Slowing Down

slow_down.jpgI recently read a post over at Green Bean Dreams that talked about all the little things one can do to live more simply (an excellent resource of ideas, btw). At the start of her post she talks about convenience foods and how tempting they can be for families going through the rush of daily life. One thing she didn’t expand upon (though not deliberately, as she mentions in the comments section) was this concept of the busy life and how it turns the notion of convenience into a perceived necessity. Green Bean writes: “Can you eschew these conveniences and still get to work on time?“. I’m going to suggest that the key to eschewing such things is to slow down and bring more Time into your life.

1. According to surveys, most families have two full-time working parents. There are various excuses for this situation; around here it’s blamed on the high cost of housing. And while I don’t deign to pass judgment on those whose socioeconomic status removes them from my realm of experience, when it comes to the middle class the statistics appear to tell a different story. When you consider how rampant consumerism is in our society, then factor in the debt we accumulate to fuel our consumer desires, it would appear that perhaps dual-income families are really just stuck in a vicious cycle – earn more, want more, borrow more, buy more, owe more…and so work more. If you ask many of these families why they both work they’ll say they need the money. But do they? How much of a family’s decision to send both parents away from home for 40+ hours per week is based on misguided notions about what constitutes a reasonable standard of living?

2. And what about our kids? Remember the book The Overscheduled Child? The concept was, not surprisingly, debated heavily. But the simple truth remains: children and families have only so many hours in a week to spend together. Even if one parent is at home full time the kids will be in school for approximately 42% of their waking hours each week. Add in transportation time, extracurricular activities, and homework and this number increases greatly. Just by cutting down on those activities we can bring in many more hours of free, unstructured time for ourselves and our children.

3. Most families consider school to be a given. In fact, to consider not sending your child to school is to immediately be met with concerns about deprivation – lack of socialization and all that jazz. But homeschooling is just one option (albeit one with so many variations in terms of implementation that it alone presents numerous choices). Distance education programs, distributed learning schools, and various alternative schools exist in many places that provide children with more time to spend on activities that mean something to them. The preponderance of extracurricular activities begs the question: why aren’t kids getting these needs met during the 35 hours each week that they’re in school? There are alternatives out there, and if spending time with family is a priority then researching these options could be the best way available to buy more of that time.

Admittedly, the changes I am talking about here are big steps compared to the list at Green Beans. I would say that most people might find it pretty nerve-wracking to consider changing a career, or how our children are educated. They aren’t simple decisions to make, but then again they can be. When we think deeply about what is important to us and what our priorities are, then make a commitment to honour those priorities, some of these decisions then become less frightening and more empowering. Some take a great deal of courage to implement, others may arise serendipitously. But the message I hope to get across is that most people can make these changes if they truly want to. They are aspects of life that we have power over, even though it may appear on the outside that we do not. Life is what you make it, and that’s the simple truth.


3 responses to this post.

  1. On the two working parent thing:
    There’s a hidden level to this. What constitutes “middle class” anymore? My sister and her husband both work. They have cut expenses down. They have 3 kids, all play sports that involve $$$. They forego cable TV (just get basic) and expensive things to pay for sports for the kids.
    They have been hit hard lately. Cost to fuel up the car? WAY up. Cost to heat the house? Way up. Electricity rates? Up. All of these things are out of their control.

    Now, if we move to my area of the woods, many families are working two jobs to keep up with the Joneses. Some are trying to pay of college debts. Some are just trying to afford to live in this area (Boston is pretty expensive compared to other cities).Many people are getting hit by the mortagage crisis in the area. Their fault? Yes and no…

    I think that first one is far more complicated that you can imagine. Oh, and then you have people like me. We could certainly afford for me to not work. BUT I enjoy work and the time away from the kids helps me relax and enjoy my time WITH them more.


  2. Great post! Couldn’t have written it better myself!
    I, too, believe when both parents choose work its more to “keep up with the Jones'” or this pushed marketing ploy to brainwash us to think we must have this and that to be happy. Of course there are exceptions to that as well, as sometimes both parents have no choice but to work. Tho I think, why have kids if parents won’t make those sacrifices to spend the time to raise them, yk?
    We’re going to homeschool our kids, and my husband and I are nervous as to when we let our families know. I’m sure there will be some serious opinions given our way! Its amazing how much misinformation out there on this issue.


  3. Posted by ruralaspirations on April 1, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Not every family has the same priorities. Some people like their jobs and want to keep working at them. Others want to be home full time.

    My point was that people have choices and should make those choices based on their priorities. For example, if Spacemom’s sister really didn’t want to work she might consider, for example, moving to a smaller, more energy efficient home. Or she could move to another town/city/state where cost of living is much cheaper. Now she may decide that the financial freedom such a move would bring is not worth the tradeoff of leaving her current town. And that’s fine – it’s about priorities. But she IS making a choice to stay where she is and work. She’s deciding that the benefits of staying where she is are more important to her than not working.

    I find that when I have my priorities well defined in my mind, the tradeoffs don’t seem like such a hardship.


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