One secret that seems to be hiding in plain sight is that simplicity can be an antidote to stress. Many parents seem to find themselves in a perpetual cycle of lifestyle inflation while they chase after the "American dream." If they get a raise, their lifestyle rises along with it and they remain living paycheck to paycheck. Stressed about money, parents work full-time jobs and send their kids to expensive daycares. More money doesn't seem to solve the problem and the stress keeps building and building.
But do we really have to live this way? Can we just opt out? Sometimes to move forward we actually need to take a few steps back. For those of us wanting to opt-out of the stressful rat race, it is time to return to a more simple way of conducting our affairs. Do we really need large cars, big homes, and fancy vacations? No. We can trade those in for a more simple, humble lifestyle that centers around relationships, sustainability, and connectedness to nature. We don't need much money to live that way.
In the hustle and bustle of life, we can become intoxicated with the idea of achievement and accumulation of material wealth. We mistake accumulating wealth as true security but we don't question the whole point of it. If our life is stressful, what is the point of adding more money in order to continue the stress? What we would be doing if accumulating money didn't add value to our lives? Would we be working so hard or selling so many hours of our time in exchange for money?
What if we just let it go and simplified our lives drastically by:
Eating simple, homecooked meals
Letting go of too many possessions
Spending time with friends and family
Spending less $$ and reusing/recycling/DIY
Letting go of our appearance/keeping up with the Jonses
What if we could downsize so much that only one partner has to work or if in a single-parent household, one parent can just work part-time? What if you don't have to look, act, or buy in a certain way? Could owning less actually help us feel less stressed out?
Everyone's situation is different. People have varying levels of privilege and disadvantage. There are barriers that unfairly keep people in low-wage jobs that force them into poverty which is very stressful. People living in poverty already, out of necessity, live frugal lives and are unable to spend much beyond their means.
Acknowledging the barriers and disadvantages that some people have, I believe it is still worth considering if simplicity can provide some benefits. People who come from poverty/low income (I include myself in this category) can sometimes try to overcompensate by trying to get the best of everything because they feel like they missed out before. This can trap them in the rat race and despite earning a higher income, they can end up spending all of their money on houses/vacations/possessions that they don't really need. They have a void they feel the need to fill and they desperately want their children to have access to the things they never had growing up.
We could all benefit from evaluating if our life and lifestyle is truly in line with our values. If our values are simple (e.g. spending time with family, being in nature, eating healthy food) then we don't really need much. A small home to shelter us, clothes to keep us warm, and access to enough food to nourish us. There is no reason to overcomplicate it. Even with kids, a more simple, wholesome life is possible. Children become accustomed to the life their family lives. If a child grows up in a simple home with a humble life, that will be what they will be used to. If a child grows up in a large home with tons of extracurricular activities and gadgets, that will be what they expect from life.
Are the gadgets and extracurricular activities giving them an "edge"? See previous blog post: https://www.presenceperinatal.com/post/how-slow-parenting-might-be-the-fastest-way-to-happiness
Does a wealthy life filled with possessions, travel, expensive education, huge homes, etc give children a better childhood? I can't tell you the answer to this because there are too many variables. One thing I can say, though is that most likely once a child is out of abject poverty and/or a dangerous environment and has all of their basic needs met, a child can grow up healthy anywhere. What truly matters (e.g. time with family & friends, access to healthy food, clean water, safe outdoors to explore, materials to play with, people to learn from) can all be available in a simple life. I mean, Abraham Lincoln grew up in a log cabin with just one room. American houses, on average, are 2,300 square feet for just 2 people!
What do we really need, anyway? What is most important to us? And most importantly, what are we sacrificing to chase money that we spend on things that aren't important? I invite you to ponder these questions.