This is the 3rd week in Attachment Parenting month so the question for Green Moms Weekly is once again about AP. This week the question is: What is it about being an attached family that lends itself to a minimalist parenting style? Are you criticized by others wondering why your children don’t “have the hottest new item?”
I hope this post is not too redundant since I have addressed this subject many times before.
My own love of minimalism and going minimalist with kids probably stems from a few different things. First would be my desire to live green. Consumption of less stuff and reusing what you have instead of buying new is green and minimalist. They go together like peas and carrots.
The second reason why I love minimalism… it is liberating! Working tons of hours to afford the really nice house instead of the perfectly sufficient one or working to fund a neverending list of wants from all family members is a form of slavery. You are letting yourself be enslaved by the media and my popular culture. It is amazingly freeing to be able to step outside that mindset and see that you are happier not chasing after that shallow dream. So many people today are like hamsters on a wheel and some of us are fortunate enough to one day stop, get off the wheel, and realize we have no desire to ever get back on. Minimalism is a tool that keeps the important things in the forefront so we aren’t tempted to get back on that wheel.
So how does that work when your kids are being bombarded by media and popular culture.. which tells them the way to happiness is the accumulation of stuff? It is pretty easy actually. Just live your values and explain to your kids why you make the decisions you do.
My third reason for lovng minimalism would probably be my desire to make the monumental job of parenting and living as stress free and enjoyable as possible. Parenting is oodles easier when you you don’t live amongst lots of clutter and you don’t have to work your life away to afford everything the media says you or your kids should have. This is perhaps why AP and minimalism get along so well too. It is easier to connect with your kids when you actually have time to spend with them and you or they are not engaged on some electronic device or some other diversion that society persuades us is important.
Because my two youngest have always been raised pretty minimalist they are very well adapted to the lifestyle. My oldest is a harder sell because he remembers the years we spent running on that hamster wheel and going into debt to buy oodles of useless crap. With him we have to justify our decisions quite often… like over, and over, and over again. We work hard for the “needs” in life and we are quite honest about the fact that we choose not to work any more hours than we have to, to buy “wants”. We want to model liberation and non-conformity so that our kids will not one day think they need to keep up with the Jones’s or go into debt to have the latest and greatest of everything. The smartest way to live IMO is to make the conscious decision to enjoy what you have right now, right here. When you are happy with what you have then the world is abundant, there are no limits, and you are rich.
Okay… so what does that mean literally? Well for us it means having a sparsely decorated home and fewer possessions. When I start having a problem finding a home for kitchen gadgets and utensils I know it is time to get rid of some. When the laundry starts to get overwhelming I decide it is time to pare down and I ask the kids to tell me what clothes they LOVE and what clothes they only wear because they are there. When the toy box gets overstuffed, some toys have got to go. It means visiting the library every week so that the bookaholics in the family are satiated. Gifts are given on holidays and birthdays and that is pretty much it unless we find a deal we cannot pass up (used sports equipment for instance). It means requiring our kids to help out with household cleaning and other tasks and paying them for these services so that they can get used to earning money and spending it wisely. It also means requiring them to use their money to pay for their own expenses… like pet food or blown bike tubes AND not advancing them money for larger purchases because that is like kiddie credit. This allows them to see what it is like to have to budget in the needs before the wants and to not spend what they do not have. It often means waiting until gadgets and toys can be bought used or an older, cheaper model is available.
The goal of attachment parenting is not to keep kids dependent on or too attached to you as they grow but rather to give them the foundation they need to have confidence in their own choices and decisions. Raising them minimalist lends a helping hand by teaching them not to be slaves to media and the ideals of a culture obsessed with consumption.
Books I LOVE about minimalism and simple living:
Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Childhood and the Joy of Parenting
What about you? What works for your family?
Read how some other moms answered this question and even join in yourself, if you want, at Happy Green Babies and Natural Moms Talk Radio.
This is week two of the attachment parenting discussion between Green Moms Weekly… all in honor of Attachment Parenting month. The theme of AP month 2011 is Families at Play so the question this week is: What are some fun, simple, activites that you engage your children with?
I have to admit that I am not terribly great at “play”. I do lots of stuff with my kids and I am a very attentive and involved parents but actually playing with my kids has always been a struggle for me. Sure we play around often with tickling or thumb wars, little stuff like that, but kicking a ball around in the yard, playing catch, or playing dolls or dinosaurs is not really something that comes easy to me. So for me it does take some planning to make sure my kids actually see me being a playful parent. Some of the ways we play are below…
Board Games – This kinda play is a-okay with me. We have lots of games and we play pretty often. It could be UNO or could be an educational game that teaches about medicinal uses for herbs. Its all good! My husband, my two older kids, and I all play online games as well. Hubby plays with our oldest son and my daughter and I often play together as well.
Car Games – Long drives are a great time to play as well… SlugBug (with no hitting), I Spy, the license plate game. We love them, they give us an opportunity to play, and they keep kids occupied.
Nature Play- Every year we do a series of winter hikes put on by our local Metro Parks system. There are usually about a dozen or more and they are a great way to see every park in full winter glory and be together as a family. By playing nature identification games along the way and by encouraging everyone to compete against their own hike times it makes it more fun for everyone. We also go sledding a couple times a year. This year we plan to try a new adventure and go Snow Tubing at Mad River. Can’t wait!! If we can find some good, used equipment we would also like to start cross country skiing and snowboarding.
In the warmer months we play together at festivals and do other organized activities. Indoor and outdoor golf is something we all love. Mini golf as a family and the driving range with Daddy for my two oldest. My husband and son like to attend Big Game Day at a local paintball place too. Despite my aversion to be bruised from head to toe by paintballs, I have decided to attend the next one in the spring with them. It was important to my son to share his love of this game with both parents. So now I have to find some second hand fatigues and it is ON!
This past weekend we took the kids apple picking again and we had a blast running through the orchard rows and lifting the kids so they could reach the highest (and juiciest apples). It was also fun to kick errant apples out of the main walkway so no one would trip on them. This upcoming weekend we plan to push our kids around inside tractor tires at Pigeon Roost Farm.
Indoor Play – We have at least one hard core roller skate/roller blade enthusiast and it makes sense since both my husband and I skated several hours a day for most of of our childhoods and many of our dates were spent at skate parks. Taking the kids to roller rinks is fun for all. We are also lucky to have indoor water parks that can be used during any weather. Spraying each other with water, riding double on the lazy river, going down terrifying water slides and screaming, together … it is what occupied the latter half of this past weekend actually. For any Columbus locals who read, we went to Coco Key Water Resort at Cherry Valley Lodge. LOVED it! We actually live 5 minutes away from the Fort Rapids Indoor Water Park but CoCo Key has frequent specials and group buy deals. We just bought 5 more days passes to Coco Key yesterday (via a group buy site) that we will use around Christmas time.
Affordable Fun – I know some people hate group sites like Groupon and Living Social but we use these sites primarily to buy tickets for events and play opportunities. Water resort passes, tours at historic places, museum passes, mini golf, paintball 2 for 1 deals, skiing passes, etc. It makes it a lot easier to play when you can afford to do really fun stuff and these sites can make that possible for 50-60% off the normal prices.
So, that is how we get our play on… what about you? How do you play with your kids?
This post is part of Green Moms Weekly. Join yourself by blogging about the weekly question or read what other moms have to say including Rachel at Happy Green Babies (this is where you can join in), Carrie at Natural Moms Talk Radio, Terry at Green Choices for You, and Emily at The Crunchy Coach. Enjoy!
October is attachment parenting (AP) month. You may or may not be familiar with this style of parenting but many green, natural, crunchy, granola parenting types are. It seems to mesh really well with lots of the other things we hold dear. A group of green/natural mom bloggers have recently gotten together to form a weekly column called Green Moms Weekly and the first question that was posed to the group honors attachment parenting month. The question is “How do you balance your busy lifestyle and manage to keep a focus on attachment parenting?”
For me, AP it is about letting my mommy instincts direct my actions. As a younger mom I loved to hold my babes close to me and breastfeed. I let them do this until they were ready to stop, to honor their need for this closeness and because I knew that breastmilk was the best nourishment for them. My mommy instincts also told me to go to my babies when they cried and that is what I did, ALWAYS. I never listened to mainstream advice that babies need to be on schedules and that letting them cry alone will teach them independence. I let them sleep with me as long as they wanted because it was easier on both of us. Mainstream advice that declares you will never get kids out of your bed once you let them in is just a bunch of hogwash. When my kidlets cried and wanted to be held when I needed to make dinner of do some other chore, wearing them on my back allowed me to meet their need for attention AND get my work done. When they misbehaved I knew that deciding I didn’t want to strike them wasn’t going to result in a brat… despite what all the “spare the rod, spoil the child” folks had to say. For me AP is all about listening to my instincts and my heart.
So why the question about how to balance a busy lifestyle and still be an attachment parent? Well, AP is “get off your butt parenting” in my mind. The contrary advice to let kids cry it out, stick them in bouncing seat when you need to do dishes, spank them when they run into the street, and give them a more convenient bottle is all a way to make parenting easier for us, but not necessarily better or easier for the child. An attached parent will likely create a family bed so that everyone can sleep together. They will wear their babies in a wrap or hold them instead of delegating that duty to a swing or bouncy seat. They breastfeed and/or pump well into the toddler years because it is important to their child and it is the best source of nutrition. They will be supervising their child closely so that the running into the street moment can be used to gently teach and coach. In fact they anticipated that moment because they have gotten good at reading their child. Because they always use their words instead of their hands… their kids respond well to reasoning. Hitting becomes a senseless and irrational choice.
Attachment parenting is very involved parenting, and for that reason it can sometimes conflict with the more hurried pace of lives today. I don’t know that what works for us will work or other attached parents but I know we have made many very conscious decisions to slow our pace of life and give our kids the attention they need and desire. Being too busy for attachment parenting isn’t an issue when you simply make sure you are never too busy. We wanted to stay attached at the heart AND live our best lives. I became a stay at home mom so that I could be the primiary caregiver for our kids. This allowed me to breastfeed exclusively and for extended periods of time. I chose natural childbirth for my last two births and we kept interventions to a minimum so that bonding and breastfeeding could happen immediately after birth. I wore two of my babies in slings and wraps and all of them slept in bed with me. My 5 year still does quite often. We decided early on to always try and use positive discipline methods and to respect our kids. We tried to find ways to meet everyone’s needs simultaneously and sometimes that was a lot of work.
Balance was much harder when our kids were young because very often we had to compromise and make sure their needs were met first and foremost. Their need to co-sleep trumped my need for not getting kicked in the stomach at night. Their inability to handle the excitement of traveling meant we had a staycation instead of a vacation. My husband’s need for a sane, well rested wife was trumped by the needs of a small infant who who used me as an all day milk buffet, which meant I was often hormonal and tired. I guess I feel that when our children are young they should be the priority. Aka breast feeding even if your dog tired or co-sleeping even when you’d rather have your husband all to yourself. As my kids get older I think they benefit more from seeing parents who love themselves, take care of themselves, and have varied interests that they actively pursue. I also think it is important for them to see that their parents prioritize each other too. As they get older they benefit less from having a shadow to meet their every need and more from seeing good examples of others doing and living for themselves. We don’t tell them how to live, we just live, and we let them watch. So in terms of priority for the first five or so years of their lives it was all about them. Now the priority list looks somewhat different but it works well because the foundation was so well laid, they are happy independent kids that are accepting of that much needed shift.
To keep things balanced and attached now, we mostly just have to listen. We listen to them daily, carving out certain times that are distraction free, and we stay attached by staying in the loop. We help with homework and we stay connected to teachers. We homeschool when or if we need to. We put our family before “things” and “stuff” so this means we work as little as we can and make do with less. Our kids may have fewer toys and electronic gadgets than the kids next door but we have more time to spend with them. We have a neighbor child who is always bragging about her toys and video games, trying to goad my children but then every weekend this same child looks at us longingly as we pull out of the drive to go apple picking, to a Pumpkin Festival, to a movie, or to some other local event that her own parents don’t have time for. I know how lucky we are and I think our kids do to. Balance is about spending time doing activities with them and yet allowing them to pursue their own independent activities when they need and want to. For us it is also about knowing which child needs a bit more attention and giving it to them. Since we have two a-typical kids… one with some severe developmental and speech delays and one with high functioning autism, it is helps greatly to be flexible and unhurried in our daily lives.
For us, life during these years of their development is less about balance and more about figuring out how to stay tuned in to them as we ALL become more independent and find new priorities and interests. I am sure it will be no less exciting than the baby and toddler years. In fact I am sure it will be even more so because with older kids it really does feel like we are all in this together… this wild and crazy journey called life.
Leave a comment to tell me how you stay connected to your kids in this fast paced life and be sure to visit the other Green Moms Weekly to read about how they answered this question. Enjoy!
A reader recently asked me if I felt it was better to raise kids with less space and stuff. I have written about this several times but my posts on Minimalist Children, Helping Kids See Past Commercialism , and Simplicity Parenting come to mind. I am no parenting expert by any means and my kids manage to throw me for a loop all the time but in regards to this issue I think my husband and I have found something that seems to work very well for us. It was a journey to get there though. We certainly didn’t start our married lives or our family with any intention of being minimalist anything.
When we got married we did what many new couples seem to do in this day and age… we got ourselves into debt because we felt entitled to the big house, new cars, and nice things right from the moment we said “I do.” Our grandparents and likely our parents had to work their way up to having nice things and nice homes. If they wanted a big TV and new car they worked their arses off and raised the money for it. It they wanted to go on a family vacation they saved all year for it and paid for everything in cash. Now though the attitude that we deserve all the nice possessions and fancy vacations even before we have worked hard for them seems to prevail. It was only a couple years after marriage that we found ourselves drowning in debt. All the nice things we charged to credit cards did not make us happy. Our first child was barely two before we started thinking about bailing out on each other because life was just too stressful. We did kind of bail out on each other I guess because my husband took a job were he traveled all but 4-5 days a month. We had to find a way to pay for all this debt after all.
Because we felt we were entitled to it all, it makes logical sense that we passed this on to our first child. The kid filled an entire walk-in closet (the size of a bedroom in our current house) full of his toys and there were plenty more to bleed all over the house. Literally every single time I went to the store (which was a lot) I bought him more toys and clothes.
I am not sure exactly what caused us to shift our lifestyle exactly but I think learning about attachment parenting and green living helped move us toward a new understanding and life philosophy. Maybe we were just sick and tired of messy finances, clutter in our lives, and spending most of our days apart because we were reckless and irresponsible. Either way we changed.
Shortly after the birth of our third child my husband returned home and took a local job. I had created a business working at home and felt a sense of accomplishment and pride I hadn’t felt in a long while. We were suddenly debt free and not wanting to make the mistakes we had in our past. We financed a new “used” car but paid it off in only 6 months. We paid for a second vehicle with cash. We got rid of all credit cards. We decided to downgrade our home and move into one with barely over 1000 square feet. We now live in one with 1100 square feet. ;) We found new forms of entertainment that didn’t revolve around spending money. We nixed buying the kids anything unless it was a birthday or holiday. The perks I get from blogging are an exception, although 8 times out of 10 we donate the stuff as soon as we review it. We buy all our clothing at thrift stores. That was very drastic but for my two youngest it is just the way life is and they don’t see anything wrong with it. Our older child has had a much harder time with it because he remembers the days of excess. He has tossed around words like cheap and selfish when he cannot get something he wants. We don’t budge because we KNOW we are on the right track.
We know this because our marriage has improved 100% and our daily stress has gone down to almost nothing. Our kids are still happy and healthy even though they aren’t being bombarded with all the new toys and gadgets of this consumerist society. Of course there is still room for improvement. As I mentioned before, we are still on the messy side where finances are concerned. But we no longer spend more than we earn and we don’t have debt. Just recently we started putting money away for emergencies and retirement the way we should have been doing all along. We buy Amazon gift certificates once a week before the holidays so that everything is prepaid and we have no issue getting the kids what they want. And we don’t go crazy. They get one big ticket item and one small item. If they get lots of gifts from family then they have to donate some other stuff so that it evens out.
We went from stress, clutter, overspending, and lots of unhappiness and did a 180 with our lives. Here are a few of the ways we handle things now and make life more minimalist and manageable.
- When something new comes into the house, something else needs to be sold or donated.
- Kids are expected to work around the house daily (15 minute clean-up) AND keeps their rooms clean.
- Furniture and personal belongings are kept to a minimum so that cleaning is easy to manage.
- If you can’t keep your room clean you have too much STUFF and some of it needs to go.
- If we don’t love it and use it often then we can do without it.
- Everything needs a place to call home, preferably one that its out of sight.
- Buying used is always preferable to buying new.
- We don’t DO fancy round these parts. Simple and easy is more our style.
- Limit media consumption so that demands for new “stuff” wanes.
- Act like a one car household by sending hubby to work with the keys to the other vehicle.
- If you are bored… read.
- Feeling antsy? Exercise or play a game.
- Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.
What works for you? I would love to hear!
A Guest Post by Joella
My pregnancy with my daughter was unexpected. My husband (fiancé at the time) and I planned on having children eventually, but hadn’t given much thought to it, since we thought that “eventually” was still a few years away. Sure, we’d spent enough time discussing our views on parenting that we were confident we were mostly on the same page, but we certainly hadn’t nailed down the specifics.
As I spent time researching all the choices out there, I’d come to him with what I’d learned, sometimes nervously anticipating his reaction. I knew he supported breastfeeding, but for how long? What would he think about child-led weaning, or nursing in public? I knew that he was an environmentalist to some degree, but would he think cloth diapers were taking it too far? What about co-sleeping and bed-sharing? Would he be on board?
Perhaps the most nerve-wracking discussion of all was about what we’d feed our daughter when she was ready for more than my milk. He understood and supported my vegetarianism. He was a vegetarian himself when we first met, and willingly agreed to maintain a vegetarian household when he moved in with me. What about our daughter? Would he support a vegetarian diet for her, too?
My nerves were un-warranted. His main concern was that our daughter would not feel pressured into maintaining a dietary choice such as vegetarianism against her will. We agreed to raise her as a vegetarian until she is old enough to comprehend the process –all the way from living breathing animal to lifeless cut on a plate- by which meat becomes meat.
So far, for the most part, it’s been a rather simple parenting choice to uphold. We’re both mindful and knowledgeable enough about nutrition to ensure that she gets everything she needs from a vegetarian diet. Our own parents, while they may not understand our decision, are respectful and supportive of it. Our part-time daycare provider does a great job of communicating with us about the lunch menu at daycare. When meat is on it, we provide our daughter’s lunch.
Of course, we get the occasional good-humored “joking” comment that our daughter “looks like she wants a hamburger” or that she’ll rebel by marrying a butcher. We sometimes get curious questions about what she eats. I always answer that she eats whatever I eat, and that I eat whatever I want!
There is a misconception that vegetarian diets are complicated or include lots of strange foods. Yes, we eat things like tofu and tempeh, but I find those far less strange to eat than liver or legs! At 14 months old, my daughter enjoys everything from burritos to lasagna, stir fry to omelets, sandwiches to spaghetti, and stew to curry. She even gets to eat typical kid fare like “chik’n” nuggets and pizza.
At this point in her life, it’s relatively simple to control what she is offered and exposed to. Since we fix her plate for her, it’s easy to avoid having meat within her reach. I’m sure my mom feels like I’m playing twenty questions when I inquire about what they’ll be eating while my daughter is in her care, but non-vegetarians don’t always think of obscure non-vegetarian ingredients like gelatin in marshmallows or meat-based broths in “vegetable” soups.
As she grows more curious and independent, we’ll need to be ever more vigilant about what goes into her mouth. She might mistake an actual chicken nugget or hamburger for the convincing veggie substitutes she’s accustomed to. When she starts asking why certain foods that other people eat (even her father, occasionally) are off-limits, we’ll begin explaining in an age appropriate manner that we value animals as friends, not food, and start making basic connections between the animals she sees on the farms on the drive out to her grandma’s house and the food items that we’d prefer she pass by until she fully understands them.
The main argument that people make against our decision to give our daughter a vegetarian start in life is that it should be her choice whether or not she wants to be a vegetarian. I couldn’t agree more. I won’t deny that if the day comes that she decides to add meat to her diet, I’ll be a little bit sad, but I will support her decision so long as it is an informed one. By raising her as a vegetarian until she can make that decision for herself, we are giving her a choice: a choice to have been a life-long vegetarian from conception, a choice few people are offered. I’m confident that whether she grows to embrace my vegetarian values or not, she’ll appreciate and have respect for where her food comes from, an appreciation and respect that is all too often lacking in the world today.
Joella writes Fine and Fair, a blog of letters to her daughter. Fine and Fair is focused on the ups and downs along the journey of raising her daughter as a responsible citizen of the world with the values of compassion toward all living things, environmental responsibility, conservation, and celebrating diversity in all of its forms. Fine and Fair can also be found on facebook and twitter.