I recently finished reading Living Simply with Children: A voluntary simplicity guide for moms, dads and kids who want to reclaim the bliss of childhood and the joy of parenting by Marie Sherlock and thought it was worth sharing with you. This book guides you through ways to "downshift" your life in order to live more simply and have more free time to spend with your family. Time to explore interests together, volunteer together, do chores together. Time to get to know each other, learn from each other and enjoy each other.
From the very beginning of the book, the author asks you to question America's idea of success -- wealth and the accumulation of stuff. She goes on to say that most people will say that family is the most important thing in their life, but where most people spend their time and energy is not at home with their family, instead it's at work chasing the almighty dollar. Yes, you do need money to meet your living needs, but just how much money does one need? That is why this is a "voluntary simplicity guide". She wants you to ask yourself how much money do you really need and then to start simplifying from there. Can one parent quit their job and stay home? Can you reduce your work hours? Can you work from home? Retire early?
Ultimately, having less money means that there will be some sacrifices that need to be made. Ms. Sherlock questions if these things are really necessary anyways: a 3,000 square foot house, brand-name clothing, going out for dinner several times a week, or getting everything you want right now. She encourages you to avoid following and teaching the values of the American "consumer culture" and instead to follow and teach the things that you value: compassion, love, family, charity, respect for people and the earth, honesty, peace, tolerance, and responsibility, to name a few. She leads you step by step through the simplifying process as you do some soul-searching, brainstorming and goal-setting. She also lists techniques for dealing with peer-pressure, speaking with family members about your decision to live simply, ways to limit the TV, and teaching kids to be better consumers.
Simple families have many things in common: they care about the planet; are conscientious consumers and buy less; spend time in the outdoors biking, fishing, hiking or camping; are very involved in each other's lives; volunteer; limit outside activities; have down-time, quiet time, and guard family time; have family rituals; and enjoy simple pleasures.
Before I read this book, I knew that living simply is how Dennis and I want to live and raise our children. It probably helps that we are both naturally frugal people and that we were both raised pretty simply. Dennis is a lot better than I am and sometimes he kiddingly asks me if my desires are a "want or a need" only because he knows I'm working on it (otherwise, he would sound like a really cruel husband). Currently, our financial situation is forcing us to live simply. We still go on trips (usually to visit friends and family), go shopping (at garage sales), and eat out (on picnics)! But, with Dennis being a student it allows us to spend summers together and it allows Dennis to leave later in the morning and come home earlier in the afternoons than most people can. Advance planning and student loans mean that I can stay home too! I don't feel like we're deprived of anything. In fact, we are very blessed.
This book gave me loads of resources to turn to during the trials and tribulations of simple living and also gave me some great ideas for discussions to have with the kids, and teaching about the powers of the media. I think this would be a useful read for anyone who is contemplating simple living or for anyone who is in the midst of it and needs a little extra support. It's nice to know that there are others out there living like you are and are trying to slow down and enjoy every moment that life has to offer!