June, 2009 – Is the Bad Economy Good for Families?




by Heather Landstrom


Is the Bad Economy Good for Families?


Recently, I noticed that there are fewer moms in waiting areas.  At first I thought it was because my little one isn’t so little any more, and that the moms of the big kids leave the dance studio or karate dojo to run errands.  I struck up a conversation about it with one of the remaining waiting room moms.  “It’s the economy,” she declared, “Everyone’s cutting back.”


At first, I felt sad for the children whose parents didn’t keep them “on track”.  But then, I ran into one of the lately-absent waiting room moms at the grocery store, and she looked fantastic.  “You look amazing!” I gushed. “Have you been on vacation?”  She laughed and told me that she had been laid off, and that  their family was just slowing down and enjoying one another, instead racing from one activity to the next.  With more downtime, they were cooking together and eating fresh foods at home, instead of grabbing fast food on the go.  They were taking family bike rides after dinner, or kicking the soccer ball around in the backyard.  Some evenings all the neighborhood kids would build their own waterpark, with slip n’ slides and sprinklers hooked up across several front yards, while the parents, whose only interaction previously was a nod of acknowledgement as they got into the respective SUVs to run to the ball field or dance studio, chatted over iced tea on the front porch.  I had to admit, it agreed with her.  She looked happy, healthy—and relaxed.


That brief conversation in the produce department got me thinking about a more back-to-basics family life.  Google led me to dozens of articles trying to answer the question: Is the bad economy good for families? Across the country, families seem to be benefiting from the slowdown—even if it was forced by economics.  Kids are learning about money and the difference between needs and wants and are reclaiming their imaginations through unstructured play time.  Being less busy leaves time for families to enjoy life’s simple pleasures—together. 


The “Slow Parenting” or “Slow Family Living” movement, which encourages slowing the pace of family life and scaling back on unnecessary possessions, is gaining adherents.  Carrie Contey and Bernadette Noll have written a “manifesto” on their website, slowfamilyliving.com, that says, in part:


… family life is being hijacked by society’s messages that more is better, faster is greater and that you and your children are at risk of being left behind, unless you buy in NOW.

(Slow Family Living) is about allowing family life to unfold in a way that is joyfully and consciously connected. This means slowing it down, finding comfort in the home, and creating the space to see and honor the family as an entity, while simultaneously keeping sight of each member as a unique and valuable individual.

You might choose to embark on a slow journey to voluntary simplicity, or you might just loosen your family’s schedule a bit.  Maybe you’ll keep running at the same pace.  But one thing is clear: The bad economy is a good time to reassess your family’s values and aspirations.


Frugal Mom’s Fun Family Pick for June:

Free Family Night at the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum

Friday, June 5th from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

129 East Ocean Avenue, Boynton Beach




Ride the train, feed the cow, stock the shelves in the general store, deliver mail with the Barefoot Mailman and meet the wildlife that call a mangrove home.  Weather permitting, the museum’s telescope will be available for stargazing with a NASA-certified instructor.