Think your work life is lost on your kids? Think again.


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Lately I’ve been thinking about my work life in terms of contributionAs in: what of value can I contribute to the world? (I’m talking specifically about my work — the value of living a good life and raising kids is never in question.)

Part of what made writing Minimalist Parenting with Christine so wonderful was the chance to do something so personally important. If I could be part of a movement that helps parents feel more confident and empowered while at the same time more relaxed, then SIGN ME UP.

Now that the book is making its way in the world and some space has opened up in my work life (and I’m mostly over the postpartum letdown I think might be an inevitable part of the book release process), I’m considering what’s next.

When I’m in a moment like this, the doors of my mind fly open and all sorts of ideas rush in. At times it’s overwhelming, but also refreshing because it causes me to look at everything with new eyes.

I came upon a “no duh” surprise: now that my kids are older, they are much more aware of what I do. Work-wise, life-wise.

We all know what they say about modeling: it’s the most powerful form of teaching, and (ironically) much of it is unconscious. I’ve tried to model good habits and values for my kids, with varying levels of success (exercise continues to be a struggle). But my work life has always felt separate and beyond my kids’ view or interest. Part of my grownup world. Something I do while they’re busy doing other things.

Well, no longer. My kids are more aware of and involved with my husbands’ and my work than ever. They look over our shoulders while we work. They ask what we’re doing. They want to know about not just the whats and whens but the whys.

Some of this is a function of having two work-at-home parents. Every day is Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day. Some of it has to do with the fact that both of our work lives exist primarily online — the native habitat of the modern tween and teen.

But I also think some of it has to do with their own thoughts for the future. They’re both getting old enough to imagine their lives after the school years are over.

As this insight sinks in, I find myself even more motivated to answer the whys for myself. The answers naturally change with time, but they aren’t all that different than they’ve always been — to add something positive to the world, to help people.

But as I come up for air and survey my surroundings, I do recognize that the conditions have changed. The Internet is bigger, noisier and more populated then when I began Parent Hacks. My kids are more directly interested in what I do. My parenting pressures (and therefore my writing motivations) are shifting.

It’s a nice (and fortunate) place to be — this moment of reflection and choice. I’m constantly aware of how lucky I am to have such latitude in my work. But it also puts the onus on me to be conscious about what I do, and when and how much I do it.

One of the foundations of minimalist parenting is to “make room for remarkable.” To clear away the clutter (mental, physical, time-based, whatever) so the important stuff can breathe and shine. How that’s translating in my work life (or at least my intention) is to keep my focus on what I consider useful, insightful, and important, not necessarily on what’s popular.

If you’re a regular blog reader, you’ve probably heard this from other writers. Many of us in the parent blogging community have stopped to pause and reflect on what we’re doing here, and why we’re doing it. But I decided to share it anyway in case you find yourself in a similar place in your own line of work. Chances are we’ll find ourselves here more than once, and it never hurts to be reminded that we’re not alone. Not only are we all in the same boat, as they get older, our kids jump in, too.

Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and the publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.

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