November 22, 2015

How Overwhelmed Parents can Find Joy (Again).

parent kid happy cuddle bed

An article called Why the F*ck Are Middle Class Parents This Overwhelmed recently went viral.

The essay, which references a Pew study on parental stress, theorizes on possible reasons that so many families currently report feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. Some of the theories include the fact that there are more families with two parents working full-time, and the current trend of “Pinterest parenting,” where families go all out to make their kids’ lives exciting and picture worthy.

I wonder, though, if there’s something else at play. Something that for many middle class families could be an opportunity to crawl out of the overwhelm as well as slow the drain on our planet’s limited resources.

I discovered the concept of “simple living” in my mid-twenties. When my brother died unexpectedly, the loss crushed me so much that I had to rethink most of my assumptions about life. I also was forced to slow down as I moved back in with my parents and was too grief-stricken to attend school or hold a job during that time.

In slowing down, I fell in love with the idea of a simple life, a life based on what mattered most to me instead of the pursuit of material goods and money. I was enticed by the idea that a gentle life, shorn of excess belongings and commitments, could mean less time spent working. That by being more deliberate with our spending, we could control our lives.

But as I got back on my feet in the years following my brother’s death, I life picked up. After having two kids in less than three years, I was in a sort of fog. My husband and I upsized our home—twice. As our family and our careers grew, the amount of time, money and energy it took to sustain our widening lifestyle grew. While it was happening, it didn’t even really feel like a decision. We were just doing what people did—all we had to do to justify our choices was look around at our peers, whose lives were also getting more and more chaotic, and who were moving into bigger homes and vehicles to make room.

I’m waking up from the fog, and finding my way back to my simple roots.

My husband and I recently made the deliberate decision to simplify our lives. I traded in my SUV for a Prius. We’re shaving our bills down as much as we can and selling things we don’t need. We’re limiting extra commitments for both ourselves and our kids, and we try and preserve at least one weekend day as a family day without any plans. We’ve stopped eating at restaurants and I’ve slashed my posh vanilla soy latte habit down from once a week to maybe once a month. When I need to buy something, I try and find it second-hand if possible.

We’re not alone in our quest to slow down—and in fact reclaim—our lives.

Sites like Mr. Money Mustache, Frugalwoods and the Simple Living Forums are created by and for people who’ve decided to rein in their lives. Readers’ goals range from treading more gently on the earth to being able to quit stressful jobs and being able to be as hands-on as they raise their children as possible. In other words, they’re tired of life being a treadmill, and they want to have more say in how they spend their finite days on Earth.

Our family is not perfect by any stretch. Our house is larger than what we need, and we still have too much stuff. Simplifying is a process, not a one-time event. As we settle into our new normal, we’ll continue to whittle out what isn’t necessary. I still feel overwhelmed at times, but life feels more manageable. It feels like it’s our life again, instead of a spinning ball of chaos that we can’t seem to stop.

Could thoroughly making over our lives, reassessing what we think we need and want, reduce the epidemic of overwhelm, and also lesson the strain on natural resources?




More goodness from Lynn: 

The Bad Habit that Almost Ruined My Marriage (& What I did to Fix it).

Parental Overload: A Parenting Lesson from the 1980’s.




Author: Lynn Shattuck

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Matteo Bagnoli at Flickr 

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