Living With Less Can Lead Families to More

Filed under: Opinions

Rachel Campos-Duffy
In 1956, Coach Jerry Sacharski couldn't turn away the little guys who showed up wanting to be part of his summer baseball program, so he started the first PeeWee T-ball league to teach the six -to-eight-year-old set the fundamentals of baseball and a thing or two about good, clean fun. Mr. Sacharski passed away on February 27th, and this week the the Wall Street Journal pondered whether parents, concerned with our shaky economic climate, might be foregoing expensive family vacations this summer to rediscover less costly family-bonding activities like T-ball and a game of catch in the backyard.

That story reminded me of an Oprah episode I recently saw about Candice, a widowed mom who agreed to undergo a week-long experiment with living with less – no shopping, no eating out, and no TV. During the week, Candice confesses to feeling guilt and shame for having financed her family's lifestyle on credit. She also comes to realize that she shops to medicate the pain of her husband's death.

By the end of the week, the entire family had undergone a profound transformation. Prior to the experiment, Candice's teenage sons couldn't remember the last time they ate a sit-down, home-cooked family dinner; now they eagerly look forward to it. And despite their initial protestations, they admit that living without TV or video games brought their family closer.

Candice's final exercise was to think back on a time when her family was happiest and most connected. She took the camera crew back to the modest home she once shared with her late husband and recalled a day when the family spent an afternoon playing together in piles of leaves. "[Now] I know my children don't need the stuff. All I ever needed was them, and all they ever needed was me."

Just yesterday, my husband was talking to a man who owns a few rustic rental cabins on a lake in northern Wisconsin. He told Sean that this season, rentals are down for his usual customers, men-only group fishing trips, but he's seeing an unusual uptick in cabins being booked by young urban and suburban families with kids: "Back to basics, I guess, in this economy," he mused.

There is plenty to bemoan as our country struggles to figure a way out of this financial mess. But maybe it also means more T-ball, leaf-piles, and fishing weekends for time-strapped families and technology-saturated kids. As the famous Spanish saying goes: "No hay mal que por bien no venga." ("There is no bad thing from which something good doesn't emerge").

How is the economy affecting your time with your family?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.