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Parenting: Is it Possible to Take Positive, Minimalist Parenting a Little Too Far?

I didn't even know minimalist parenting was a thing until I got a question from Quora and then read an article about it in Scary Mommy.

Apparently, it's a thing.

Back when I was a new parent when my first-born popped out of my womb, positive parenting WAS a thing.

It was a departure from traditional Asian parenting style, of course, because instead of whacking your child with a clothes hanger or the ever-famous rotan (rattan) every time he/she throws a hissy fit, you talk your child through his/her emotions, get his/her to express it, and then it will be all fairy tales and rainbows.

Positive parenting is more about parents who commit to being available to his/her child whenever possible, prioritization of a child over work in as many situations as possible, unconditional love, sustaining a peaceful household, providing affirmations, setting limits, and empathy.

While traditional parenting style was more like a superior warlord minding over its minions, positive parenting was more about striking a deal, negotiations, and understanding.

father reading a children's book to baby on lap
Image credit: Father reading to a child - Picsea

The Age of Miriam Stoppard Everything

English author, TV presenter, and advisor, Miriam Stoppard was the go-to parenting counselor all we new mothers needed at that time. She had the answers to everything from potty training to what to expect when you're experiencing Braxton Hicks.

Stoppard, after all, was regarded by many as someone who not only lived for her ability to help patients but also parents who did not know where any of the ropes were.

I had every book about parenting and motherhood I could get my hands on from the bookstore. Thinking back, that's just....sad.

If you're looking around for good source on what to do (and you're not willing to ask it on Facebook, forums or Quora), here's a site I think is quite reliable.

New Age Minimalism Hitting the Parenting Scene

If we were to be really honest with ourselves, minimalism was often associated with being a tree hugger hippie who wanted nothing more than to save animals, forests, the ocean, earth and help all their LGTBQ friends receive fairer treatment.

Don't get me wrong, I have friends who identify as gay, lesbians, and bis and they are, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, the most friendly, accepting people I have ever, ever known on this planet.

There's so much love, acceptance, compassion, drive, courage, and creativity that we, so-called heterosexual people, can learn from. Their philosophy is often simple. Judge no one. Be yourself and don't buy into consumerism. Own as little as you can and be free from the handcuffs of modernization.

However, on the minimalist parenting front, it is quite another story. It's about teaching our children about being grateful for everything they have, being able to identify and strive for what they think they deserve, counter consumerism, reuse stuff if they're still in good condition, don't be demanding, contribute to your family and community, be joyful, and many other things within that spectrum.
Despite our tremendous amounts of wealth and comfort, people in Western societies are less happy than ever and this is due, in large part, to our rampant consumer culture. Minimalism does NOT mean that you have to sell all of your possessions and live in a van. Heck, I know minimalists with 4,000 square foot homes and Lamborghini’s. How is this possible? - Andrew Ferebee, High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author

Finding the Middle Ground Between Modern and Minimalist Parenting

It's hard to deny the convenience of slip-on pant-like diapers and high style toys swarming around in the market today.

If we had an extra $100, we'd spend it on making life easier and more comfortable for our children. It's a parent's instinct to do so but I find more and more parents holding onto the swinging pendulum as it veers back towards the 1970s.

I was duly impressed by my friend's insistence on the 'No New Toys Policy' unless it was a birthday, Christmas, or if it was a gift from a well-meaning friend or family (imagine saying no to Grandma).

And the family also said no (as many times as they can bear with) to disposable diapers when they're at home, don't have a modern-day changing table that can morph into a small bed, new fancy clothes, and fancy-smanshy shoes that babies don't deserve (because...duh, babies can't even walk yet!).

Girl sitting in bed with laptop, apparently working from a hotel or home?

It's possible to strike a balance because many more parents are hands-on compared to a couple of years back.

More workers are now finding their way around remote work, freelancing, or working from home some days of the week. This brings along a spectral of deliberate actions we have to take - to find ways to ensure both work and children don't murder each other off.

So, yes, as much as we would like to embrace the full roundup of minimalist parenting, we might have to say 'yes' to the playpen, swing, and maybe a bumbo seat?

Blimey, it's a Baby's Tummy

I throw my full support behind one thing, if nothing else, and it is to reduce, as much as we possibly can, the amount of commercial baby food we stuff past our children's mouths at a young age. I mean, they don't know any better! Do it while they have no clue that steaks exist! They have a lifetime of McDonalds ahead of them.

Those fancy canned baby food is not only no better than puree we can make at home, but we will also have a better toehold on what goes into our children's stomach.

fruits and vegetables lined up in a market

And while it's quite impossible for all of us to have a full, blooming garden of vegetables, fruits, and herbs, it IS possible for us to organize our kitchen a little smarter and better.

It takes work. And if you think your child's food consumption is important to you, do it.

I am not going to throw any stones at any insularity group of people who have decided on what they can and cannot do with THEIR own children, of course. It would be judgy of me and I don't this shit. I judge myself enough as it is and have no time to judge anyone else.

But I don't agree with self-congratulatory rallying AGAINST other groups of people who don't have common ground. Being a part of a group who believe in the same thing can give one a sense of superiority. It becomes a status symbol.

For example, my cousin trained her kid to sleep when he was barely out of her womb. For me, I tried but failed so many times that I decided the nighly pools of tears and that imaginary knife twisting in my chest was not worth it. So, my kids slept with me till they were old to tell me to buzz off. And I did.

But it is not me to judge my cousin who managed to do it because she felt that it is was important to her.

Similarly, I breastfed my second son until he was 3. I am an advocate of the breastfeeding movement but I am not hardcore enough to pummel the idea into other parents who don't. There are many subjective and perfectly sound reasons for NOT breastfeeding a baby and if we are not privy to that information and don't have a permanent role to play in the family, who are we trod all over their decisions?

All that is required for us is to...

Consider the Cost of Convenience and What Works Best

The minimalist parenting movement is about consuming less and doing more. All we need to do, perhaps, is to consider the cost of convenience and see if it fits into our budget.

If you're a new parent considering hopping onto the minimalist movement, I am all for it. The essence of it is to consume less and be mindful about the opportunity costs.

watering a plant at home, recycling, plants at home
Image credit: Adriene King on Unsplash

Just because you bought your child a stroller with those whatchamacallit running wheels (it's good for marathon runner parents, I was told) won't make you a backboneless materialistic parent. And you're not really turning your baby into a serial killer for giving him/her an iPad at the age of 3 or letting your kids play computer games until 4am.

If you're stressed out with your knickers in knots over simple things like that, you're going to have a miserable parenting experience. There's so much more ahead of you - this, coming from a parent of teenagers approaching adulthood. I am, frankly, so terrified of sooooo many things I can't even.

So, pace yourself, fellow parents.

A happy kid, after all, is very much dependent on (a) pretty balanced parent(s).

In the meantime, let me feature something so real, it hurts.



View this post on Instagram

“My mom has nobody to care for her but me. The last stroke affected her brain so badly. She’s like the living dead. All she can do now is breathe. Last month I found a small wound on her toe. I thought it was something small. It looked so small. So I just put a bandage on it. But it was the beginning of gangrene. I should have known. It spread and the doctors had to amputate her leg. It’s all my fault, but I was under so much pressure. I’m a single mom. I work as a housekeeper. What do I focus on? What do I pay for? My kids’ education? Food? My mom’s care? It’s just too much. It’s all on me. I called my sister last week and screamed at her. I screamed at her for never calling. I screamed at her for not helping. I told her that I wished she would die. And my wish came true. Four days ago she passed away. When I saw her at the morgue, she had no hair, no eyebrows, nothing. She had been hiding cancer from us. I feel so guilty. My wish came true. But I didn’t know because she never called! I haven’t eaten since yesterday. Only a cup of milk. I can’t keep doing this. It’s too much pressure. I’m not doing well. I’m not OK.” (Cairo, Egypt)
A post shared by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on

Note: If you find any grammatical, spelling or any other types of errors in this article, please let me know at marshamaung at gmail dot com and I will get it fixed ASAP. And thank you, you're an angel!

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