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Why Parents Need To Think Differently About Time

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This post is part of Stress-Less Parenting Club's second workshop. Asha Dornfest and Christine Koh, co-authors of Minimalist Parenting, are sharing their best advice on simplifying family life. Here, Asha explains how that begins with good time management.

There's a reason time management is the first major topic we talk about in Minimalist Parenting. Based on what we're hearing from parents -- and what we experience ourselves -- finding, managing and saving time is one of the biggest challenges of modern parenting.

Look: when you can't count on a full night's sleep and your schedule revolves around someone else's meals and nap times, it's just not possible to get as much done as before you had kids. But even as your kids get older and you regain a semblance of control over your time, it's easy to let it get eaten up with activities and obligations, not to mention the "shoulds."

"I should sign my kid up for soccer now, before it gets too competitive and he misses his chance."

"We should probably invite the whole class to the birthday party, even though the thought of supervising 35 7-year-olds makes me want to scream."

"I'm so tired when I get home from work, but I should be making more interesting meals for dinner."

Parenting can push your guilt button. These are your children, and you want to do your best by them. But we'd like to challenge your assumptions about what "good parents" are doing and invite you to think differently about your time.

A core premise of Minimalist Parenting is that you -- and only you -- get to decide what's important to your family. Not the modern culture of "more" and "faster." Not the experts. Not even your mother. You choose what your family considers valuable, enriching and fun. Once you zero in on your values, you can prioritize making space in your schedule for what's important by reducing or clearing out the stuff that doesn't matter so much.

Sounds simple, right? But the logistics get fraught when you're operating with the assumption that everything has to be done perfectly and it has to be done by you. Even non-perfectionists writing books about simplifying life get caught in this trap! When we were in the thick of writing Minimalist Parenting, I agonized over getting healthy dinners on the table. My usual routine of looking through my cookbooks, planning meals, shopping and cooking wasn't meshing with the increased work demands of writing a book. It wasn't until I lowered the bar on the variety of our weeknight meals that I realized "healthy dinner" could be a combination of repeatable meals, store-bought shortcuts (like a rotisserie chicken) and weekend leftovers.

Another example: after-school activities. I care about my daughter's health, development and social life as much as the next mom, so when she was younger, I figured I should get her involved in sports or music lessons. Right? Everyone else in her class seemed to be running from one activity to another, and I had a vague sense that being "well-rounded" would help her in the future. But she never clamored to join the soccer team, and I certainly wasn't clamoring to drive her to practice twice a week and games on the weekend. I had to give myself a confidence pep talk when I made the choice to prioritize open time, relaxation and unhurried room for chores, homework and spontaneous play.

Those are just a couple examples; yours are sure to be different. The key is to know there are many "right" ways to prioritize your time and declutter your schedule, as long as you're navigating based on your values rather then on guilt or insecurity.

Beyond the things you must do, reserve your time and energy for the things that are important and fun for your family. Think of saying no as a way of saying yes to joy.

Want to put Asha's advice into practice? Check out her and Christine's first workshop here and participate in this week's challenge. If you haven't signed up for Stress-Less Parenting yet, go to the purple box on the right side of this page to receive our weekly newsletter.