Today I got to Interview Christine Koh from "Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less". I hope you enjoy it!
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Interviewer: Welcome to the last podcast. Today I am speaking with Christine Coh, co-author of minimalist parenting. Hi Christine.
Christine: Hey, how are you?
Interviewer: Great. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk me. So first of all can you just tell everybody, you know in 15-20 seconds what minimalist parenting is because we are going to get into a lot of details, so.
Christine: Yeah, absolutely. Minimalist parenting I should say maybe perhaps it's not; it's not about living with one chair or no toilet paper. Ocean and I really believe in toilet paper. But it's really a book about lifestyle editing and on how to do free up, degrees free up in your life so that you can focus on the things that you care about and are awesome to you and let go of the rest.
Interviewer: So anybody has ever listened to this show should know that that's almost the exact kind of credo that I believe. So this is a, this is a really this is going be a good conversation. So how did this come about for so how did, how did were you, how many kids you have?
Christine: I have two. Like I have a toddler very rambunctious toddler two year old and a nine year old and yeah it's a big gap and you know Ocean and I have both been blogging for a long time and you know over time not that we have similar philosophies about things. But over time as each of us were so separately posting about a different way of doing things, a way of taking things down a notch, taking you know point the reins back a bit, our readership you know separate readerships wouldn't really respond, it was almost this feeling of oh it's okay to do this. You know I sort of need is a confirmation that it's okay to do this and we didn't, I had the idea for this book a few years ago and when I asked her to write the book with me she you know said yes and it was just the most wonderful partnership we ended up. We just have a lot of shared philosophies and ended up having a really, really wonderful working partnership on it.
Interviewer: Right and, and I'm so just to be credit wise, so you’re caught in xxx02:03, right and.
Christine: XXX02:04 yes,
Interviewer: Yeah, parent hack switch. I have actually sort of, I have link to before. So really cool blog and its really cool vibrations you guys got to take advantage of, so how many kids does she have?
Christine: She has two. Her kids are, although I think there are 10-13 they are about so, you know our plans for a little bit different on kind of what the priorities were and you know twins and so it’s a different ballgame.
Christine: So you could cover that cover the spectrum of babies to twins which was good.
Interviewer: Cool, ok. So first of all I am nothing, I mean I have your kind of anybody who either has kids or thinking about kids read the book but without rehashing too much. I do want to discuss several of the concepts you go over in your writing. The first one you tell me about it is food. So I think that meal planning is already difficult enough for single people. It seems to be very difficult for people who are just couples and have busy jobs. But what do you tell people you know who, who just sort of throw their hands up and they don't think that they can have home cooked meals when they have kids and it's just too hard.
Christine: Yeah I mean it is challenging and you know I should say that you know we have this book and for me it's still it's always every day is a work in progress you know you don't just haven't sorted out one day. But with the food I think you know two major things one is to automate kind of the pieces that you can automate. So I wrote this first one definitely calling it crackpots are sexy. You know it really is, I actually have a, one of my older daughter is a vegetarian, my younger one has a bunch of allergies. So even though I am a firm believer in like one meal, everybody gets one meal sometimes its little changing. So things like crackpots, where you can automate things are really important. The second one which point that I have which is a bigger challenge for parents and I think is so important is to really bring your kids in the kitchen when you can and have them work with you. You know I've had both my girls in the kitchen with me from very early on and now my nine-year-old she can make chocolate cake from scratch, she's made us dinner. I mean there, there is payoff to everything your kid in these important life skills. It’s really, really important.
Interviewer: That's really cool. So one of the things I am often recommending for people with family whose is part of my batching fundamental where I tell people that maybe they should just spend a Sunday for a couple hours in making all the lunches for the week, for instance and making xxx04:28 freeze and divide them up rather than having the scramble at the end of the day to try to really stress and figure out what they are going to make each time. OK, so that makes a lot of sense. One of the ones that I am personally interested in is since I have three kids now and I basically resigned myself to not even consider this for at least a year but traveling.
Christine: Oh yeah. You know I mean obviously you three, three is different. You are outnumbered but your zone defense is a call right.
Christine: Yeah I mean I actually see, I kind of a fan of I traveled a lot when my older one is very easy, the younger one I travelled a lot when she was a baby. Because you know you just got to hoist her up and take her around. Traveling with toddlers is definitely a bit different. I'm not particularly interested right now in doing like across-country on airplane trip with either xxx05:23. However I will say that we've done a couple of like overnight, maybe two hour max drive type trips lately and she's been great. You know I find actually that my little one who is definitely the rambunctious one is way better behaved when we're on the road and going somewhere and seeing different things. Its, it's been, I have been experiment with this a lot lately and it’s actually especially inspired me to do more travel. I think you know, I think travel in general is wonderful for kids and for families but for her personally in particular it's really going to be away from home.
Interviewer: That’s very interesting. I try to experiment particularly but. So what one other thing obviously there's a huge component that comes up with even where our kids but especially kids it's sort of that work-life balance. So I for instance, my wife and I are just now basically going to consider putting, not consider we are going to be putting my older son into daycare a couple days a week and we both work at home and we're both around all time. But we've actually been finding like them he needs that sort of being around with the kids not so much us. So I found that it was hard for me to like xxx06:39 and I have a trip coming up in a couple of days where I am going to be gone for three days and it's the first time I've ever been away that long from any of my kids and..
Christine: Oh well. Yeah.
Interviewer: It’s like really hard. Yeah it's really hard. So people have that obviously ever have that experience to different degrees and at the very least you know can be feelings of guilt about wanting to work or wanting to still pursue the things that you wanted to pursue or new ideas you can come up with. You know lots of people have startups and they have kids and they have high-powered jobs and their kids. So how do you, first of all psychologically and emotionally how do you sort of, you know Coach People on that. How they can look at these things?
Christine: Yeah I mean I think it’s the, that first transition of when you’re sending a child to daycare or whatever it may be is really hard. So I mean I would say definitely xxx07:29 -07:31, you may be, there may be tears in the parking lot, and they may be yours. So or they could be your kids and you know that's normal and expected and every kid will be different. I mean my first bomb both of my kids are and were in you know day care. I've always worked and the first one it would be sobbing and crying drop off something really the drop off that no parent wants to have, the second one you know basically runs after the toys and ignores me when I leave. So it’s going be a different a different experience. But I mean I think that you know I'm a firm believer in, in on I've got an entrepreneurial spirit like you do and I'm a firm believer in running after the things that light you up and bring you joy and for me well I should say that my work life has not always been that as in my former life I was a music brainer or scientist and was not really into that work very much. But since becoming you know freelancing journalist kind of multimedia creative tech projects that work really does light me up and so it's important for me to go into things like I think it's important for kids to see their parents have passion for things and you know creative ideas and you know I know that my girls especially my older one, I mean now she says stuff like you know when I grow up I want to work with you and I want to be a designer with you and things and I just feel like she's learning that you know she can, it sounds a little cheesy ABC after school special. But you know she's really learning that. She can kind of identify something and go after and I find that incredibly exciting.
Interviewer: Absolutely I, there is a statistic that I always used to recall when I was younger because I started my first company when I was 12 and burnt-out and both my parents are entrepreneurs and the quote was and I think it was from the nifty, the National foundation for xxx09:25. But basically it said that something like 75 percent of the entrepreneurs came from households where the father was physically or emotionally absent and the mother was overbearing. So there is the, that right away I think sounds like a bad thing but it really actually I think comes out as a good thing because the father being physically emotionally absent means that you're sort of they're probably absent for reason hopefully you know maybe they are working or doing something better. It gives you something to sort of strive for I guess and then the mother being overbearing means you sort of have a cushion that means like you can't do something wrong. So I feel like that's a perfect squeeze for entrepreneurs in a way. But the point is I completely agree that showing leading by example is probably one of the best things you can do. And quite honestly it's probably one of the easiest things that you can do rather than trying to manufacture something or teach something that you don't like doing.
Christine: Right and you had mentioned the sort of desire self-realize to for, you know your son and I think that's, it is I mean it is great to me especially I mean you have a lot of, now you have three kids but since the two of them the two younger ones are probably getting and in need of a lot of attention I mean that seems like also a good time for him to kind of go and makes new xxx10:41 and I'm a fan I am I think if you also feel the right place you know xxx10:45 for violet the little one is just wonderful. She actually talks about her friends there and she's two-years-old. So it's, it's really it's nice.
Interviewer: Yeah and we actually found a really nice place a bit and that was another interesting thing which I'm sure you have a take on especially since you some daycare is there's everyone seems to have pros and cons about having in nanny or having are going to daycare or all the different methods of sort of other than parent child care. And we had a mother's helper for while which was great which is basically is an actual pair of hands. But again you know we were both home and it would make it difficult for my older son if we, like he don't want to be left with anybody. If we were there, why we would he play with the other person. So I actually originally used to be really kind of not afraid but just taken aback by daycare because I was like Wow, you know I'm here like why wouldn't we just have someone else in a xxx11:37 all day. But its, it’s actually a really interesting option and I think it’s kind of magical the one that we found.
Christine: Yeah I mean for the, for younger one and its I got to say the reality is it is expensive and so you need to, well in Boston, in the Boston area its really expensive and so
Interviewer: Less than a nanny for us.
Christine: Oh really yeah and I think, I mean often at times a nanny solution works if you got multiple kids and you know you can sort of get the benefit of more kids. But for us our kids are so far apart that the other ones in elementary school and not worry about paying for that anymore and then you know the younger one, this was just the right option for her. She needs to get out of the house, she likes being out and doing things and she's clearly like the adventurer. So you know it's good, I mean it's going to be different for different children too.
Interviewer: Of course and by the way we have an adventurous side to my, my wife's mile, so I'm actually the crier if we are going to drop off a kid. My wife's biggest concern is that our son is going to run away because he climbs everything and he likes open fire doors.
Christine: He's resourceful, he's resourceful.
Interviewer: Yeah, so okay, so shifting a little bit. I want to talk about, a little bit about schedules but more for the adult side. So is sleep is one thing which I actually don't want to get to but work wise did you find yourself way designating sort of pockets of time that were work time in the beginning before they were xxx13:02.
Christine: Yeah I mean I think it always is a challenge but I think it's very important, you know one especially if you're, if you're working out of home in some way to carve out specific windows and have that help. And it’s also really helpful to have a door to close to sort of separate because in our, in our last flat.
Interviewer: Really slippery stairs.
Christine: Yeah you know in our last flat my office was in the dining room and, Oh it was just a disaster. But now you know I am in office, I close the door and you know actually on Wednesdays my mom is here with the girls after school and I can hear, you know Violet is saying "my mom will come down at 5:30". You know she know, but you know she knows like not to go beyond the door. So yeah I mean I think you do need to, you really do need to carve out things and I actually find such a productivity guy. I mean I think that when you have really defined pockets of time you can just be really focused and uninterrupted you know, carved out, you got help you can just power through stuff and that's how I am unlike the laser focused person and I maximize the time that I have. So I can just be, I can be more present you know when I, when I'm off the clock you know with work and with the kids.
Interviewer: Yes I, I'm the same way. I mean for the longest time I was scheduling all the meetings between you know eleven and one which was my older son's nap time.
Christine: That’s xxx14:26
Interviewer: Yeah and I've done several calls and a couple of interviews like this with a baby and a xxx14:32.
Christine: I understand yeah.
Interviewer: But of course you know 8 p.m. and on hour which fortunately for me was the time that worked best for writing. But no, it's a very good point and I talk about this a lot, this is actually what I wanted to get to because I know you mentioned about multitasking in your book and one of the things that I'm always pushing people on is to sort of avoid this gearshift mentality where you are constantly switching back and forth between task and it's very easy I feel like for people to be like, oh I can check my email along playing with the kid or something. But your focus tends to drift from one to the other I feel like.
Christine: Oh yeah
Interviewer: So it is very hard yeah. I mean you can certainly work things out. You can you know, you can probably make phone calls while you're playing you know in a park with the kids. But realistically being able to separate them and say, okay look I am going to do this for minutes and then I'm go do that isn’t better. So you have a whole section on multi, you know a couple of paragraphs on multitasking. So just speak about that a little bit.
Christine: Yeah I mean, I am at the risk of sounding like some people are in xx15:35 some people aren't. But it, to this language but I really ,really feel like its valuable to both the grownups and kids if you can be present in whatever it is you're doing. So if you're at work you know be there and you know when your kids you know be there. And you know I'm not perfect I struggle with it if I know I've got a client like over my head and I'm concerned about that, that is definitely in my mind. But yeah I really try to, my husband and I, you know do sort of devices off like at dinner and after dinner so that before bedtime to try to kind of carve that out. And you know even with my two girls, now I have realized to I don’t know if you will come up against this when your kids get a little older to and sort of more kind of protective with their time with you. But I found that when the baby came my older one end up getting the short end of the stick like and so actually now I have carved out one day a week after school where it’s the blocking off in my meeting like in my calendar like our current meeting every Thursday afternoon and it's just us and we are together and I actually hash tag it that says with Laurel and sometimes I like close the projects and you know it's great though is that I did that as a joke. But then people asked me what is this Thursday with Laurel thing and I told them and other people started doing it and I was so happy. You know people were realizing that its, it can be challenging to do one-on-one time with your kids but even an hour or you know two hours is incredibly meaningful for them and, you know the stuff they remember.
Interviewer: Well and the hash and thing. I actually tell people if they, it's not a bad thing for you to schedule personal time. It doesn't mean that you’re that you're like an OCD crazy workaholic. It means that you're an efficient person that is used to scheduling time.
Christine: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: So why wouldn’t you schedule that time to be free to do things. I think you call it serendipity moments Right.
Interviewer: So it's, I think that's a very, very reasonable way to pursuit stuff. Like you have to, if you are going to expect yourself to be in a productive mindset then you have to stand a productive mindset.
Christine: Yeah absolutely.
Interviewer: So okay, well that’s, it's very cool. So writing is a, I think is a particularly interesting challenge when you have kids. It's hard, I feel like at the end of the day to or whether you know whether you are running day or not. But it's hard to sort of click into a creative mode I guess. So I found with me with writing my book which is coming out next April. But I ..
Christine: Exciting xxx18:06.
Interviewer: Yeah, thank you.
Christine: Keep me, keep me posted.
Interviewer: I found that with writing notebook, I really had to sort of go against my nature and outline things. Because I'm not, I'm not a good outliner. I'm not a good planner when it comes to writing stuff. I would rather just like sit down and just open the brain door and let it go. But I found with that like I really had to sort of prompt myself rather than give myself, yeah I guess like as ease into it, you know. So how, what was your methodology for creative, being creative honestly.
Christine: Yeah I mean it's so funny, I feel like we have so many work style similarities it's really interesting. But so for while writing the book its xxx18:48-18:49 the Artist's Way and I didn’t go through for program but what my husband did and one other things that I thought was really interesting that he talked about with method is this sort of letting go the inner critic and just writing and I think that is so important for writers, I mean for anybody who wants to, who had an idea and is maybe scaring themselves off of the idea before they even give it a chance to grow. So with minimalist parenting actually I would sit down every morning and again ahead on my counters, recurring meeting, do not disturb, turn off all social media and I would just write for an hour. And you know Ocean writing it all on Google Docs you know each chapter was separate doc and I just I warned her and I said you're going to see a lot of brain dumping. This is just kind of what I do and a brain dump like crazy and then I'll clean it up later. And it was just you know I have to say, I know most authors do not say this but writing that book was the most joyful process. It was so, feel yourself free and so open I mean obviously there was a topic about which I was very passionate and you know it turned out that Ocean and I also have very intersecting kind of works style where she's very big picture thinker and I'm very kind of bottom-up details and so the two things really merged well when we wrote. And many people commented on the fact that actually sounds like one voice throughout which I think is, can be a challenge when you have a coauthored book.
Interviewer: Absolutely and that’s really xxx20:17 actually. It's just sort of brought back couple of memories from him xxx20:22. So I understand where you're coming from and obviously the work product was and I agree it does actually flow very well. There is spot where there are pictures of either one of you in the book.
Interviewer: So honestly I don't think I would have recognized the, this sort of shift. So let’s talk about an obvious one which is sleep.
Christine: Are you low on it?
Interviewer: Well you know what so I am, I am a bio hacker and as part of that I'm always working on, I've never been a big sleeper ever and I have always been an early riser. I've been working in construction for thirteen years now twelve years and you know up at 4:15 every morning. So sleep is never going to be there for me and there are lots of little tips and tricks that I use to help myself sleep better and also I look at that I am also fortunately one of those people who could, I mean if I wasn't focusing I could fall asleep in the middle of this interview with you if I wanted to I not speaking to you at all.
Christine: You'll be present in your sleeping.
Yeah. So I am like hit it xxx21:31 I am out and but then I am, you know baby wakes up and that's it. In fact my sister-in-law and brother-in-law are staying with us and they have a three-year-old and a another six month old and so in the middle of the night it nearly takes me about good twenty seconds to realize which baby is crying in the house and if it's one then I have to get up for.
Interviewer: So what, what, how do you kind of deal with that not only deal with the sleep itself but maintain, you know productivity?
Christine: Yeah. Well I will say that I, this is one area where we differ in that. I love sleeping and I mean I..
Interviewer: Poor you.
Christine: Yeah poor me indeed. I mean I would love in an ideal world to get eight to ten hours of sleep at night and I would be so happy. But I think that you know if your taking about in terms of sort of survival for early parenting I think one of the best things that we check, I'm sure I talk about the book, but one of the best things my husband I did was to swap off and so you know you will sleep better if you explicitly know you're off duty and we do this to this day and we when started we know it’s a baby and we do it now of Violet. And every night one of us is assigned to get up if the baby gets up and when it's not my night I am just, you know I just like sleep very, very well. And I think the other thing was sleep is, it's a little bit tricky I know. You know you've mentioned the evening hours for working and to some degree I think if I were left my own devices I would just stay up until two or three in the morning and work on stuff because I love the peace of the house and how quiet it is. On the other hand then I get up the next morning and I am a total zombie. So I think it's important to recognize what your body needs. I mean clearly you and I have individual differences on what we need and for productivity sake I think you need to figure out, okay it's time you know to go to bed, unwind. If you're somebody who needs a specific matter sleep for sure.
Interviewer: Right. The service swap off is interesting and I want people to sort of take note of that, that it's not just that you're giving yourself a night off or vice-versa, it’s that you are really setting that expectation that when you go to sleep you're going to be able to sleep through the night.
Christine: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: So I think that's a very good tip. Okay. So can you tell me a couple of technological things that you found sort of indispensable in terms of being able to manage life and kids.
Christine: You like, like little tech xxx24;04.
Interviewer: Whether it’s a website or a device or something that you found just indispensable.
Christine: Yeah I mean I would say right now a couple of things that I actually rely on one is wonder list for my ‘to do list’. It’s a free, I used to useoutlook on this other machine and it’s horrible and everything was like locked onto my machine it was horrible. So now I was wonder list for keeping all my xxx24:29 whether its work, home you know it syncs’ up automatically. So I can use it on the web or on my laptop or on my phone and that's enormously I'm a huge list maker. I just can't hold it on my brain. So it's really important to get it all down and both kinds of lists. I would say if you are, if you're a writer, a creator of content and you are a photographer at any level I would say right now my phone, I have an update I just bought. So xxx24:56 I have the Galaxy S4 and the phone is the yeah, camera is phenomenal and so a lot of the blogging images that I take are just with my phone because I always have it with me. So that's super handy and also you know super handy for cataloging your kids and I think last year with our Christmas card all of the photos on the Christmas card were from my phone. So yeah for parents a good camera and your photos really indispensable. And then Google Calendar Google calendar, with my husband you know we sync up our calendars not literally. We actually sit down old fashion and talk through the calendar. But we do these calendar check-ins just to kind of see, you know especially if things are getting too crazy where we can cut things out. It's really important I think to edit your counters and to do list as much as you can.
Interviewer: Yeah definitely. We have a sharing calendar for, my wife and I have a shared calendar for kids’ stuff which is found to be really useful. That's, those are those are some very, very good tech’s for sure. So one of the things that what, I'm sorry, the thing that I always ask people at the end of the podcast is what are your top three personal productivity tips for, what are the things that just make you more effective in you know every day and everywhere.
Christine: Okay, yeah I would say a big one is and everybody talks about this but it's really important it is saying no to things.
Interviewer: Good one.
Christine: Yeah and it's really important and one other things that I as a talk you know I go and to talk to parent groups in various things and I have discovered that I think one of the reasons that is so hard for us to say no is because we don't like to lie and have to make up a really good excuse and so taught people you don't have to make up an excuse. All you need to do is decline gracefully and just say no. And once I personally realized that with my own, you know work and personal xxx26:50, I just my, productivity just shot after I could just bounce back those emails, get them out of my inbox, they weren't hanging over me. So you know and then you, I also like to tell people to think every time you say something say no to something you don't want to do as a degree of freedom and an opportunity to say yes to something totally awesome in the future or you know take care yourself and or do nothing at all. You know it's, its huge saying no is huge. I think the second one it’s, it's funny. I, we talk about outsourcing in the book as much as you can and I recently read an entrepreneur xxx27:26 call about sort of 80-20 rule and the idea of getting outsourcing those ten dollar an hour tasks and so you know I'm a big fan of that too is you know I should, I remember actually one time last year when I was in this huge just colossal work meltdown. So many things coming down at me and Ocean said "you know Christian you need to focus on the things that only you can do and then outsource as much of the rest as possible". And once I finally, you know and it's hard when you are a control freak, right. But once, once I started doing that my life like, it just got so much better and then all of a sudden I had all these creative ideas that kept popping because they were all hindered by these things that, you know these ten dollar an hour tasks that I was kind of mired down in. And I think third is to just continually be in an editing mode with your whether it’s with your calendar or with your to do list or you know with stuff around you. You know the calendar one is a big one because as parents especially as working people then parents, you know we get bogged down with a lot of stuff and you know my husband and I try to do regular check-ins where we look at the calendar and if it just seems too full across a certain standard time, we just start, you know declining and letting go of stuff and say no that excuses. So those things haven't been really, really helpful for me on the productivity side.
Interviewer: So those were all wonderful suggestions. It goes as saying that I'm a big fan of everything you just mentioned and outsourcing and automating. Incidentally my number one resources for parenting, technological resource is Amazon subscribe and save.
Christine: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: Today is Amazon subscribe and save day by the way.
Christine: Do you get a big blow to diapers on your door?
Interviewer: Oh yes and two sizes. We got nine boxes today. I got wipes.
Christine: Oh my gosh.
Interviewer: I got diapers and paper towels and all that stuff. So anyway those are great. So Christine where can everybody find out more about you and the book is obvious on Amazon. Where can they find out more about you?
Christine: They can find out more about me at Christiancoh.com. I think ocean has xxx.29:40. But I should. I might be speaking about that xxx29:40. You know my flagship blog is Bostonmoments.com but you know it's and it's more than Boston. So you know it's got a national following which is really, really nice. But and beautifully redesigned thanks to outsourcing. So yeah you know it's, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you and you know I, if your readers have any questions at any point just, you know readers and listeners just sync up with me because obviously this is a topic that we're both passionate about and you know it's important. We all deserve to do less crap and like more stuff we feel happy about.
Interviewer: Absolutely. Well thank you so much. I really enjoyed talking to you.