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March 14, 2017

Should Minimalists Have Kids?

I started becoming a minimalist around the same time my wife and I started trying to have our first child. This created a conflict between my goals and our situation — as I reducing possessions and commitments, more were flooding in! There were all of the things that we needed to buy before our son’s birth, the things we wanted, and the many more things that people gave us. Then there were the doctor’s appointments and hospital visits that only served as a warm-up for the true time-consuming commitment of raising a child.

As I was learning the value of less, we were getting more.

I’ve come across occasional advice from minimalist bloggers, but most of the ones I follow don’t have children. A couple have expressed the desire to never have kids. Doing so is hardly a way to shrink our environmental footprint or take up less space in the world.

For me, this isn’t an issue of timing. I’ve always intended to have children, and my desire to minimize doesn’t change this. The bigger question for me has been how many. That answer has shifted over the years. Right now it’s I don’t know.

But I do know this, having a kid has pushed me to give up much more than I would have otherwise.

Infants require sacrifice. Raising them means giving up a fair degree of time and personal autonomy. Whether I wanted to or not, for much of the past year, I’ve had to make decisions over what pursuits are the most important to me. I simply don’t have the time in my day anymore to do them all.

I’ve stopped watching TV. My video games are gone. I consume much less news, and have significantly cut down on podcasts.

Since I don’t want my son to grow up glued to a screen, I’ve actively chosen not to model that behavior. This has meant removing any app from my smartphone that would attract my eyes. Aside from phone calls and text, I now use the device primarily for music and as a meditation timer.

These are changes I’ve long wanted to make, but having a son pushed me to do it now.

Minimalism challenges me to remove burdens that get in the way of what I truly want. I could view my son as one of these them But by giving me a more immediate deadline to decide what activities are most important, he has made it easier to purge distractions from my life.

I’ve created time to meditate, which I can do while my son crawls across my lap and climbs my shoulder. I practice martial arts more, in part because he enjoys to watch me move. Some mornings I do a few yoga poses while he plays with blocks. I slip in as much reading as I can, which is easier than hoping his cries don’t drown out whatever I would be listening to or watching.

In molding my life to fit my son’s needs, I am shaping mine to better match my own desires.

And here’s the thing. A baby won’t stay small forever. Those diapers and toys eventually go away. Kids grow old and move out. And when they do, I’m inclined to believe that I will be much closer to my ideal self than if I had chosen never to have children.

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