We are taught as kids that we should have high lofty goals for our careers and futures. We are encouraged to “reach for the stars”. You can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do! If you work hard you can succeed. Awesome, right? The American dream is still alive today!
Yet once we start a family, we are bombarded with a completely different message:
“Find a new comfort zone.”
“Survival mode is normal, and lasts for 18 years.”
“Lower your standards.”
“Your house will never be clean again”
“If you’re sleep-deprived, nutrient-robbed and have no time to yourself, you are doing it right”.
Part of being a parent is realizing that it may not be possible to reach your goals (or that the ultimate goal of nurturing a family is more important than some personal goals we may have). A lot of my “progress” as a mom for the first few years was basically making peace with lowering my own standards. (I am a natural perfectionist and I do struggle with pride). After all, moms can’t have it all (indeed, no one can). Houses will be messy, bedtimes will be late, meals will be torture. That’s what we learn as a mom.
What if all of that is a distortion of the truth?
First, let’s look back on America’s generations before us, say pre-WW2 and earlier. How was parenting different back then? I’m sure there were lots of differences but just a couple stand out immediately to me. First, there was a supportive family structure in place for most young families. Parents were more likely to be living close to Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents. It was normal and accepted that the “village” would help in child-rearing. Not to mention, most parents were simply not spread as thin between career and family.
Secondly, consumerism hadn’t taken hold of our culture. Instead of being bombarded with empty advertisements and sometimes dangerous “health” tips from a corrupt pharmaceutical industry, parents would get advice, for the most part, from the previous generation and raise their children accordingly. I can only assume there was less guilt and pressure for the most part…was the neighbor silently judging you over your fence as pervasive as the ever-present “mom wars” are today? I imagine not.
Now, I have to say right here that I understand that the above is dramatically over-simplified. I try not to look back on America’s history with rose-colored glasses, although I do sometimes feel envious of the simplicity of the past. I do know that social patterns are far more nuanced than I am describing and I have not researched these statements. Still, I think the two points stand: for the most part, there was a closer extended family unit and individuals were not bombarded with commercial messages and a corporate agenda to the extent we are now. So how does that affect the way we approach our lives as parents?
I used to think I wasn’t exactly affected by commercialism. Because I never picked up the phone to order from an infomercial, I didn’t subscribe to popular magazines, and I wasn’t likely to buy the latest thing from the mall. It’s only since I have started to work toward minimalism that I realized I was affected by commercialism in a far more subtle way.
I truly and sometimes literally bought the idea that MORE was better and that success was defined by a large house, plenty of amenities, disposable income, and carefree consumerism. This is hard to admit, because my own family has always been frugal and thrifty and in so many ways challenged the status quo. For me this dichotomy translated into a bargain-hunting version of shopaholic lifestyle. So I would try to emulate the lifestyle of excess in a second-hand, clearance rack, bargain basement way. It worked pretty well, I was able to find most of the latest and greatest at a fraction of retail. But I missed the fact that I was still buying the lie.
More stuff doesn’t make us happier. It didn’t make me happier and it won’t make you happier. For most of us, more stuff, better stuff, nicer stuff and upgraded stuff does not make our existence easier or life burdens easier to bear. It simply adds more chaos, noise, and confusion to an already complicated existence. And it perpetuates this dangerous lie to our children that collections and accumulation leads to a better life. I am working hard to end this deception in our home and I know our lives will be better for it.
Are you ready to make a change? Read more about our journey to Minimalism.