The subject of parenting is the inspiration for countless books, including several shelves’ worth in my own personal library. While many of the parenting books that I own address general parenting approaches for encouraging good behavior (ahem), I was highly intrigued by the concept of the new book Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less. The title alone pulled me in, and authors Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest have done a great job affirming some feelings I’ve had as a parent, as well as introducing new ways to adopt a more “minimalist” approach in my family’s experiences.
While Koh and Dornfest do offer some concrete suggestions for simplifying family life, there is no strict, regimented prescription here. The boundaries aren’t set in stone, but the idea that parents must be thoughtful and deliberate in their family life planning runs through every chapter. The chapters address individual themes– time management, physical possessions, educational choices, enrichment/extra-curriculars, meal planning, and family leisure among them– but the tone and message are consistent throughout. In today’s society, too often are parents pressured with the idea that “more is better,” but Koh and Dornfest argue, quite convincingly, I must say, that this attitude is counterproductive to family harmony and peaceful living.
In the absence of a specific formula to follow, the authors instead lead readers through a process of evaluating, reflecting, and planning that will help them figure out what matters most to them. By following one’s own family values, the process of making decisions for one’s family becomes more authentic and meaningful. Forget the feeling of wondering what you “should” do, or signing your children up for multiple activities just because it’s what everyone else seems to do.
This book is as much about “life optimization” as it is about parenting. The prerequisite for a relaxed family life is the space in your schedule, home, and budget to be able to live it. Ironically enough, it takes work to create that space, and that’s where we come in. We’ll help you identify what matters and brings joy to your family, and we’ll show you how to clear away the physical and mental clutter that’s getting in the way. Our intention isn’t to tell you how to parent, it’s to show you how to find your own parenting “right.” (Introduction, pg. xv)
I have to admit that I’m still in the process of reading this book as of this writing, because I’m really taking my time to go through the process as I’m reading. I do believe that my family life is already a bit minimalist, but I’m hoping to benefit from certain aspects of the approach as framed in this book, specifically the chapters on clutter reduction and meal planning, which are two particular challenges for me.
I would highly recommend Minimalist Parenting to all parents, for we all are battling against the messages that tell us to buy, buy, buy and encourage us to sign our children up for extra-curricular activities six days a week. Slowing down, even just a little bit, is something we all can learn from, and this is a unique guide to assist families in adopting a minimalist approach that maximizes happiness.
It could be argued that Dawn is a parenting book junkie, but she strongly discourages anyone from following in her parenting footsteps, for the stories told on her blog, my thoughts exactly, are meant for entertainment purposes only.