Minimalism, motherhood and women’s rights

madi-robson-113926There is more to life than shoes. Back in 2007 and 2008, I wrote a weekly column for a mass website called The Vine – it’s still around today but most of my posts have been deleted.

At about 23 years of age, I was pretty obsessed with things like shoes and clothing, as well as going to parties and seeing my friends.

I knew of feminism but I didn’t really understand it the way I do now.

Women’s rights must be equal. For a woman to earn less than a man, is not fair. But beyond equal pay, there are a myriad of issues that are frequently dissected and argued by better writers than I.

I want to talk about minimalism and its impact on women’s rights. How does minimalism help women be better and happier mothers and what impact does that have on women’s rights?

At its core, minimalism is the intentional practice of life. It’s about waking each day, and being conscious of the decisions we make. For many, there is a strong environmental imperative to minimalism due to excess waste, pilfering of our resources and the degradation of our environment. For others it’s purely about debt and money. Or it could be lifestyle, it could be stress.

As I’ve said before, I’m seeing a trend that mothers are embracing minimalism. Mothers have never been expected to do so much. We cook, clean, parent and drive. But we increasingly work as well, go to the gym, cook healthy and nutritious 10+ ingredient meals plus have an active social life, practice mindfulness and self-care plus we are supposed to do all of this without a care in the world… Uh-uh. We can’t possibly do it all, not at all once.

Early parenting is enough of a challenge without immense expectations of all the other things we are supposed to accomplish at the same time.

Embracing minimalism – setting your intention for your life, and focusing on the few things that are really important to you – is the key to being happier, less stressed and more capable as a parent.

Minimalism may bring you more time, money and freedom, and hopefully a greater ability to consider your small part of the world, and of course the many benefits you enjoy. As a very privileged white female, I know I’m lucky. I might not have a lot of money by Western standards, but I’m still incredibly wealthy compared to women in third-world countries. I’ve experienced an excellent education and am about to add a postgraduate qualification.

And those gifts, the things that I am lucky enough to enjoy, I should be using them to bring more equality to the world. I care deeply, but I have not acted. Minimalism means I can stop worrying about earning enough money to pay for all the expensive things in my life, and I can focus on bringing more awareness to you. Perhaps, like me, you see that there is more in life than shoes and pretty dresses – that we owe it to other women, other mothers to work towards equality, not just for women but for all.

Is social media helpful for parents?

jovi-waqa-113605.jpgWriting about social media is nothing new;  without it, we couldn’t share anything.

It has a significant impact on our well-being and our relationships but how does it impact parents?

Social media can be helpful. You may truly benefit from a special tribe of people who see life the way you do. You may be in a particular situation managing a condition or illness, or be without close family, and in many cases your online tribe can help you make the right decisions for you family.

Central to my coping with being a parent with fairly difficult circumstances has been finding like-minded people who can help me understand daily parenting challenges and work out the best way to manage them.

I’ve been focused on letting go of unrealistic expectations, and social media helps me do this, but not all the time.

 

We all have different personalities but some of us have a chronic issue of comparing ourselves to others. I’ve always struggled with this, and I’ve been working hard to free myself from the worry that comes with it.

Social media, magazines and even our friends and family can present a perspective of parenting and life that can leave us anxious and worried. Most of my friends have babies who have slept through since just a few months of age, or have great day naps.

Finding a group of people, online or in real life, that understand how medical conditions impact sleep has been freeing, allowing me to avoid setting an unrealistic expectation around managing Ripley’s habits.

But on the other hand, being constantly surrounded by people facing difficult challenges can become a big part of your consciousness. You might find yourself seeing everything through a set of eyes that are trained to watch out for symptoms.

Like anything in life, assessing a situation regularly to ensure it is healthy for you and your family, is important. Like wine and cheese, learning your threshold or defining your version of moderation is key.

Finding the right balance is personal; one of my friends keeps Facebook just for her immediate family and has removed everyone else. I have many other friends who share every challenge they face. There are no rules on what is right, only what is right for your family.

Navigating social media can be tricky; I find posts about other families experiencing trauma or health issues really troubling, so I have to consciously avoid those topics.

While social media does get a bad rap regularly, I personally feel it’s very useful in connecting us with others facing similar challenges – and in this season of life (parenting) I’m feeling the benefits. Some of my closest friends today have come from one particular group associated with reflux disease. I’m so grateful for that opportunity to meet like minded women who get just how challenging reflux is and its impact on the family’s lifestyle.

Use it or delete it, but make a conscious, intentional choice.

 

Making choices in challenging times

n2zusect73u-sylwia-bartyzelThere is a lot to be said for following the lead of others who have come before us. But sometimes, throwing out the rule book can be beneficial too.

Parenting is challenging. It’s a big part of life, for some, it is their life. For some, their greatest achievement. For others, it is something that happens but is not planned and thought through. Parenting is universal yet there is not just one way to do it. It’s a learning opportunity, as well as an opportunity to teach others. Many liken it to being a teacher, soccer coach, doctor, dentist, chef, cleaner, counsellor and more, all rolled into one frazzled and stressed mess.

Everyone has an opinion on parenting, from what is right, to what is wrong. How it should be done, or how certain choices will affect the child in the long term. And as a result, so many parents feel guilty, or lost, as well as time-poor and just plain over it.

This for me is where minimalism comes in, it’s about removing that from my life which does not add value, and thereby freeing up time and space for the important things.

But being a minimalist, and applying it to parenting, is kind of ‘out there’. To me it seems like an obvious answer to the difficult parts of parenting, and the key to maximising the best parts of life. It’s like a bulls eye that most people can’t see. The path seems well lit to me, it stands out as an obvious choice.

But clearly what is obvious and makes sense to me, isn’t what makes sense to all parents out there, or all people.

The same can be said for parenting styles. It’s widely accepted and spoken that there isn’t one way to parent. But experts including medical practitioners, psychologists, and teachers do have a set of recommendations about managing behaviour, teaching basic language and counting skills, sleep, feeding/nutrition and more.

But in many cases, experts disagree too! Especially in certain areas where there may be two or more distinct camps. For example, in the area of sleep, some believe controlled crying (known by other similar names) is the right way to ‘teach’ a child to develop proper sleep habits. While others believe children will learn to sleep without the imposition of rules. Both of these are supported by a range of experts however it pays to look into the qualifications of who you are trusting. Experts can vary in their opinion and both styles of managing sleep are well supported by a variety of health professionals.

This then leaves the parent to decide for themselves how to manage various situations, which as first time parents, can be daunting. So we parents enter a world of research. And the Internet does have a unique and mostly helpful but sometimes unhelpful way of supporting basically any half-brained theory.

While parents are told to carefully consider what they read on the Internet, as a parent who has had a difficult journey, there is actually a lot to be said for carefully considering what a health professional says. At the end of the day, as a medical advocate for your child, the person most invested in your child’s health and wellbeing, it pays to do your research.

My tips for managing parenting in difficult circumstances:

  • Read both sides of any argument and decide for yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to question a medical professional. They do not know your child the way you do.
  • Alternative therapies are not going to hurt your child, they might not be effective, but sometimes almost anything is worth a try.
  • Don’t do anything that feels wrong to you – doesn’t matter who tells you to do it.
  • If you’re not, ask a friend or family member you trust for their opinion, and then sit on the decision for some time until you can make your own choice, and feel good about it.

 

 

 

How busyness + parenting impacts relationships

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There are so many articles on the internet about the impact early parenthood has on relationships. I know that I am unlikely to contribute anything new, but part of me wants to share anyway in case it’s in some way relatable to anyone reading.

Being a parent is hard. It’s hard for everyone. When you bring other things to do such as strained relationships, a history of anxiety or depression or a tendency to not communicate, it makes being a parent all that more difficult. If you then add onto it a child with needs that go beyond the normal, patterns that don’t follow the normal curve, I think many relationships would unravel.

Minimalism has been a big part of managing my stress from the moment Ripley was born until just now. And it can also help couples prioritise their relationship too. I know I need to focus on my relationship with other things start taking over, as it breeds stress.

Some ways to curb stress in your life and allow time for your partner and family:

  • Think about how you want to spend your time, and remove everything else.
  • If you’re not sure, think about your values and what you find most important.
  • Think about your needs versus your wants. Consider how you are living your life and whether they align. Could you downsize, do you need two cars, could removing some of this excess allow you to work part-time or not at all?
  • Keep striving for your perfect simple life. More inspiration here
  • Courtney Carver says, if you can’t say ‘hell yeah’ to something, then just say no.
  • Simplicity gives pleasure, life should be about pleasure.
  • Sit with discomfort and feel OK about your choices.

Although it’s easy for me to write a short list like the one above, it’s not always easy to live it. I’ve made some choices in the past few months about how I spent my time that have caused me stress. I was agonising over whether or not to change that when I realised that the stress of the decision was making it worse. I knew in my heart what I wanted.

So I’m trying to live with the notion that saying no is really important to my well being and no one can tell me what I should do or need to be. It’s hard to overcome the programming of being busy because it’s a huge part of our society. But if you can apply a mentality of being less busy, saying no to things that are not part of who you are, that don’t and can’t exist alongside your values, then what are you doing?

#busyboycott

 

A simple home

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I have found that a simple home makes motherhood easier.

There is a vast range of decluttering advice as well as recommendations on books and authors to read on topics from minimalism to meditation.

Five benefits of a simple home for mothers:

  • The less you own, the less you have to organise, clean or maintain.
  • A less cluttered home is easier for children to play in, less mess for you to tidy and safer for all.
  • Comparing your home or lifestyle to friends or family, or even Instagram users you follow, leads to dissatisfaction, but it also stops you from focusing on what you want in life.
  • Children can be challenging, and motherhood has many ups and downs, don’t let your home overwhelm you too.
  • A simple home extends to the meals you cook and the housework you do. 

Embrace simplicity, live more simply, and allow yourself space and time to rest, relax, and enjoy your family.

Staying calm when you feel like screaming

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Today was the first day of the new year here in Australia. And it started off in a really bad way for me. Last night as the fireworks were going off down the street my son was screaming in pain from his reflux and gut issues. So my husband and I were giving him Mylanta, an adult medication that soothes heartburn. It’s very difficult in moments like that to stay upbeat or to stay positive. When I woke up this morning after what must have been at least 6 or 7 awakenings during the night time hours, my mood was so low and it took a lot of effort to get out of it. I wanted to share today what worked and some of the steps I took to bring myself out of the low mood and try to regain some positivity of which I’ve fought so hard for throughout 2016.

1. I allowed myself a moment to feel low and to sit with those feelings. I’ve learnt in the past year that sitting with discomfort is a really really important part of managing your anxiety.

2. I called Parent Line, a state based parenting and counselling helpline that you can call from 8 am till midnight 7 days a week. It’s fantastic to have someone you can just chat with and who can be empathetic as well as provide some feedback about your thinking patterns. You could call a close friend or someone else that you trust. Sometimes I find it really helpful to have someone impartial to speak to.

3. I went for a 20 minute walk to get my endorphins going.

4. I spent about 10 minutes writing down my feelings in my journal. I feel it’s important to note that sometimes it’s better to do the exercise part first before the journal. In my case trying to write down my feelings while I’m at the height of my anxiety or in this case the depth of my low, is it very very difficult and the perspective of the walk gives me the ability to delve a little bit deeper into my feelings.

5. I then spent some time writing down a plan to improve Ripley’s health.

After all of that I felt so much better. It’s important to note that I also practice minimalism and mindfulness. I believe strongly in gentle parenting and that presence is what children need, not presents.

Let 2017 be the year you let go.

On being outside

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My son loves to be outdoors. Two days ago we went to a small town called Forrest in the Otway Ranges in Victoria, Australia. It’s a short 1 hour drive from our home and the perfect nap time for our son.

He’s only 20 months but he plays like he’s at least three. He climbs and runs, slides and crawls his way around any play equipment determined to be just like any other kid.

He’s perfect.

For me, the definition of a happy kid has to include one that loves to be outdoors. I think it’s primal, I think kids really just naturally enjoy it. I worry about the future of our world when so many people especially kids are not connected to it.

At the end of the day when we got ready to get back into the car, I was covered in mud, I was wet and so was he, but he was so happy, and tired, and ready for a nap.

I try to encourage other mums I know to just let their kids get dirty, let them run around outside (with supervision of course).

They learn so much from the outdoors and our future depends on them loving it.