“I don’t have time.” I hear this phrase a lot and it gets on my nerves. It implies that some of us have more time than others, when in fact we all have the same amount of time. We all get 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use it that separates us. When people say “I don’t have time,” what they really mean is, “I’ve chosen to do something else with my time.” I hear this a lot when it comes to working out. How many times have you heard someone say, “I just don’t have time to exercise”? What they’re really saying is that they have prioritized other things above exercise. For some people it’s an issue of time management skills. More likely they have become entangled in a hectic lifestyle that wastes their time and makes them feel as if they don’t have enough of it.
Part of choosing to live simply is choosing to use my time on things that really matter and things that benefit my well-being. It means making choices and sometimes sacrifices to spend my time doing things with real value. Most of the big deal, high paying jobs in my area are located in Atlanta. Traffic in metro Atlanta is worse than anywhere else in the U.S. other than Los Angeles. Many people spend 2-4 hours each day commuting to and from their big deal, big salary jobs. I’ve chosen to work closer to my home and trade big money for a 10 minute commute. This means I’m not wasting hours each day stuck in a car away from my family. I drive home on my lunch break and clean my house or prep for dinner. I spend less time away from my children than I would if I had to drive into Atlanta every day. For me, this is the right choice. I find traffic extremely stressful and it would be very hard on me psychologically to commute every day. I prioritize a low stress lifestyle above a big salary.
There are certain things I need to do to decompress and relax and I make time for those as well. Being outside is a big one for me, as well as reading and exercising. I’m busy in the sense that I have many responsibilities: 32 hour a week job, two kids, three dogs, one horse, blogging and volunteering for two different charities. But that’s all I do. I don’t volunteer for anything else because I know I would be overcommitting and creating stress for myself. I think part of living simply is choosing the things that matter the most to me and cutting everything else out. It’s being a stickler about my priority list and refusing to allow time wasters and things that I’m just not passionate about. This is the key to avoiding that hectic, overscheduled life that is so common in our society.
The overscheduling even spills over into our expectations of our children. I’ve noticed in my demographic of young-ish, working parents that there is a lot of pressure to involve our kids in extracurricular activities. It’s very normal for three and four year olds to be playing soccer, doing gymnastics or taking karate lessons. These same kids are often from homes like mine where both parents work. This means the kids are at daycare or a babysitter for a significant amount of time every week. Extracurricular activities mean that even more time is spent away from home and away from their families. I’m not making a judgment call on other families, but I can tell you this is not for me. I spend enough time away from my kids while I’m working. The last thing I want to do is pack them off to an activity to be away from me some more. Sports are a big deal in the South and I’m sure this is why so many parents enroll their kids so early. They’re thinking that their kid needs as much practice as possible to keep up with the other kids. The thinking is that if you want your kid to play varsity basketball, you better start him at age 4 because otherwise he’ll be behind the other kids his age and unable to compete.
I feel like we’re pushing our hectic, overscheduled lives onto our children. Instead of having time to just chill out and play outside, kids are constantly stimulated, constantly instructed and constantly on the go. This is just my opinion and I’m no expert, but I think it’s bad for kids. I think kids need more family time, more outdoor time and more unstructured play. I’ve felt pressure from other parents to figure out what Elle is going to “specialize” in and she’s only four! It’s like our kids are supposed to know what they’re good at and what they love and then we have to enroll them in lessons immediately. There’s way too much emphasis on achievement, in my opinion. I’m going to let my kid be a kid for a while and if she turns out to be some kind of prodigy, then we’ll get her some lessons. Until then, I’m not going to stress myself out about it and I’m certainly not going to put that kind of pressure on my kid.
Choosing to buck the system comes with a price. Other parents will look at me like I’m negligent because I don’t have my three year old in gymnastics already. Choosing to live simply is choosing to live in opposition to the dominant culture, so that just comes with the territory and I’m okay with it. Like I said before, if we want to live simply, we have to figure out our priorities and then stick to them. My priority is a low stress, happy-go-lucky atmosphere in my home. I’m not going to let other parents pressure me into carting my kid off to lessons so that she can win a hypothetical scholarship 15 years from now.
What about you? If you’ve chosen to live simply, what things did you have to cut out? What things are your core priorities?