Parents are all too familiar with the juggle that comes along with keeping up with schedules, between school drop offs, play dates, soccer, chess club. It's an endless cycle and one that many parents were relieved to fall victim to the pandemic. But now that more people are finding vaccines, comfort levels are shifting. Dr. Christine Koh, podcast host and co-author of the book Minimalist Parenting, recently spoke with Joe Mathieu on Morning Edition about why it's important to hold on to some of those open weekends and old routines, even as we start to head back to a more social future. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Joe Mathieu: I was fascinated by this take because we can't wait to get back to life. But you're also telling us to slow down a little bit.
Dr. Christine Koh: I am. And I want to acknowledge front up that one thing I'm realizing, as the vaccine has rolled out in phases, because I am a person who works on the Internet and has no conditions, I'm kind of last in line [for a vaccine]. I want to acknowledge that everybody's timeline for returning to normal is very different, and their feelings around it. I still feel very nervous about being around people, but that's because I haven't had a vaccine yet.
Mathieu: Then again, you've got people who don't have a vaccine or might not get one and they can't wait to go. And some have already been doing things. But after a year of pandemic, you point out that you got a few social invitations that felt like a little bit much.
Koh: I did. In the Washington Post article, I was talking about how nine months had passed through the pandemic and the weekends were just empty and it was fine. And then, around the holiday season, I had three invites, two were Zoom and actually, one didn't even involve me. It was just to remind my kid to show up. I found I couldn't even deal with them. And even now we're in spring and the vaccines continue to roll out. I've had people reach out to put things on my calendar for September travel, and I'm super nervous about it and basically unwilling to commit to anything.
Mathieu: That's pretty far to September, because they say a majority of adults will be vaccinated by then. But you wondered if maybe we're starting to get soft. We all have. A night out feels like a lot more work than it used to.
Koh: It does. Obviously, this pandemic has been grueling. It's been difficult [and] challenging for so many reasons. I've heard from so many parents that there were a lot of discoveries of the good in slow and the good in not racing around and having your schedule calendar Tetris; not having everything programed down to the last minute. My encouragement here is to think about those things and what you have really valued. I actually encourage people to write it down because I feel like our memories will continue to slide as time goes on. So you can try to hold on to those things as the tide starts pulling you in a different direction.
Mathieu: So there are things worth preserving. As you point out in your column one of them is preserving positive pandemic routines. I have to smile because, it was kind of a line from introverts everywhere who said, 'boy, you know what? I've been practicing for this my whole life.'
Koh: Absolutely. And I'm definitely somewhere in the middle of the introvert\extrovert scale. But I won't diminish the fact that even introverts need connection. It's not [that] introverts just want to be alone all the time. They still crave connection; it's just going to be kind of a deeper connection. I talked to a parent who had discovered that preserving a slower morning routine would also have the added benefit of giving their kids some autonomy and control over their time. If you can get your kids to be more autonomous and own up to [being] on time and the times they're late — that is life skills right there.
Mathieu: I like your suggestion to make a slow choice. [In your column] you pointed to somebody who was grinding coffee by hand just to do something that's not at high-speed or involving technology.
Koh: That specific example came from a wonderful writer named Erin Loechner. She's written about a book a few years back called Chasing Slow. And our conversation was about how these tactile physical acts of being slow are actually really beneficial for you on a number of levels. So speaking of life skills, I will say that I totally co-sign grinding coffee, and during this pandemic taught my now 10-year-old how to grind the coffee for me. So again, winning on all fronts. Good work.