On this post, I’d like to delve deeper into the trap that some (most?) two-income households fall into to justify leaving children unloved all day in the care of a nanny/babysitter or daycare/preschool, while explaining how minimalism can free you from this vicious cycle and, in turn (hopefully!), help you want to stay home and care for your family.
(On future posts, I’ll talk more about our minimalism journey, plus I’ll list several benefits to being a stay-at-home mom.)
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a therapist whose ideas I’ve discussed at length on this blog and who’s a significant inspiration on my vocation as a SAHM and homemaker, is a huge proponent and advocate for a parent (most often Mom) staying home with their children during at least their first few years of life until they go to school.
She also encourages families to either homeschool (so that Mom and/or Dad can be around for the kids all day) or to be available for them after school. Her goal is to ensure that kids are never exposed to nannies, babysitters, or daycares—entities where the kids won’t be loved all day.
For the past almost 50 years, she’s promoted commonsense ideas like that on her radio shows, so it’s difficult not to trust her advice.
To her (and many like her, including me), it’s imperative that kids are LOVED all day, which they won’t experience if they’re merely looked after by a minimum-wage employee at a daycare/”pre-school” or by some random person who was hired to look after them like they’re animals or decorative accessories.
In most cases, no one can love on a kiddo all day like a parent can, which is why she’s vehemently (and sometimes entertainingly) against BOTH parents working.
A common hypothetical example she uses to illustrate the importance of a parent staying home goes like this:
Imagine you have the option to be literally born again and come back to life as a newborn. Who would you rather take care of you:
- A nanny or babysitter?
- A daycare center?
- A loving mom?
Every time she asks this question to a room full of attendees at a talk or a conference, she’s said, she also requests that they raise their hand after hearing the option that they prefer. Not surprisingly, almost everyone raises their hand after the third option.
No one can love a child like a stay-at-home parent, and it’s ridiculous to see how far society, feminists, marketing, etc. seem to go to communicate the opposite.
“If only we had more money, we could provide MORE for our kids!”
The “We need more money to provide our family with the particular lifestyle we’re used to!” is a fallacy I used to see online often until I left those circles where SAHMs who embrace traditional values weren’t welcome.
“What better way to get more money than by having BOTH parents working?” the argument continues.
But this is superficial: Kids need their parents—not the latest toy, gadget, or expensive trip.
Plus, the more money two parents earn, the easier it can be for them to fall into the “lifestyle creep” trap where their expenses increase (since they have more money to afford more things) until they get used to this new lifestyle and until their next raise.
It’s a vicious cycle:
Get paid more >> Buy more and more >> get paid more >> Buy more and more, and so on.
Instead of keeping their expenses low like they were in the beginning, or even saving or investing the new difference(s) after each raise in order to have a nice life later on, the parents trapped in this cycle start buying more and doing more now. Just because they can!
It’s a harmful cycle, a trap where the goalpost keeps moving and the children end up suffering due to their parents’ greed and pride.
This brings me into our minimalism journey and how it’s impacted our family’s way of life.
Follow me here because I promise it relates to staying at home and child-rearing, specifically the finances involved and materialism (or lack thereof).
As Dr. Laura touched on in a recent monologue, “A lot of you think that if you’re working and paying for childcare, that’s a good deal. But the taxes you pay on your salary, the money that you pay for clothes, the money that you pay for the childcare, gas, everything…”
… More often than not, going to one income might actually be cheaper, or about the same, as working full-time and paying for daycare.
Along those lines, before I left my old job and became a homemaker before our oldest was born, like many people, I used to come home after work tired and gloomy almost every afternoon. Yes, we could foolishly afford all the things, but this rhythm was taxing and it wasn’t helping my marriage.
Once I got more time to take care of my husband and our house, everything improved—even our finances.
Yes, even though we were down to one income, our family’s economics got so much better overtime! What our plans constitute exactly will stay between my husband and me for now, but suffice it to say that we’re well on our way to accomplishing some worthwhile financial goals, and it’s because we manage one salary and I stay home.
Now imagine having the seeming flexibility of two incomes, but you also come home to a spouse plus kids to tend to, a meal or more to cook, and rooms to clean ALL five+ days each week, all because you believe that that’s the only way you can give your family “everything” you think they “need.”
You’ve been instructed that following the rat race and keeping up with the Joneses is how you can provide for your family, and that how much money you contribute to your household is the only thing that shows your worth.
But what if I told you that’s wrong?
Your place as a parent—and especially as a mom–isn’t AWAY from your children but near them, to foster their growth, teach them useful things like good values and morals, and watch their development. And also to have more time for yourself so that you’re more liberated and at peace, more in harmony with your family.
Instead of arriving home frazzled after an agonizing, tiring, and/or all right workday, imagine having all day to take care of those you cherish, of having all week to nurture several aspects of your home on different days, and of having your kids’ willing help with that day’s to-dos, etc.
But before imagining all that, think of the trap I mentioned earlier: that you must have it “all” AND do it all because you erroneously believe that your children need every.new.thing or they’ll fall behind, they won’t love you, they’ll miss out, or whatever.
AND that the only way to get to that fake destination is by working outside the home and thus abandoning them all day to someone who only cares for (not loves on) them for a few bucks.
But here’s where minimalism comes in!
A minimalist way-of-thinking can help you evolve from a “Gotta have it all!” mentality to a “Gotta let go” mentality that’ll nourish your sanity and your family.
Our journey into minimalism has led us to discover some wonderful and encouraging resources, incl. my absolute favorite, Dawn from The Minimal Mom, whose main intention for turning her family into minimalists was to reduce what she calls “excess inventory” (incl. clutter and possessions they didn’t have a need for anymore or that didn’t bring them value) for them to manage.
Because when you have too much stuff laying around, all that stuff is essentially telling you to deal with it one way or another–clean it, wear it, care for it, put it away, cook in it, etc.
Therefore, the LESS stuff you have around you, the less time you have to spend addressing it. Imagine freeing yourself from SO much stuff that you have more time to just live and address only the essentials!
And that’s our family’s goal for going minimal: Having less to manage so that we can better take care of what matters.
Antonia from Balance Through Simplicity, has a neat definition of minimalism:
Minimalism (or a simplified home and life, if you don’t like the label ‘minimalist’) is about intentionally choosing less stuff to have more life.
Joshua Becker, a minimalism pioneer and author, developed a now-popular definition of minimalism that he includes in his first book, The Minimalist Home:
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.
According again to Antonia, “[Far] from being cold, empty or stark, a minimalist life* is actually richer, fuller and more rewarding in so many ways. We give ourselves time and space to explore what we love, need, want and enjoy. Often, when we really think about it, these aren’t to do with just material possessions but they’re about creating memories, personal development, learning, laughter, focus on friends and family and experiences that we can hold in our hearts and minds.
Fast cars, a bigger wardrobe and the latest designer watch will all disappear in time** but the important people and places we remember will stay with us for years.” (Emphasis my own.)
*Not to be confused with the “minimalist” aesthetic, where starkness, contrast, and straight lines dominate, a minimalist LIFESTYLE means that our family, as Antonia put it, stays “mindful, intentional and choosy” about what we do and have, why we do it, and WHY we have it.
Looks-wise, a minimalist family can decorate however they wish!
In our case, though, we focus a lot on reducing to downright eliminating clutter. We despise looking at things that don’t belong somewhere in particular and work to keep everything (except perhaps for stuff in the kids’ playroom during the day) in its place. Too much stuff laying around anywhere is stressful: by eliminating the stuff, we eliminate the stress. And yes, this works!
Back to Joshua Becker, who continues:
Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store.
But they are wrong. Embracing minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere. It values relationships, experiences, and soul-care. It lets us see all that we already have and reminds us to be grateful.
In doing so, we find a more abundant life.
Other resources I’ve found to be tremendously inspiring and vindicating are “The Minimalists” (AKA Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) and their blog, their Youtube channel, and their Instagram feed, where they share excerpts from their podcast.
See if the following lines, taken from various posts on The Minimalists blog, resonate with you:
We have too much.
Too much stuff.
Too much stress.
Too many obligations.
Yet we don’t have enough.
Not enough time.
Not enough money.
Not enough energy.
Looks like we’ve stockpiled the “wrong” things,
and that’s why we don’t have enough of the “right” things.
The path to misery is cobbled with addition.
The path to peace is uncovered with subtraction.
Our possessions possess us.
This is how we let go.
If a thing stops adding value, … trash it (as a last resort).
Once we let go, we’re able to move on.
Minimalism is not busy with doing something.
Decluttering, organizing, and paring down don’t work
unless you first find peace in doing without.
And minimalism is not focused on becoming something—
job titles and achievements merely generate a thirst for more.
Instead, a minimalist focuses on being—
being someone who returns to the natural order,
to the default state of thriving with less.
You’ve been convinced that you are lacking.
You’ve been hypnotized into believing that you are incomplete.
These are lies told to exploit you.
To sell you something.
The Truth awaits … in surrendering to the absence of wanting more.
Hopefully you see where I’m going with all this about minimalism.
What I’m trying to emphasize is that when you realize that you don’t need to have it ALL, that you’ve been sold a lie about possessing more and more, that the kids are currently NOT fine with having both parents gone all day because they value a certain lifestyle of abundance, you really start to lose that infamous “fear of missing out” while beginning to prioritize a more full life with those you love.
What a more full life with those you love looks like varies for everyone—but it rarely includes (and should never include) MORE stuff. After all, as Antonia stated earlier, things are fleeting; they go away easily but memories with loved ones are forever. And you don’t need to hold onto the stuff for the sake of a memory.
Not needing to hold onto things but valuing those we spend time with instead, should lead naturally to wanting to be with your kids all day and to cherish their company and accomplishments.
Because your family doesn’t need MORE crap, to be honest, so you don’t actually need two incomes to be able to afford it.
Your family needs YOU.