[Episode 12] Minimalist Parenting

Parenting is a heavy job. Trying to be 'minimalist' about it without cutting corners is challenging.

In Episode #12 of "Moms Talk with a French Accent", La Petite Creme founder Fanny, joined by New York Pediatrician and Holistic Coach Dr. Varisa Perlman, reflects on their own journey towards a lighter parenting experience.

(full text transcript below the video)


Moms Talk with Dr Varisa Perlman [episode #12]: Minimalist Parenting

Fanny: Hi, everyone, and welcome in our 12th Moms Talk. This week, we're gonna talk about what is the biggest load clutter in your life. So that's a big— Hi, everyone! Let me just wait a little bit. There is our co-host, Dr. Varisa Perlman. Let me put her in the call. Right now. Let's invite her. Hi, Varisa.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Hi, how are you?

Fanny: Good. Thank you so much for joining us for our 12th episode of Moms Talk. So today, that will be only two moms. Cecile is not here because she has a mom problem. She's taking care of our daughters. So it will be only me and you today.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Sounds fun.

Fanny: Yeah, so I was saying hi to everybody. There is a lot of people that joining us. So that's very nice. Hello, hello, everyone. We are very happy that you joined us for this call. And today we're gonna address a big subject, which is not always the first one that comes in your mind when you are about to become parents or in parents' life, it's what is the load or the clutter that you have in your life.

So it can be either gear like physical things, toys, gear that you get when you have a baby, clothes, can be also coming from people because you're gonna get visits from people when you have a baby. Unsolicited advice, also that's a big load in your mental parents' health and yeah it could be logistic, could be a lot of things for different persons. So we can start with you, Dr. Perlman, what was your current situation.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: We get together and discuss different topics, and when we first talked about it, we talked a lot about the idea of clutter in terms of emotional clutter 'cause I think that that's actually what we think about when we talk about what weighs us down oftentimes as parents. But that's a vague idea.

But I'm loving this topic right now because we are in spring. And I actually had someone that was talking to me about how they are going through I guess what we would call spring cleaning. Hard to say when you're in Miami because spring, summer, it all looks the same. But I thought about it for a while, I'm like, "Why spring?" Why is spring the season where people are like, "Boy, I feel like I can't breathe."

I'm gonna talk about the physical first, just because I feel like it's easier to hold onto right now. So in the different seasons, we have the summer—well, let's do this. We start with the fall because I feel like anybody who has had kids, whether you like it or not, your life starts to rotate around your kid's school schedule, right?

Fanny: Totally. [laughs] Yeah, that's a thing.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: When you think of your memories, your activities, your day-to-day, whether you like it or not, it is gonna be dictated by your kid's schedule. So just for a little [inaudible] like 12, maybe 15 years of your life, your schedule is hijacked by these people. [laughs] So fall is so full. Fall is about new school clothing, new school things, new school classes, a lot of acquiring. New habits, new routines, new activities, So everything is about bringing everything into your schedule and not really discerning what's feeling crowded. I'm just trying to get through the day and see what seems to be fun, but you're just not in the reflective point. [laughs] It's a lot. It's a lot of stuff at once.

Fanny: Yeah, at this period, your life is more like a checklist of things that you have to do, one after another. Plus, if it's something that is new, as you said, starting a new school, finding the uniform, it's not a big thing, but it's just a load on your mental load that you already have. So you have to have new things and be on top of different things. So yeah, that's a big thing.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And everywhere you look, there's just kid stuff. There's a backpack, there's their thing, there's a permission form, there's all these different things that are, frankly, cluttering up your world. [laughs] And then you go into the holidays. I always would find patients we would start with the fall and they would start with school and then the illnesses would start, so every single holiday.

So September, the Jewish holidays start going. You see a lot of people getting sick. October, Halloween, enough said. [laughs]

Fanny: Yeah. There is always something to keep your to-do list full.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And then you're wearing the different costumes in weird weather, running around. It's just Halloween. Right. And I mean, frankly, there's a lot of candy around. So here you are you're like, "Oh, I'm gonna be good, I'm only gonna eat two pieces of candy today," where you don't normally don't eat candy at all. There's candy everywhere. Then we go to Thanksgiving, all right. And I don't say that you shouldn't see people. You should obviously see people in your life, but Thanksgiving is just a lot. It's just a lot of food, a lot of going to people's houses. And then you go into the Hanukkahs, the Christmases, and there's crap all over your apartment. [laughs]

You have just been accumulating stuff this whole period of time. And then we hit January and we hit a new year and people are like, it's a resolution time, but you're not thinking declutter because you're like, "I'm just trying to recover from what that was," [laughs] the last five to six months of just probably incessant illness, the routine is barely catching, you're just getting a good pattern. So you're just kind of taking a breath up by February.

Fanny: But don't breathe too much because the flu is around here for January. The flu will come for sure. Because the kids are exhausted by the holidays because it's two weeks of vacation. So that means not really vacation for you. And the kids are so excited and they are very tired because the holiday vacation are not like a vacation that you rest. That's a false idea. The kids get too excited. They eat crap. And after they go back to school, you have the back-to-school illness [laughs] that comes with it.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. I like to call it the second round of flu. So if the flu didn't pull you the first time, they still have February. February and March is still fair game. Fair game.

Fanny: Just try to survive. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Because you're trying to pull yourself back into it. And somewhere around March, April, and this is just when the weather gets a little bit lighter, you're kind of drifting into a little bit of—now I'm in New York, so now I am back into the seasons. But even Miami, are we pre and post-Art Basel? Is that how we like do it? [laughs] But it's that kind of thing where we’re starting to come up for air. We're like, "Oh, wow. Wow." And you look up and you realize the school year is almost over. You literally have two or three months and then your school year is almost over. You've now survived the illnesses. You've survived the vacations. Because you're absolutely right, vacations are not a restful period for any working parent. Where the hell do I put my kid? Who the hell is going to take care of them?

Fanny: Exactly. It's either a mental load to find a camp or a solution to keep them entertained or you have to take the vacation and you probably will stay at home and you have to keep them entertained because school and daycare, they keep the level very high [laughs] doing a million things with your kids, and when they are home, they are just bored. And you are like the bored mom. You're like, "Yeah, sorry, but boring mom."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: My mom was old school. Being a pediatrician, she's like, "Okay, you're coming to work." And at one point, she'd have three kids and two dogs into one exam room for the entire day. And we were like, "This has to be a form of torture. It has to be illegal in some country to do this." And so it became a situation where vacation was just not a restful period by any means.

So you finally get through all that, you come to the spring, and you look up and you realize that your home and your head is just cluttered. Whether it be just all these activities that you signed up for, that you're doing, that you're running around with, trying to socialize, this playdate, that playdate, all these things are working. Your house is filled with all kinds of crap that you probably don't need by any means. And that's where people start getting the edge.

So even if you live in Miami, anywhere you live, you start getting that edge to declutter. So I feel like this is a really, really good talk because honestly, it doesn't have to go that way. It doesn't have to be something that you only do at the end of the year. It's something that we should try to do in little pieces all throughout the year. Don't get overwhelmed.

Fanny: Yeah, to remove some load here and there, to lighten your head, yeah, it's a good idea.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right? And the question is, is that when do you ever feel that way? How do you do it so that little bits kind of work? It's interesting because let's take something as simple as the toys. So there are some people that will say, have a big box of toys that you just put in storage. And then you have the toys that the kids play with. And every couple months, you just go back and exchange the box. And it's like you bought them a new box of toys. Okay?

So that sounds kind of weird, but the kids are very simple. The kids actually don't need all these new toys as much as you think. And in many ways, the newness of anything, even if it's something simple, is authentic enough for them that they actually play with it. But it's being very deliberate about what is in your space that you share together.

And clothing, at least for adults. So when you look into your closet, if you look into your closet and your closet is busting at the seams, it means that you really can't see. Half of your clothing is pushed behind something else. And what ends up happening is that you end up only wearing half of your wardrobe. And the rule should be if you haven't worn it in the last six months, then [inaudible].

Fanny: Yeah. And every time you— in the morning, you try to find out what you're going to wear, it's just a million things that you have to analyze to say at the end, "I'm going to wear the same thing as I always wear." So that's totally a new [inaudible].

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right? I'm going to kind of push that a little bit further. When it comes to friendships and people that you see on a social basis, whether it be with your kids or even on your own, it sounds strange, but less is more sometimes. If you have people around you that are really consuming all of your energy, they're just consuming your energy, but you're not really getting back from them. They're taking, but they're not really giving, you know what? You'd be surprised. Maybe see them a little bit less and then bring in the people who actually really do feed your space, because when those people consume your energy, they take your time.

The same way that that [inaudible] that always seems to appear at the top of the pile takes up all your energy and takes all your attention when really that cute skirt in the back never gets any sunlight. Well, you wouldn't know that if you didn't evaluate what's in your space.

And so one of the ways that minimalist parenting, to me—what does it mean to me? And, again, we're talking about possessions, because I think it's sometimes easier to start that way, and then we move to emotional. But one of the ways that I think that we have skewed our lifestyle for our children is that we just schedule a lot. We schedule a lot for them. We schedule a lot for us.

I read something, and tell me what you think about this, that in Europe, there isn't so much of that activity hopping after school that a lot of parents will take the kids to the market or take them to the grocery store or take them on to errands with them as their "activity."

Fanny: Yeah. They're more like you follow your parents, whatever they need to do.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, tell me what you think about that or your memories of that and all, being from France.

Fanny: Yeah, unless the sport activity, but it's barely twice a week. When you are very young, you don't exercise that much, so it's twice a week. And other than that, yes, you follow your parents, whatever they have to do, if it's grocery or go to the pharmacy or visit your grandparents, friends, you just are where your parents are. So yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Do you think it's like that now?

Fanny: I have not been in France for a long time, but I think it's still pretty, pretty close. Yeah. It's very different from here in the United States where the activities first start very early. And so that means almost you have to quit your job early on to drive your kids to the activity. And here, it feels like you need to do a lot of it. And from a very young age, like gymnastics, soccer, it's a lot of things that even daycare provides. And it seems a little bit overwhelming because my son is 18 months, how could he play soccer?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs]

Fanny: [laughs] But that's something that is available in the daycare. So I see. So I'm like, "Okay, but he's 18 months." So I just have time. The ball is bigger than him. [laughs] So I don't see the point, so yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I just got over the walking thing, I'm not exactly sure how the running and kicking the ball at the same time is supposed to work out.

Fanny: Exactly. And I think when they are very young, it's more like trying new things and let them see some different things for them to try and see what they want to do because it's not easy to decide for them and you have to pay the full subscription and after three, they would say, "I don't like it. I don't want to go anymore." So yeah, for me, the activity thing, it's a thing here because there is a lot of choice and maybe in France, there is less choice also. So you may go where your sister or your friends go and it's not that much of opportunity. Here, you can do cooking lesson, you can do music, you can do soccer, gymnastics, cheerleading, a board game club, it's kind of a lot.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. I came from a family of two working parents. So a lot of after schools actually just wasn't an option because they just gotta get home. Honestly, we don't even know that they had someone, somehow they would arrange for us to get home. And it's like, once you're home, we're not doing multiple trips or something. Maybe I had a grandfather who lived with us for a while, and that was our transportation. We didn't have Uber then.

And so it became a situation where it was just the way it was. It was a necessity. And I would spend a lot of time wandering in my house or wandering outside. And I have very distinct memories of just laying on grass, looking up at the sky, and watching the clouds go by. And I never felt like I was disadvantaged. It was more of a situation of my parents were like, "Listen, you've got to just figure out ways to entertain yourself." When my mom would leave us in the exam room for hours [laughs] we had our ways to entertain ourselves, play cops and robbers.

It's not as if I didn't gain an experience. When you go with your parents to go to the pharmacist or you go with your parents to pick up the groceries, you're learning a lot.

Fanny: Yeah. Yeah, that's true.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And we've actually really devalued a lot of those life lessons of community and just being around other people and responsibility and cooking, knowing where the food comes from, and just a lot of places that in the best interest of making sure that we gave "experiences" to our kids, we completely cut out experiences that existed already.

Fanny: Yeah. I have a souvenir of me when my mom asked me to—she gave me money and she asked me to go to the bakery store and grab the bread. And the first time, I was so scared to ask, but I knew how to do it because I have seen her doing million times. But the first time that you have to go, it's your responsibility. And that's what I said, right now you are telling that, it's a nice souvenir that I have. And I'm not shy, and I think it is because from the very beginning, I was on my own, and I was confident enough to go to grab that bread, and I was super proud to go back to the car and say, "Yeah, I did it." Yeah, that's nice.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: It goes along the theme of this idea of less is more. When you have opportunities for your kids to get those little bits of confidence, those little nuggets of confidence, over time, they accumulate. It's like being in an investment bank and it's back on their list of things that they can do. And so what we have sometimes in our attempts to create these very fixed experiences, is that we're really undercutting serendipity, the random experiences that can only come from just having an open schedule.

Fanny: Exactly, like it's a life lesson, you learn something that is actually useful.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. It's not that I'm saying that kids these days can't talk to people, but they kind of have a little bit of anxiety with basic socialization. The idea of like, "Go up there and ask them if this meat is in. Can you go and talk to this person?" These are little tasks that actually build those skills. It's a skillset. It's not something that everyone is born with. So we have a lot of kids now and you're saying, "But they don't really even need it. They can just order stuff on the phone." But to be able to talk to people actually is something that is really essential, and especially to strangers.

So here we are just taking pieces of what you're telling me that you did with your mom, but that's one or two activities that we've already forgotten because we thought that we need to be in Spanish, we need to be in hockey at the age of three. [laughs] I don't know, I don't really know if we need that.

There's something pretty awesome about a pickup game, there's something pretty awesome about having nothing planned and getting kind of bored and being like, "Well, what do I want to do? What do I want to try to do?" Some kids get over-scheduled like that at a very young age. What they like to do is—they don't really know how to determine that.

Fanny: Yeah. And I think that maybe they will lose their imagination also because when you get bored, you have to make something fun, you have to make up with an idea to get not bored.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: One of the things that they say is one of the great markers for success is actually self-initiated learning. The idea that you initiated that learning experience, but that doesn't really exist in a space where every moment is scheduled. And I think the part that—even recess is kind of a frustrating time because you don't have anything that's really set. They literally open the door to the yard and you run around. But when you figure out what you'd like to do, whether it be look at the worms or go on the bars or run around playing football with all the people, you end up realizing that it was an incredible—even though it was difficult maybe for some kids, actually a really important time for them to figure out how to navigate that openness.

But most of the times now, we don't even have recess anymore. We don't even have that. So we're taking away these moments which can be really formative in the way that their brain and their psyche deals with initiation of interest, that initiation.

Fanny: In daycare in France—because I used to work in that field in France, in hospital and daycare—for the kids, even very young, we used to, in the day, let them have—that was maybe once in the morning, once in the afternoon, let them play on their own. There was no planned or guided activities. We just let them on the section and do whatever they want. I think they have to fill this time with only what they want to do. So whether it's read a book by themselves, nobody will read the book for them, so they just turn the page, or play with a doll.

It's interesting that you say now because I don't know if in daycare in the US, that's the same approach. My son is in daycare, but he is coming home with so much paper and activity that I'm not sure they have—maybe when they are outside, that it's already an activity. You're outside.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: We're all going to go over here, we're all going to go over there. And there is something good about learning to go with the group, but I think that when I try to close my eyes and figure out what minimalist parenting means to me, there is this drift to where I feel that we have lost that space. And so what that translates to for parents is the idea of having time that you literally schedule nothing. And I know I said the word "schedule," and everyone's like, "Schedule?", but schedule nothing. So if you have activities on the weekend, the morning of Saturday, nothing for the afternoon on Sunday. If you do something on Saturday, then nothing on Sunday. You have to make it deliberate.

There is this concept of masking and unmasking, and this idea of when kids are at school, they're really busy. They're actually spending the whole day trying to understand what everyone is saying, what rules they have to follow, who is nice and who is not, how to act around them. We spend that day for work doing that. And when we come home, we need time where it's blank. But if they come home and there's like, then we have to go to this and more class and then more rules, it just never gives anybody a chance to unmask.

Fanny: Yeah, that's true.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And so for parents, for people, it's not that fun to drive your kids from ballet, get them, pick them up, get all their stuff together. I'm getting a flashback. [laughs]

Fanny: [laughs] You're more like a bus driver or a taxi or Uber.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] I'm getting a flashback because you gotta make sure that the bag will take them to swimming, make sure you have all the swim stuff in there, all the gear. And we were living in Michigan and we were taking some swim classes in the cold, so you get there, you get them down to the swimsuit, they sit down, they go with the swimming, you're sitting there, you're just looking around like, "Okay. What am I gonna do?" They come out, they have to take a little bath, shower, you get them dressed to what they need to get to, you come out in the cold, you make sure that they—I mean, that is not relaxing.

Fanny: That's a lot. And I would add that every activities has a WhatsApp group that come with it. And you have tons of text messages that you have to get on top of it to be sure that you don't forget the red shirt for Wednesday or whatever they need. So it just adds to your plate of always thinking about something.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Just reveal, how old are your kids?

Fanny: It's 18 months and 5 years old.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, so I mean, they're obviously young, but yet already really stressful.

Fanny: Yeah. That's right.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Already stressful. [laughs]

Fanny: [laughs] Yeah. The WhatsApp group is like, oh my god. You leave your phone for 20 minutes and you have 18 notifications on whatever group of things and like, oh wow.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So I'm not saying don't do any of these activities, but just be curated. Just be real clear as to what's something that serves you, what's something that serves the kid that they actually enjoy it, but schedule time that there's just no activity, that they just can let their mind wander, let their body wander, let you wander a little bit because you need time to unmask too.

And I think the part where yes, we can talk about possessions because I think possessions have helped us see it physically, but to me, if you really talk about where I feel like we're cluttered, we're cluttered in our time. Our time is so cluttered. And so if you have a situation where you just barely make it to spring, [laughs] like crawling to spring, you're like, "What was that?"

Because you just have to realize that it's not something that should only be done once a year. You go in there in the fall, and you're signing up for those activities, just be careful.

Fanny: Yeah. Just need to be mindful on how it's going to fill your space, how it's going to fill your time and your kids' time because it's going to fill their days, but it's going to fill yours also. So just be mindful when you think about doing an activity or sign up for a new activity. Just be aware of the time that's going to represent in your routine.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And I would still encourage you to also still value these daily living tasks. Learning and going with you to the grocery store and maybe saying hi to someone and doing something and like, "How much does this cost?" "Okay, I'm going to make this dish." We'll talk about cooking. You don't really need to take a cooking class. Cook at home and have your kids sit there and help chop.

Fanny: That's a cooking task.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Best case scenario, they actually like the cooking and they ask to help you. [laughs] To me, it always helped when my mom would cook because, again, she worked but she cooked every night. It would always help when she would like, "Hey, taste this," or like, "I'm going to make this." When I was able to get taste tests along the way, that definitely kept my interest and I was more than willing to sit there and squeeze 15 more limes because they wouldn't ask me to.

Those to me were really formative for me. And I was part of that process. And I think that we've just made things a little bit too convenient, too packaged, maybe a little too sterile for our kids when really learning how to live and run through your day and what responsibilities that you have to communicate with other people are things that you don't really have a class for. These are things that you actually learn by hanging out with your parents theoretically when they're taking on those errands, that they're living their life and you're watching them live them. And we missed that piece, this generation. We got ahead of ourselves.

Fanny: Yeah. And as you said, now, a lot of things are online, you order things online, you have everything on your phone, on your computer, so it's like you don't have a human behind every task that you need to do. It's important to stay connected with humankind. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Well, it's interesting because my kids are older, so they're like 18, 20. They're definitely in that age where technology was rising, but they were from the very beginning. So I did a lot of errands. I didn't buy all my groceries online, no shade to that, but it's the idea that they still had to see me physically go to places. And even the idea of texting or calling, we grew up at a time where if you wanted to talk to your friend, you had to call their house, perhaps talk to their grandmother, maybe talk to their cousin, ask if they were there, and maybe leave a message. And all of these pieces, no, they pick up the phone and they just text their friend.

Fanny: Exactly.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So no awkwardness ever has to be processed. They never really had to get past that, to be able to present that communication skill. And in some ways, again, easier does not make things richer. More is not better. We're really figuring out that balance. How do we inform ourselves on a primal level about skills that we have taken for granted and experiences that we took for granted?

And I think that is the reason why something like minimalist parenting has become, I don't want to say [inaudible], but people are really considering the concept because I think we've maxed out a lot of things. [laughs]

Fanny: Yes. You can see a lot of people talking about burnout in their job. I'm pretty sure that it's unknown now, but I won't be surprised that we have a burnout in the parenting field also because it's a lot. It's your life, their life, and if you have multiple kids, you're just multiplying the things that you have to do. You only have 24 hours in a day. You cannot change the time.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I think that we talk about this a lot because it's just something that is really important, is this idea of being present. But it's really hard to be present when you're basically a really good Uber driver and just drive kids from place to place. And you're like, "What?" Yes, maybe you have conversations with them, but is that really—

Fanny: It's hard to be present also when you have in mind just your to-do list of the next thing that is coming and the next thing that you need to prepare or be on top of the next thing. And so you are never in the moment, you are preparing the next one. So that's sad because you are missing just what is happening right now.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: When we're not present, our kids don't really learn to be present themselves. They learn by modeling. So when we're not really present, they're like, "Oh, I guess it's not that important." And we don't mean to do that, but we do do that when we max out all of our time, we max out all of our belongings, we max out all of our attachments, where we're just kind of maxed out. There isn't room for something to arise authentically and genuinely out of boredom or out of an empty space. The empty space doesn't exist.

And so when you try to turn your world through for your kids, you have to really start with yourself. And like, "Well, what is important? How do I spend my time? How do I spend my interest?" And I think that a lot of us will understand it better if we start with our time.

Fanny: Exactly. But because most of the time, when people ask you, "What do you want for your birthday?" or things like that, the first thing that you think is, "Just a quiet moment. Just something like I have nothing to do." For me, that's almost the first thing that comes in my head—quiet, peaceful time by myself. Nothing to do, nothing to prepare, nothing to think, nothing to schedule.

And now I truly understand my mom because when I was a teenager or a young woman, when I asked her, "What do you want for your birthday?" And she kept saying, "I want peace," that means quiet time. Nothing, just quiet time. And I was like, "Pfft, boring." And now that I'm a mom, I totally understand why she asked that, like, "Just nothing, really nothing." I want nothing to do. I want nothing to prepare. I can truly understand her answer right now. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: It's like ringing in your ear. It's exactly the thing. And as a kid, you always think—I mean, honestly, kids are voracious. More is better. But I will tell you that my kids, especially actually when they became teenagers, they were so happy when they would come out of their room in the morning, maybe around 11 o'clock, maybe morning's not really the word to say [laughs] on a Saturday, they would be like, "So what are we doing today?" And I'm like, "Nothing. I'm cooking dinner and we're hanging out and we'll have some dinner that I've been cooking all day." To me, felt very European, felt very French. That's why I love French culture.

Fanny: My daughter, she's the same. She always needs to know what's gonna come next during the weekend. We were talking about that with my husband last night, and my husband told me that it's ridiculous. Zoe always needs to know what we're gonna do next, which most of the time it's nothing because we already did the park, we already walked on the boardwalk, and we did stuff, not like the big stuff, but she always need to even to have more or know what's next. No, nothing next. As you said, we are going to do nothing. And she's always in the need to know, so we try to work with her and say, "Okay, you don't need to always have a step ahead. You can just also enjoy to be home and look at your toys, look what you have around and just see what you can do on your own."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And how does she like that? I'm just curious.

Fanny: At the very beginning, she's just annoyed and a little bit upset because she has the impression that maybe we are cutting her for something fun. And after a while that we don't pay attention that she just being annoying, she just play with something. She just gave up and she clicked and she played with her brother or whatever and she can play for hours. But it needs her a little time to swallow the thing that that is your thing. You have to do on your own something.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. I think that that exactly is such a great example of how you move towards that, is that first you do the unscheduling, but just because a kid wants— First of all, when I go to my parents' house and I'm there for the weekend, my parents, because they come from that generation where communicating with your kids is not really something you need to do. And so I will be like, "What are we doing for dinner?" And a lot of times, they just tell me, but I do need to know, I like to know.

That being said, you realize how programmed we are because of that, that we always think there's something to do. And I remember every time, I would say in the morning, especially because we were really busy, especially they were teenagers and they were getting busier themselves, and I would say to them, "We have nothing scheduled today. Have fun." They would look at me like, "What? Really?" And they become very happy. It's almost like they became a kid again. Where I would come home and I'd be like, "You have to go a Hebrew school and swimming." I didn't want them to drown, so basically, that's it.

But most of the day, we would come home, drop everything, and literally, they would go downstairs and literally have to drag them up to have dinner. So that was their energy to begin with. And for them to return to that, even as a teenager and be like, "Nothing is scheduled, nothing we have to do," they ran out and I would go back in sometimes, give them a taste of food that I was cooking a little, I love to cook on the weekend because it takes a lot of time and it just kind of holds the time. But after a while, if I told to you, if you were living in my house, and the next morning, I was like, "Fanny, you don't have to do anything tomorrow." [laughs]

Fanny: Well, I like that. I would come tomorrow for sure. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And my husband, he really was a kid that would spend a lot of time just wandering, whether it be outside or he'd ride his bike places. And he made me promise that each weekend, he's like, "Just give me a day that like we have nothing scheduled." And it doesn't always happen. Sometimes we just get busy, but he's like, "Just try." Or when we go on vacation, some people, they love the schedule, And he's just like one or two things, our reservation here, our plan here, and he's like, the rest, open it up.

Fanny: That's good because you are probably creating some opportunities that will come up and you will accept it because you have free time. You say, "Okay, why not?" But if you're already packed with things and this opportunity comes, you just can't accept it because—

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. And I think that the reason why we talk about this in terms of the parents so much, again, the kids will learn from you. When you take them on that vacation and the way you plan that vacation and the way you live your life is going to simmer and seep into the way that they look at their lives. It's one of those things that has to start with the parents. You cannot manufacture this perspective. It's something that has to be lived and really carried out probably more than anything else that you do for your kids. It's creating a joy. And it's weird to say "create joy." How do you create joy?

Everyone thinks like, "I'm gonna do this, and I'm gonna do this." Sometimes doing nothing is joyful.

Fanny: Exactly. And by creating a lot of things at the end, kids get used to it and it's always they want more. It's more, more, more, more, so at the end, you're just escalating the thing and there is no end of the more.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: There is no end to more. And I mean, we see it ourselves, you just completely don't feel satiated. You're setting up your kids sometimes for a life of not feeling satiated. And there is just this kind of primal issue with that because in many ways, as people, we're just not as limber to be able to adjust to things anymore. Everything is planned and we feel like we have control, especially when it comes to parents. We feel like controlling things is the way to be successful. Actually, a little bit of chaos, maybe a lot of chaos, and a little bit of lack of control where things are kind of serendipitous, really, to me brings everybody to a level of joy that you could never have predicted, that you wouldn't ever have predicted.

My kids are both in fields that if you would've told me 10 years ago, this is what their life would have looked like, I would have been like, "You're crazy. I don't even know what you're talking about. I don't even know why you're telling me this." But the way that their life was led and the way that their life proceeded and the joy that they found—my son is a jazz trombonist at Juilliard. "What? What are you talking about?" And he didn't start playing until he was in sixth grade. And it was just because, and you mentioned this earlier, I dropped him off at that camp because his older sibling went to that camp, and I was like, "I don't want to drop off a kid at two camps. I'll pick you up in two hours. Have fun." It was completely just my selfishness.

So he went through that experience. And I remember he came back once and he asked me, he said, "Why didn't you put me in music class when I was three?" Because all of his friends who were at that level all started when they were three. And I said, "Listen, kid. I was not in the business of bringing you to do something that you did not want to do. And you never expressed any interest in music. And so if you were going to come to it and we were going to make that commitment, I wanted you to want to make that commitment." And I think that stuck. He never asked me again [laughs] what that was about.

But I think that there's something to be said about having time where they just do their own thing. And people are so worried about their resume and their activities. So many colleges now are getting these lists of activities. But you ask the kid, "Well, what do you think about this?" And they're like, "I don't know. I just did it because they told me that I should do it."

Fanny: That's society that leads you to have all of that being done to pursue a career or a goal.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: But does it really?

Fanny: And do they need to start at three? Not sure. At three, you just need to play on your own and be innocent and enjoy your little life while you have plenty of time of doing nothing.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Well, it was a moment for me. It was a little bit of a sad moment for me. I read a lot of journal articles and different things like that. And the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with this initiative to increase playing because they were noticing that kids don't know how to play anymore.

Fanny: Yeah, that's sad.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: We kind of did that. Do we know as adults how to play? Do we know what to do with free time? What do we do? Do we have a little bit of that own piece of ourselves that's left over? [laughs] Whatever's left over after having kids and raising them that we cultivate, that we take care of it, like, "Hey, I actually really like to do this." Do we do that? And I don't know, we could do better with that.

Fanny: I think we could do better for sure.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: If you take anything away from this idea of minimalist parenting, we talk about it as things to do with your children, but I'm going to start with things to look back on your own life and how you lead your life and what you value and what's important to you and how that will translate in the way that you raise your children, 'cause it's all connected. You can't really cut one part to the other.

In France, do you find that besides the activities and whatnot—I think part of the reason—and again, I'm going to have a romanticized view of France because obviously, I'm not from there, but I felt that there was so much value. Let's just take something as simple as eating. I was on vacation. So here I was and I was having lunch, which I don't usually eat out at lunch when I'm working, because when I'm working, I'm sitting in front of my computer in the middle of doing work, and I am answering calls while I'm trying to eat something that I don't even know what it is, and it's about maybe 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes if I'm lucky.

But I'm on vacation, so I'm having lunch out in a restaurant and I see someone who is French sitting there with their meal and their plate and they are cutting their food [laughs] and they seem to be chewing their food and they're not on their phone or doing anything else. They're just very present in that moment.

Fanny: Yeah. That's something we do. The meal time is considered a social time and you really let your things on the side and you enjoy the meal, and for kids also. French people may be a little bit too strict on that side, but we like kids to be sitting on the table with us and we like them to wait until everybody is served to start at the same time to eat. And we usually don't let them to leave the table if we are not done, everybody is done. It's the way to communicate and learn that it's a moment that we share. So from the beginning to the end.

When they are very young, it's difficult for them to stay still and sit. But when you grew up, that's a habit. And either you care or don't care about the conversation around the table, you just stay, and at the end, you will probably enjoy the conversation because that's what you used to do since you are very young. So yeah, that's a very different concept from here because here, usually, the kids eat before the parents or whatever. But it's really something we do different from the US.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Well, to me, the reason why I thought of the eating is because it's always good when you try to see, how do I, like, minimize my parenting? How does that phrase come up? One of the places or the times that are consistent, a time that you spend with your children is actually in meal time. So that's an interesting place to start. And for me, the idea of bringing something to a very primal level, you're eating, eating is something that your body needs you to do. And to create it, to break it down to just the bare bones of, I am sitting here, you are sitting here, and we are talking and we are eating, and that's it. There are no bells or whistles.

Fanny: Yes. We share this moment because that's the only moment on the day that you can sit and be present and share what you did on your day and good news, bad news. Meal, it's very important.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: My parents are Thai doctors and my husband's family are Brooklyn Jewish and we are very different when you put us on paper, but the one thing that was in common is that all our families ate dinner together every night.

Fanny: Yeah, that's nice.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: It's the one thing. And my dad, he made sure that we always had dinner together because he's like, "I just want to be able to look into your eyes once a day." It's a very simple ask. It was just a very simple ask because the idea was that our days can be very busy and filled.

Fanny: You just go from one task to another task. You don't really take the time to sit down and enjoy. Unless you declutter your time.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Correct.

Fanny: As you said, and create some free time to just do nothing and let the opportunity come to whatever presents to you at this time.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And the thing that's tricky about a meal time, is that there's nothing really planned it's not like you're like, "Today, the conversation will be about this." People don't love that because they're like, "I feel a little bit awkward."

Fanny: But you don't have to perform, you don't have to come with something. You just sit and eat. And at least if nobody have anything to say, just eat in the quiet time. It's always a good moment because quiet time also that you don't have to fill with something to say. It's always good to have once a day also. That's good also to not to have the obligation to fill that space also. If you just want to eat in the quiet and enjoy the peaceful moments, it's also something good to have.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: We are a country in the United States of very grand statements and very grand gestures. And I have found in my life, as I've been raised in this country, but also having immigrant parents, is that in life, change can only come with small little adjustments every day. So if that means that's 10 minutes of sitting with your three-year-old because they're just jumping up—like you said, in the French culture, not every kid at three years old is willing and able to do it immediately, but it is something grows and it builds with time, so it doesn't have to be perfect the first time.

Fanny: Exactly, but you have to be mindful and teach them from the beginning. And also, the most important part is to make the right example. You have to sit and stay. And when it's difficult for them, you just explain them that that's how we do, so be a little bit more patient. In five minutes, we will let you go, but finish your plate first. And you can ask question to your kids to just keep this moment a little bit longer and involve them to be in the conversation and don't have them to have the impression to just wait until this time is done and I can do another thing after.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Like I said, if they look at you and you're on your phone, distracted, jumping up and down, you don't come home, that [inaudible] to them.

Fanny: It's not the good example of sharing a moment.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: So I think that it's with the idea of even just emptiness where you don't necessarily say it, you don't have to fill things with words, especially teenagers, they don't really always want you to fix everything that they say. So they may say something to you that they're sad about or something that's going on and we want to fix it. We want to fill that with a cure or something to make it better. And many times, they just want you to sit with what they just told you.

Fanny: Yeah, they don't need advice.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] It's really hard, but there is value in, again, having that space, whether it be in your time, in your schedule, in your apartment, in your house, around you. Less is more.

Fanny: Exactly. And as we said from the beginning, the main topic was declutter your life. The one that you are pointing today was declutter your time first. And I think that's the major one, because if you declutter your time, you will maybe spend more time at home and that will allow you also to declutter your physical stuff like the toys, the clothes, and that's an activity that you can do with your kid and it's not scheduled or planned, but you also declutter your house because kids, they grow up, and toys, they're gonna change interest, so you have to give some, you have to buy new one, you receive from birthday, but you need to declutter. And spending some time at home allows you to do that.

So, again, declutter your time first. I think that one would be the most important one. When we finish this talk, I'm like [inaudible] [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] I love it. That's perfect. Wonderful job.

Fanny: So for people who just joined us, thank you for watching us. Today was declutter your life, and the most important one is to find space, do not schedule every space of your day, try to unschedule a part of your weekdays and give you some space to allow opportunity or just peaceful quiet time and allow your kids to be bored.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes, boredom is not bad.

Fanny: [laughs] Exactly, because more is not good and less is good.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes.

Fanny: I think we're gonna conclude on that. So declutter your time would be our best advice today and you will be able to declutter a lot of aspects of your life because if you have time to think, you will think of, as you say, people that you don't really have interest but you have to invest time in, you will have to declutter your home. So yeah, best advice.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Goes all the way through.

Fanny: Yeah. [laughs] So thank you very much, everyone, for watching our 12th episode, and see you two weeks for our 13th episode already. Thank you very much.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Thank you.

Fanny: Bye.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.


Watch other episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1dpfz3OiZoOwHuST-GmH9sTD0TfF3rIp

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