How can someone with children be a minimalist? How does minimalism apply to kids?
Popular proponents of minimalism, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists, are constantly asked these sorts of questions. But, I rarely hear the opposite side of the issue: How has minimalism impacted your decision about whether or not to have children? Should minimalists have fewer children? As a minimalist, should you reproduce at all in this overpopulated world?
I should note that neither of The Minimalists has added to the overpopulation crisis: Ryan does not currently have children and Josh and his partner are the parents of a young girl from his partner’s previous relationship. Maybe that’s not a coincidence.
What is Minimalism?
The word “minimalist” can bring up images of sparse living quarters with colorless walls and wardrobes. For me, minimalism is about using one’s resources, most importantly time and money, wisely. That means eliminating the excess so that you can focus on what truly matters. It’s about realizing that all the keeping up with the Joneses is nonsense. It’s about intentionality—doing things because of a deliberate choice and not because of slick advertisements or social pressure. Especially as a young female attorney with aspirations somewhat resembling what most would call ‘mainstream corporate success,’ it can seem like the image is everything. There is pressure to have it all: the new luxury car, the McMansion, the expensive suits, designer accessories and more.
The essence of minimalism, then, is to concentrate your energy and other resources into pursuing what is meaningful and important.
My Personal Priorities Don’t Include Children
Paying down my student loan debt, advancing my career, traveling, and spending time with the important people in my life are some of my top priorities and, contrary to popular belief, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
I’m defining my own success. I don’t have to work eighty hours a week to advance my career or pay down my debt. I’m able to spend time with the important people in my life. I can have a job I find fulfilling and important and still make time to travel. There is a balance. Now, where do children fit into that? If we carefully consider my priorities, children don’t seem to fit into that at all. In fact, they seem to contradict many of my stated priorities and make them harder to achieve.
The Negative Effects of Having Children
If my husband and I had children, it would impact our ability to travel. An additional person would need to be added to the cost—one who cannot contribute. I suppose we could leave them with grandparents or other family members, but pawning the responsibility off on others is no way to raise a child. Regardless, it would certainly impact when and how often we could travel, and we would be subject to other people’s schedules.
By having children, spending time with the important people in my life would not be directly negatively impacted. However, adding another important person in my life certainly would impact the amount of time I could devote to each individual. To be frank, it’s no secret that children can negatively impact relationships, not only between spouses but between parents and their friends who don’t have kids. The time I would get to spend with those important people certainly wouldn’t be of the quality it is now. I wouldn’t be able to have the type of one-on-one conversations with my mom that I have now if I had children wanting to play with grandma. I wouldn’t be able to just pick up and brunch with my best friend like I can now as a married woman without kids.
Like it or not, having children hurts a woman’s career advancement. In our society, it is still women who are expected to bear the responsibilities of childrearing. Whether it’s picking up an ill child from school or preparing family meals – this is thought of as a mom’s role. And this fact is not lost on employers. At times it seems like just the possibility that I could have kids someday (and as a married woman in my late 20s, the clock is ticking) has impeded my career advancement.
Having kids would certainly restrict my ability to pay down debt. Obviously, having children is a huge expense – one that would take precedence over lowering debt.
I’m not saying all minimalists should be childfree. There are certainly people out there who desperately want to be parents and highly prioritize that in their life. Those people should absolutely be parents—someone’s gotta do it, right? My priorities are not in line with being a parent. And so, if we define minimalism as using time and other resources to further your goals, being a parent is incompatible with that. The best thing about minimalism is that it is not one-size-fits-all. It looks different for everyone because we all have different needs, resources, and priorities.
Legally Minimalist is a young female attorney who is devoted to her career and her minimalist, childfree lifestyle (yes, you can be a minimalist and still have a job, even a good one!). You can read more about her minimalist journey here.