Can’t Live Without It?
“But I really need/have to have my…”
“I absolutely rely my…”
“I just couldn’t live without my…”
‘Fess up. We’ve all used variations of the above phrases to describe something that we probably don’t really need (in the “immediate levels of Maslowe’s hierarchy” sense), but that we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe we cannot function well without*. Now, I’m not a Luddite by any stretch. Many of the technological things I’ve learned I don’t really need have been replaced by cheaper, more streamlined, or healthier versions of my former crutches. The difference is that the alternatives take a little more work for more reward and don’t engender a panicked feeling of “no! What will I do without it!”
Here are the things I once thought were absolutely necessary to my existence, that I have found I no longer rely on:
Live Television: I like to be able to veg out with a little mindless entertainment in the evenings. When Officer Daddyman insisted that cable wasn’t in the budget (and our house’s position makes it difficult to get signal) and that he didn’t want the children exposed to the intensity of advertising on the for-profit children’s networks, I balked. Couldn’t we cut another corner elsewhere so I could have my shows? Through Netflix (less expensive, no commercials) and Hulu (a free, limited commercial web-based viewing service), however, I have plenty to watch and I now find myself so frustrated by regular commercials that I seldom watch television when I have the opportunity. Sure, I have to watch Glee a day late, but it doesn’t make the show less entertaining…in fact, fewer commercials makes me like it a lot better!
Caller ID and Call Waiting: After an ugly divorce, followed by on-again, off-again years of phone harassment by my ex-husband (which I had to record for documentation for court), I developed a profound love of caller ID. Unrecognized number? Queue up the recorder, just in case. After the termination of my ex’s parental rights and Captain Science’s subsequent adoption by Officer Daddyman, however, the only things holding me back from ditching caller ID were fear (which I needed to get over) and habit. Caller ID hasn’t done a great service to people’s phone manners, after all, and it’s not like that many different people call me. Goodbye, caller ID! Call waiting also went out the window, because I have both a home phone and a cell phone. In an emergency, people can get me, even if the home phone is busy. I haven’t found myself missing either service. Caller ID and call waiting — I can live without them!
The Newspaper: When my parents moved to their new house and Officer Daddyman and I married and took over the house note on my childhood home, we considered continuing the paper. The argument for it was that I could read it at my leisure without having to sit down at the computer. The argument against was that I could read it online for free. We opted not to get the newpaper, and I’m so glad we did. The quality of our paper has gone down hill significantly. The paper becomes smaller, lower-quality, and more conservative each year. With my anxiety issues, reading the news every day isn’t always the best plan, anyway. I have select news outlets I rely on for information, and let Patchfire screen the rest of my news for me. Sure, it keeps me somewhat ignorant of local happenings, but I don’t worry over every shooting or car-jacking. The newspaper — I can live without it!
Microwave: How could a mother (or father) ever survive without the convenience of a microwave oven? When I first started homeschooling, I found myself relying on the microwave more and more often, between heating leftovers for lunches (no more school cafeteria) and feeling run down and a little tired of dealing with the children by the evening (just zap it and be done). When our microwave started to die shortly before Christmas, I found myself in a panic. What was I going to do without my microwave? It finally went to the great electronics store in the sky shortly after the New Year and was replaced, not by another microwave, but by a rice steamer. Slower cooking time, sure, but significantly better flavor and texture (and no concerns about the questionable safety of microwaves beaming through the kitchen). In the month since ditching our microwave, we’ve adjusted quickly. Leftovers reheated on the stove or in the over taste better. Food prep takes a little more planning (though only a little more time), but that has only helped eliminate that panicked meal-prep rush. Microwave — I can live without it!
Eight hours a day “to myself”: This was my biggest anti-homeschooling argument, by far. I really needed those eight hours that Captain Science was in school away from home to get anything done (and to maintain my sanity). Once I stopped to think about it, though, I realized that this particular “can’t live without it” didn’t speak very highly of me as a mother. Had I really had children believing I was entitled to a third of my day without them or that I for some reason deserved hours of peaceful, child-free alone time? Could I really not accomplish anything because they were here? In retrospect, that mentality was lazy at best, downright selfish at worst. Of all the reasons to homeschool or not homeschool, getting rid of the kids for the better part of my daylight hours couldn’t be part of the argument. Yes, I have a little less quiet time now, but the laundry still gets done, dinner still makes it on to the table, and if anything, I have more time to socialize, because I’m not worrying about making it home in time to meet the bus. I’ve had to find ways to engage with my children that would be less crazy-making and ways to find moments of solitude (which might explain my stack of books in the bathroom), but it’s been completely doable and completely worth it. Eight hours of time without the kids every day — I can live without it!
Your list of “I could never live without them”s may be quite different. Your list may be eerily similar. Ultimately, it wasn’t about any of the above things being inherently bad (well, maybe the “8 hours without the kids” mentality, a little bit), but about the dependence on them being unhealthy, expensive, or fostering a huge degree of laziness on my part. I feel good about having changed how I thought and lived in those areas.
Make a list of the things you think you can’t live without and see if you actually can. Set a short-term goal and find alternatives. It’s remarkably freeing! Microwaves, cable television, the ability to switch between two clearly identified callers…those are all nice, but certainly not necessary like I thought they were.
The internet, on the other hand? Absolutely can’t live without it.
*Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which you will have to put**. It’s perfectly fine when applied selectively. If you have doubts about how you can apply sentence-ending prepositions safely and correctly, however, please leave it to the professionals.
**Incidentally, the “up with which I will not put” quote was likely retroactively misattributed to Winston Churchill. No source of any such quote has been produced.