Saturday, September 8, 2007

One Size Does NOT Fit All

I think I've mentioned before the fact that I find my journey toward a simpler lifestyle can at times be a little lonely. I find myself questioning if I'm really doing the right thing when others around me seem to be heading in the opposite direction, more in flow with the rest of society. I have found the internet to be a wonderful way of connecting with others who have similar ideas and ideals.

BUT, I find at times I need to be careful to appreciate other people's ideas and journey in life and not simply follow their path blindly. It's great to be challenged and to get ideas from others but that doesn't mean that everything I read will be the right thing for me. After all, we are each made unique and our path in life is going to be unique to us. Just with all things, there isn't a "one size fits all" when it comes to Simple Living.

I want to talk about a few specific examples that have been floating around in my mind lately.

Let's start with being a stay at home mum. In a 2 parent family, having 1 parent at home certainly helps to simplify our life. I've seen the frazzled look of some mother's who work full-time and can't help but feel sorry for them and thankful that I'm in a position where I can choose to be at home. The question I want to raise though is can we really say that being a stay at home mum is best in *every* family situation. Obviously there are instances where the choices are very limited (for example, in single parent situations).

I have a friend who recently returned to work. She has 2 young children that go to childcare while she is at work and she suffers from a lot of "mother guilt" from leaving them. I've been trying to understand where that guilt stems from. Is her heart's desire to really be at home with those children full-time or does it come from some externally imposed idea that the best thing for her children is for her to be at home with them? She cites money issues as her reason for returning to work. Money issues that probably shouldn't be an issue given her DH is on a VERY good income. But on digging deeper, I can't help but wonder if *money* is what she considers a "socially acceptable" reason for returning to work. That any other reason would make her feel that she is being selfish. You see, when you dig a bit deeper you find that she really loves her job. She enjoys the kind of person she is when she is working and her DH notices the difference as well. He likes who she is when she's working. And for them at this time the extra money does help to release some of the extra pressures in the home. Can we really say that her improved self esteem, improved relationship and less financial pressure in the home is *worse* for her children than attending a quality child care centre and seeing a bit less of mum? I just don't think it's all quite as clear cut as that.

I guess what I'm trying to say with this is that we are all unique beings with unique circumstances and we need to feel free to make our decisions based on this, without feeling any guilt or pressure from either "side" of the argument. I'm all for encouraging people to stay at home with their children if that's what they WANT to do. I do feel sad when people say that's what they WANT and yet can't or don't find a way to make it happen. I'm all for encouraging people to follow their hearts desire - wherever that may lead (within reason lol). If your heart is calling you home, find a way to make it happen. It's a very worthy calling in my opinion - that of a stay at home mum. BUT, if it isn't, don't let guilt weigh you down. What you're doing may very well be the best thing for you and your family at this time.

Homeschooling is another one that I've come across. I've read many homeschooling blogs who advocate that homeschooling is the BEST thing for ALL children. No ifs, buts or maybes. How can they really know what the best thing for MY children is? Homeschooling is a great option for many families. But again, there isn't a "one size fits all" when it comes to education. We're all different. Why can't we celebrate our uniqueness rather than trying to "guilt" people into thinking one way is the only way to do the BEST for their kids? Not that all homeschoolers have this attitude - I guess some are just very passionate about what they believe.

Another area I've come across is frugality. When it comes to how we spend our money, we're all different. So I've been spending $100 a week on groceries for our family. I love to share about that and challenge myself and others to do better. Challenges are a great way to promote change. Does that mean that if someone spends more than that on their groceries, that they're not frugal? Or at least not as frugal as me? Not at all. I'd be the first to admit that I'm more frugal in some areas of the budget than I am in other areas. I work with what works for me and my family. You have to work with what works for you and your family.

So I've been trying to work out where all this guilt comes from. I was reading a magazine article yesterday talking about how competitive mother's can be about their children's achievements. It's getting so bad that some mother's have dropped out of playgroups and other similar things as they're sick of the competitiveness that goes on. I can't help but wonder if at least some of it stems from our sense of inadequacy. We fear that if we're doing things differently (or our children are) that somehow we've gotten it wrong. After all, we all want to do the best by our children don't we? And let's face it - parenthood is HARD.

I do think parenthood, simple living and celebrating our own uniqueness can all go hand in hand. But only if we accept that "one size does NOT fit all" and that we need to find our own path in life. The one that is RIGHT for us and our families. :-) And when I'm finished writing this post, I need to read it myself. Because when it comes to putting pressure on myself to do things like this person or that person or feeling that I *should* or stressing that I'm not being the best parent possible - well, I'm about the worst culprit you'll find. :-)


Lib said...

A good post.We all are unique and should follow our heart.What maybe right for me may not be right for someone else.We live in the country ,some friends Loves it here and drives out to destress., Others say they couldn't live here its too quite. But all our friends respects us and we all let each other be free to live our lives as we want, and enjoy each one uniqueness.I agree 100% with you "ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL"

Kin said...

An excellent post and I agree 100%

I started writing a response, but it ended up being longer than most of your posts, so maybe I'll do my own on this topid :-)

Ali said...

What a GREAT post!Brilliantly worded :) I also agree 100% with what you've put. We, well mainly I, choose to live simply and frugally but do love to travel overseas and that's what we will continue to do. Last year we went to Hong Kong (our honeymoon) and also went to Phuket with my daughter. I'd rather live frugally in everyday life and do that as that's what makes us happy!

lightening said...

Thank you SO much for the feedback so far. I lost count of the number of times I reread this post before publishing - just not sure about the wording or the content etc etc.

I wanted to express the idea that we need to have freedom to make our own choices etc in life without sounding too critical of those who are passionate about what they believe.

Kez said...

(Wondering guiltily if I've been going on about homeschooling too much...)

I agree - there is still some stuff that is just not "me", others that I'll try and decide whether or not they suit me, and other stuff that grows on me over time - this time last year I couldn't imagine wearing cloth pads, now I can't imagine wearing disposables again :)

lightening said...

Oh no Kez - you haven't at ALL!!! It's one thing to write about what you're thinking about and share what's happening - I love that kind of stuff. I've NEVER heard you say that homeschooling is the only way people should go - not even close.

None of this was directed at any of my readers. More me thinking out loud. The kind of blogs I was referring to I don't generally revisit.

LOL about the cloth pads. I nearly mentioned those in my post. :-) It's something I NEVER thought I'd ever try and yet there's no real going back once you do. Well actually, I do a bit of both still - but I know which I prefer!!!

fitcat said...

A really great post, lots of deep thinking there. One of the things that keeps me interested in frugality is that by saving money and using money in a responsible fashion, I can afford to be generous or spend things on money that are important to me.

Organic groceries may not be a frugal option and indeed I've copped some from a friend for buying them since they're more expensive but I choose to practice frugality so that I can afford things to me that are more important than a dollar value, such as organic groceries.

I'm very lucky with my parents I think, they truly understand the one size does not fit all option. I'm one of seven children and our parents have always treated as individuals and realised just because one thing worked for one or even some of us, it doesn't make it the only answer. If only more people understood this and shared this philosophy, how much happier we all would be!

Christine said...

This is very insightful post and lots of food for thought. What may seem simple for me may seem WAY too complicated for someone else's life. Also, simple is such a relative term. Sometimes simple means frugal, sometimes it means expensive. (It sure is simple to order takeout after a long day of work.) I've had to kind of define for myself what simple means to me in my own journey-Usually it means cheap or doing without-For instance paper plates. I think it's simple to use paper plates for a picnic but at the same time I also think it's simple not to as if I use plates I already have then I don't have to come up with the money to buy them, which is not simple at all.

lightening said...

Hi fitcat - sounds like you have very wise parents. We realised with our kids that if we treated them all exactly it still wouldn't be "equal" due to their different personalities and needs. It's a good point in the "one size doesn't fit all" thinking.

Christine - thanks for your thoughts. Simple living is nowhere near as clear cut as it can first appear is it? We all do the best we can in our own situations and make the choices that are right for us.

I also think that what's right for us now may change at some point in our lives - as we go through different seasons. But that's a topic for another post. :-)

Anonymous said...

You're so right...we are all different and what works for one may not work for another. I'm grateful to be able to be at home full-time and that works for may not for someone else. As for kicking against the materialistic world and living frugally, etc...go for it! We have a simple life and we L♥VE it!!

lightening said...

Mrs tlc - thanks for the encouragement. It's great to hear from those who are doing it and having a great time. Helps keep me focused on what we're trying to achieve. :-)