there was not enough time for us to do all of those things under our current routine. That meant some things had to go. It also meant there might be some weeping and gnashing of teeth for a while as we all got accustomed to a new routine.

AFTER simplifying our parenting…

I knew that t.v. time would have to be limited more. It was the biggest reason I felt we didn’t have “time” to do the things that mattered. We told Calvin he could watch only one episode after daycare (being allowed to watch more on the weekend) and that he needed to eat dinner at the table with us.

There was resistance at first, but soon Calvin got used to the new rules. We began having conversations at the table, about the best (or worst) parts of our day – and we found that Calvin actually had a lot to say. After dinner (and maybe some dishes) we had time to do an activity as a family. Since the weather has been getting nice, we have been going on walks with our dog, Oliver, around the neighborhood. Or we might take time to color a picture together or build something with Legos.

The bedtime routine looked exactly the same, except that we began limiting how long he could just stay up and play. We gave him a time limit (15-20 minutes) that he could color or play before my husband or I would go in his room and tell him it was time to turn out the lights and lay down. We decided to sit in his room with him until he fell asleep – this avoided the issue of him being scared or trying to get up to ask us something. Honestly, it only takes about 15 or 20 minutes of him laying down before he’s asleep. With this new caveat to bedtime, we ended up having to start the routine a bit earlier than before if we wanted to be on time to our Zoom calls or other activities. It’s a small price to pay for our son getting the proper sleep he needs, and not coming out of his room to interrupt us over and over again.

Give yourself (and other parents) grace

There’s definitely more areas of our parenting that we could simplify, but I feel good about what we’ve done so far. We’re still not perfect, and occasionally Calvin still eats dinner in front of the t.v., and it’s not a big deal.

Things don’t feel as rushed, and I feel like I’m moving closer to thriving as a mom as opposed to just surviving. I know there will be more seasons of just surviving, and that’s okay. But my hope is to not stay stuck in survival mode forever, I hope for more for myself and my family – I’m sure you do too.

If you’d like more motivation or ideas for simplifying your parenting, check out the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.

Thanks for reading.

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