The art of living simply, and of simply living

As I approach the one year anniversary of my last miscarriage, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I changed my life to optimize myself for fertility and how I have changed my life as a new parent.  In many ways, the differences in those changes aren’t that different.  If anything, this entire journey has taught me the value of living simply and has led me to ask the question many times, “Do I really need this?”  A new parent has no time for complications.  I don’t know how people with multiples do it; I don’t know how people with lots of little kids running around do it.  I give single moms a lot of credit.

The more free time you have, the more you can fill your life with complications and commitments.  You tweet, you blog, you train for marathons, you become an extreme couponer, whatever.  When you start trying to conceive, some of these commitments go away in favor of TTC-friendly activities.  You take yoga, you meditate, you research ovulation kits and set an alarm clock for o-dark-thirty so that you can take your temperature every morning at exactly the same time, waiting for a spike in temperature and dreading a drop.  In that excruciating long period of time, your private time is no longer your own.  It has already been usurped by your wished-for passenger-to-be.  And it happened so slowly you probably didn’t even notice or mind.

Having a child in no way makes your life simpler, and demands far more of your time – practically all of it, especially at first – than you would imagine.  Unless you have live-in nannies or lots of extra help around the house, you will start to schedule your life around someone else’s.  You will mind at first, and then you’ll just live with it, because like electricity you will choose the path of least resistance, especially if you want to survive.  And the path of least resistance also includes giving up some of your own complicated rituals in favor of shortcuts.  You learn to let go of some of your standards of living so that you can have a life that you enjoy.  You will find yourself slowly letting go by asking yourself these questions: Is there an easier way?  Is this good enough, even if it’s not just so?  Can I live with this for now?  Do I really need this?

I used to take nearly an hour to get ready for work, not including the time I would spend eating breakfast and reading the newspaper every morning.  That hour was filled with picking out an outfit and accessories, a nice shower, makeup, and hair.  Now that is an  hour that I could be spending with my son; that I might need to spend taking care of the family.  Is there an easier way?  Sure, there is.  I take short showers.  I pick out my clothes the night before.  I whittled my makeup routine down to five pieces.  I don’t even blow dry my hair anymore.  I am ready for work in 15 minutes.

I used to sort my laundry into many, many piles, by color or texture or water temperature.  It seemed important.  Now I make three piles.  Darks, colors, whites.  And baby clothes are dumped in all together at once.  The clothes are cleaned, their colors don’t run, and they don’t shrink.  I may not be able to fold everything immediately, but it’s good enough for now.

I have accumulated so much baby stuff… accent on the “stuff…” that I have a pile in the closet of new unused stuff ready to be passed along to the next baby that comes along.  Friends talk about the new things they buy for themselves – new outfits, new shoes, new makeup, new purses – and it sounds frivolous to me.  Be happy with the things you have.  We are so wrapped up in things, and having the right things, the hip things, the best things.  I get a twinge of jealousy at every Chicco or Peg Perego car seat I see at the daycare.  They are so sleek, so fashionable, so sophisticated.  But do I need them?  No.  They might have made me a little bit happier – or maybe a little bit more smug – but only for a little while.  Things like those are nice to have, but not need to have, and I’m okay with not having them.  And things only distract you from where you should be finding your happiness: your partner, your family, your pets, your friends.  Leading a fulfilling life doesn’t have to be any more complicated than spending time with the most important people in your life.  It’s just that simple.

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