I spend much of my time here discussing parenting methodologies and creating my first home. And while being a stay at home mama is my number one job, and my boss is the best, I also get to put on my fancy pants clothes twice a week, and teach a bunch of peeps who pay to take my class. Yep, it’s a sweet gig.
I fell into teaching, kind of how I’ve fallen into most things (that year of hell in which I managed an Abercrombie & Fitch? I’m looking at you, soul-sucker fragranced hellhole.) As a kid, I never played school, preferring to play high-powered businesswoman or banker. Even in college, I majored in Art History, but intended to run a museum someday.
But somewhere in the shuffle of paying for grad school (times two, as hubby and I thought it would be brilliant to go at the same time,) and in the year before the recession truly hit, no less, I realized that full-time job security=sleep at night. So I blindly took a job teaching high school freshmen social studies. I had absolutely NO CLUE what the flip I got myself into.
But I totally loved it. Did that for two years, had a baby at the end of the second school year, moved cross-country, yadda-yah, came back to our adopted homecity. Wrote a thesis during my daughter’s first year and graduated with my master’s degree shortly after. I randomly applied for an adjunct teaching job at the school my husband went to for undergrad/grad. Somehow, I got hired on the spot for it (pretty sure they were desperate), and here I am, smack dab in the middle of my second semester of college proffing.
Again, I love teaching. It’s such an intellectual release to have adult conversations over topics that I actually know something about. To hopefully inspire some kiddos to appreciate and understand the humanities at a deeper level.
And being around college kids is just flipping hilarious anyway. I had a student mix up the words secular and sexual, much to his embarrassment. And we look at a decent amount of breasts in this class (art history, people, c’mon!), so the conversations are always ridiculous anyway. But in all seriousness, I have the best of both worlds: full-time mommyhood and night-time professorhood. I know how lucky I am, and fingers crossed, the school keeps me around for a long time.
Is parenting a battle of wills and a matter of training? Or can we learn from our children, be childlike ourselves, and understand the complexity of their little hearts and minds?
I try hard to fall in the latter category, although it’s difficult. Every day, I wake up with a cup or two of french-pressed coffee and (try) to devote myself to being in the moment with my daughter. To ignore my cell phone, to not be distracted and flit from one activity to another, to consciously enjoy our meals and rituals together.
Children, if allowed, do this so naturally. They have such focus and diligence and creativity, when we the parents stay out of their way. As a relatively young parent (and someone who has taught high school and currently college), I see the way my generation tends to parent. We hover. We narrate their every action (wow, Sally, you did a great job eating breakfast. Now you’re drinking your milk, yay!). But should we be doing so?
As I read more educational and parenting philosophy, I think that letting children simply be might be appropriate in more situations than one would think. Sometimes I bite my tongue to keep from shouting “good job,” a phrase so engrained in our society, that I’m afraid we don’t even know the difference anymore between responsibility and achievement. We’ve made them one in the same, both in our homes and schools.
So how do we let our kids be kids? As Maria Montessori said, “follow the child.” Observe, watch how they interact with their environment. Comment if you must, but keep it brief and neutral. I think there is so much to learn from our children, to understand the excitement of playing in the first snow of the season or the joy of having blueberry pancakes for dinner.
Life is truly beautiful in its simplicity, if we allow it to unfold naturally.
And as my daughter grows and meets the challenges that come her way, my jaded view of life fades away, and it is an amazing thing. Please, my friends, use today to view life through the eyes of a child. See things anew, enjoy the simple moments from what they are, and celebrate life’s triumphs as a child would.
Hello my friends, mushy-brained, distracted Boomerang Mama here with smart phone attached.at.the.hand.
Do you ever think about what image we display to our children? I often worry that my daughter will grow up and remember me not for my silly jokes and great hugs, but that there was always a sleek black box in my hand, distracting me from being in the moment with her.
Perhaps these are just my insecurities surfacing. Or perhaps I’m just realizing how much time and brain power a little tech gadget can steal. Last night, the hubs and I cuddled together on the couch, all cozy under a knitted afghan. Were we chatting, watching a movie, or perhaps reading? Nope, just “playing” on our separate smart phones, to the tune of two hours.
I can’t believe I just admitted that.
I’ve tried hiding my phone from myself, but that doesn’t work. I’ve deleted apps, removed notifications, and even turn it off from time to time. But like any other addict, I worry about it, think about it, and take it EVERYWHERE. (Seriously peeps, even to the potty.) My daughter knows my weakness, even at age 2, and tries to wrangle some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse watching out of her phone-obsessed mom.
Yup, time to cut the cord.
So I’ll be seeing my parents this weekend, and my gracious mother is bringing her old LG flip phone to me. I’m going to switch over, and I’ll let you know how the smart phone detox goes. Hopefully, my brain recovers the ability to follow directions (without Google Maps), remember things (without my beloved Out of Milk app), and can dream and decorate (without reading Apartment Therapy, checking Pinterest, and gazing at houses on Houzz.)
Wish me luck,
In the summer of 2010, my husband and I went through a small financial crisis. He was a recent graduate with his master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. We were new parents and had also just moved cross-country for my husband’s fellowship year (CFY.)
Our daughter’s birth, the move, setting up a new (rental) home all cost gobs of money. Money that we didn’t have. July rolled around and so did our student loan notices. In 6 short months, we would have to start making payments on my husband’s quite massive loans.
So we sold over 50% of our belongings, moved in with my parents for 7 months, paid off about $5000 in debt, put another $5000 in savings, and financed a move cross-country back to our old stomping grounds.
It felt liberating to get rid of so much stuff. And with each move we’ve had since, we have continued to pare down our belongings. Inspired by other writers like Francine Jay and Joshua Becker, we’ve also embraced minimalism as our family lifestyle.
So how does minimalism look in a home with 2 adults, 1 toddler, and 2 lazy Welsh Corgis?
- Own enough to be comfortable, but not too comfortable: We make sure that all of our basic needs are met, first and foremost. This means good quality clothing and shoes (but not in massive quantities), healthy and nutritious food, and activities to exercise our minds and bodies. But we don’t buy stuff just because we can. This means our closets, cabinets, and drawers are not overstuffed or even full. Our home has room to breathe, and so do we.
- Keep a Simple Home: We don’t own knickknacks, keep collections of things, or allow our one (very large) bookcase to become too full. Although we love art (and my background is in art history), we only have a few much loved pieces of art and family photos on the wall. The majority of our walls are bare and are painted bright white as a soothing background for our furniture and art. Nothing in our home is fancy, but it is well-kept, classic, and harmonious with everything else.
- Everything Has a Place: We’ve worked very hard to build a simple organization system for our house. My daughter’s toys are stored in two plastic bins in her closet, and I rotate her toys every couple of weeks. If she isn’t playing with something, then I put it away. This means that she has 5-7 items available at a time, nothing more (but not including books, we are a family of book lovers!) Clothes are put away immediately, and we have one laundry basket for the entire household. This means 1)wearing clothes more than once and 2)keeping up on laundry.
- Goodwill is our Friend: We don’t mess around with clutter. If something isn’t a necessity or adding beauty to our home and lives, it goes. We try to find friends or other organizations that can use our unwanted things, but inevitably some of it goes to Goodwill. We rarely donate anymore because we’ve pared down so much. But every few months, we paw through our closets and drawers and make sure we’re only hanging on to stuff that is needed.
Since become minimalist, we have more time to spend together, less cleaning to do, and we just feel happier in our home. Our belongings do not control our lives anymore, and it is so freeing to not have a bunch of stuff to clean, maintain, and worry about. I strongly believe that minimalism can be beneficial for any family and leads to a calmer, more simple and family-centered home.