Why Living Simply While Single Is The Best Preparation For Parenting

How keeping things simple pays off in the parenting years

As a ten year old child living in Ireland in the late seventies, I was obsessed with a British sitcom called The Good Life.  The show was based on a couple, Tom and Barbara Good, that traded in a corporate lifestyle for one of simplicity and self-sufficiency.  The sitcom followed the adventures of Tom and Barbara as they transformed their fancy suburban London home into a farm, grew their own food and even had pigs and chickens in their back yard. 

And while I can’t for the life of me wrap my mind around the lure of keeping chickens, everything else about their new life deeply resonated with my young and impressionable mind.  As a child, not only did material things not matter to me – they actually stressed me out.  I had very few possessions, though I do have happy recollections of playing with my set of Lincoln Logs, and coloring on construction paper with crayons for hours.

In high school, my need to keep things simple led to me being teased for wearing the same couple of outfits over and over again.  And while my girlfriends grew their hair long and spent hours experimenting with makeup, I chose to spend my days writing in my room, or going for solo walks around our suburban neighborhood.  My mind simply functioned better with fewer decisions to make on any given day.

At twenty one, I moved back to Ireland with a suitcase, my passport and a Walkman.  For so many reasons, for me, Dublin was and always will be home.  I rented a small modestly furnished efficiency apartment in Dublin, and happily lived on broiled tomatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches and pasta.  Life in my favorite city was wonderful – tons of things to do outside, live music and so many fabulous pubs.  Dublin in the eighties was simple living at its finest.   

A couple of years later, I returned to the States to study journalism at Marymount University.  By then, I had streamlined my wardrobe down to a dozen or so truly loved items of clothing.  Most of the time, my college friends decided to find my simple living habits quirky.  Still though, there were moments when my indifference to things led to some playful teasing.  When a friend invited me to stay at her place for the weekend, I put some clothes and a toothbrush in a Whole Foods paper bag, and placed my passport and a hundred dollar bill casually atop my stuff.  My friend, a business savvy economics major, took one look at my makeshift overnight bag and laughed hysterically at what she deemed beyond ludicrous.

When I found out I was expecting twins several years later, that same girlfriend made me a baby shower gift of staples – a tree of diapers, surrounded by an assortment of newborn toiletries, and an offer to babysit.  The best part about her gift was that she acknowledged my need for keeping things simple.  Even in the nineties, the ads for consumer goods aimed at new parents struck me as stupid, opportunistic and obnoxious.  Seriously, new parents need excess things like Seattle needs more rain!  

I always knew that if I had children that I would do everything possible to stay home with them.  Transitioning from a couple living off a double income, to a family of four getting by on a single income took some creative budgeting.  While pregnant, I read The Baby Book by Dr. Sears, and his Attachment Parenting approach really resonated with me.  So we passed on setting up a nursery, and chose instead to co-sleep, opted to breastfeed over buying formula and bought high quality baby clothes at an upscale consignment store for pennies on the dollar.

Within a decade, our family of four became a family of six.  And while raising four kids on one salary was financially tough at times, maintaining a simple lifestyle made all the difference in the world.  We prioritized experiences over things, so when we lived in Florida, we would make it a point to spend days together at the beach.  After moving to the mountains of North Carolina, we sought out hiking and visiting the state’s many waterfalls.

My lifestyle has certainly changed (hello babies, bye bye fabulous pubs) significantly since becoming a parent, but the things I value have stayed the same.  A “less is more” attitude works well when single, but is an absolute lifesaver when parenting.  Babies and children need parental love above all else, so for a peaceful parenting experience, most would do well to leave the dozens of unnecessary baby gadgets and accessories on the shelf at Babies R Us.       

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