Monday, 10 March 2014

Idle Parenting

This week on Instagram I was asked by someone about how I managed to get the breakfasts I get ready while managing my family & home.
My kids are not that young any more- the youngest is 5 and the others are 7, 11, 13 & 15.  They aren't little bubbas who are constantly demanding my attention. So that helps a lot.
I have been cooking for a long time so I guess I am pretty fast at whipping stuff together. That helps too.

The weekends are a pretty slow affair at our house.  Bodies lazily roll out of bed one by one.  At any time it is a pretty relaxed household- but the weekends are super relaxed.  My boys are not the super loud bouncy variety but instead pretty calm and quiet.  And very very happy to spend days mooching around at home together.  This also helps!

We are a household that does not do any extra-curricular activities so there is no rushing to go anywhere. Our family life is busy and enriching enough. And we all need a rest. Time to do nothing at all.  Some of us have never learnt how to do 'nothing' & I wonder if this is a bigger problem in our society than any of us are really aware of.
Our family does a lot of 'nothing'.  We plan very little and make sure we have a lot of unscheduled time.  This also helps!

But I think it is my idle parenting that helps me most of all.

To me learning the difference of parenting how we want to versus what we think we should be doing is one of the hardest lessons of all.
I think us parents give ourselves such a hard time about 'how' we should be parenting instead of just doing it that we lose all ability to have confidence in ourselves at all.
It's ok to get it wrong.  Boy do we get it wrong sometimes..... Just as our parents did before us.  But that leaves us space to grow, to learn, to make changes.  And perhaps most importantly of all to tell our kids that we made a mistake.  To say sorry.
Is there a better thing to model to our kids than imperfection?

I'm just bumbling through this parenthood gig just like you and everyone else, trying to carve out a path that feels right to me. But more than anything I want my kids to know that my investment was in them and not in having a clean house & an orderly laundry.

I guess if I think about it I am an avid subscriber to the Idle parenting method. I haven't read Tom Hodgkinson's book but the snippets I read about it are very much the kind of parenting that takes place at our house.
We try not to overthink every single thing we do.  We make mistakes.  Lots of them. I don't want to spend every waking minute of being a parent thinking through every move I make to the point where I am actually missing out on the joy of raising my family.

I go with my general philosophy on life & sticking to the values I hold strong to my heart to guide me.  If I can go to bed knowing that I lived my day true to me then I am happy. That  often means going to bed with a sink full of dishes, an untidy floor and sometimes so many loads of laundry that I can't find the laundry floor because those things don't matter to me as much as living with meaning.

I trust my kids to make good decisions.  That doesn't always mean always making the right ones- but that is part of life's journey.  Getting it wrong is getting it right.  Learning to pick ourselves up after a hiccup is such an important skill to learn. I want them to know that an untidy house doesn't matter half as much as being a good human being.

So, in our house- especially on the weekends I leave my kids to it and interfere as little as possible.  I leave the mess that worries other people and get on with having fun, having chats, having laughs and cooking a delicious breakfast, that is sometimes not served till nearly lunchtime.

NB: For those of you who read last weeks post- PJ got the all clear!
I sobbed uncontrollably and made the vet cry too. But YAY!
The growth was some other weird thing that was NOT CANCER that I didn't hear through my ugly crying.  

Savoury Chinese Custard with Mushrooms, Fresh Coriander & Chilli
This dish is based on the one in latest pages of Feast magazine.
Chinese savoury custard is very easy and super delicious.  

It is light yet filling and can be topped with all manner of goodies.
It is a fab dish any time of the day.
It could be served for dinner alongside a big bowl of steamed greens.
Or as we have it- for breakfast alongside a big bowl of coffee.

  • 10 eggs
  • 250ml good quality chicken stock
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 300g mushrooms, sliced finely
  • 4 spring onions, sliced finely
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • 2 red chillies (optional)
  • 4cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs Chines black vinegar (Chinkiang - form your asian grocer)
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbs Rice Bran oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • white pepper
  • salt
Preheat oven to 150C.

Whisk eggs, stock, a few good grinds of white pepper, salt and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large bowl. Transfer to a large ovenproof dish.
Stir in half of the mushrooms and 2 of the spring onions.

Place dish in roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with boiling water till it reaches half way up the sides of the oven dish.

Bake in oven for 40 minutes.

While eggs are baking, fry up the rest of the mushrooms in the rice bran oil with the garlic & ginger till the mushrooms are nice and brown.

Take off the heat and set aside.

When eggs are baked remove from oven and top with cooked mushrooms and the extra spring onion, coriander & chilli.

Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Oh my how I love Joan.
Here is her new track......


  1. I wish I could be an idle parent but it's just not in my make up. I am probably the opposite but not quite a " tiger" mum either. I find it hard to sit idle ( although these last few months with a non sleeping baby & growing a baby at the same time has seen me with no choice but to be!) & I think because I grew up in a family where I had no opportunity to do extra curricluar activities & parents who were not overly involved I feel like I've become the opposite to them & I think I should be offering these to my kids. But you've given me something to think about Ruth, a different view on parenting & that is why I love you- MWAH!

    And I'm so gald that Polly Jean is AOK :)

  2. GourmetGirlfriend10 March 2014 at 13:24

    I think the notion of Idle parenting doesn't mean being idle- that is NOT something I ever am. But more so the idea of not being an interfering parent or an over worrier. The link to the other website I popped in my post puts it all so well I think.
    I think one of the things that happens in a larger family is that there just isn't the time to worry about some of the things that others may do.
    My ting with activities is really about how much it 'actually' enriches a child's life- or is it that the parents feel guilty if there kids are doing nothing? To me there is way more value in a child's 'nothing' (which of course is ANYTHING but nothing if that makes sense?!)
    It's hard isn't it to find the balance between the things in our own childhood that don't sit well and feeling as if we are getting it right for our own kids.
    Thankyou always for your comments Reannon & I really hope you get some sleep soon!
    Gosh that is hard. xxxxx

  3. Thank goodness Polly Jean is fine!
    I'm all about the no extra curricular activities but my childhood experience of being terrified of the pool at age 10 has led me to insist on swimming lessons for my kids. We are having a break next term though. Other than that, our weekends are all about spending time together as a family, either staying home, or going out. My 5 year old son declared on Saturday night that 'going out for dinner is my favourite thing ever!'
    And I've started making my own bread!! And loving it! I'm daydreaming about bread recipes today...

  4. Haha not for one minute did I mean to imply that i thought you were idle Ruth! No more that I am that parent who finds it hard to not interfere, over think or over worry about my kids & my parenting. I am a control freak & it does stem from being the eldest of 6 & the enviroment I grew up in.

    It's so hard to change that about myslef & you are so right when you say "It's hard isn't it to find the balance between the things in our own childhood that don't sit well and feeling as if we are getting it right for our own kids." I struggle with that on a daily basis!

    As for the sleep thing...he's a great day sleeper its just the nights he hasnt figured out yet! But that is one of the joys about having a big gap between the kids, I KNOW he will eventually sleep, he will, I just wish it would be soon :) I hear him waking up now....Thanks for replying Ruth & I will check out that link x

  5. Thank you so much for this post, it was me who asked on IG. I have 4 children and they are older than yours, my eldest has just moved out to go to uni, yet still I struggle with worry, over thinking and stressing about things that honestly go against me and my core values. I think the older my children have got the less confident i feel in my parenting. The more I'm being influenced and effected by societies expectations which are often very far removed from my own instincts. I would love to build myself a small network of inspiring women/familys where we could support and nurture each other on this sometimes lonely and isolating parenting journey.

  6. GourmetGirlfriend10 March 2014 at 15:23

    i know you didn't mean that Reannon. I guess i just wanted to clarify it in case I hadn't made sense in the post.
    i think as long as we are constantly mindful of the way we behave then we are on the right track eh! bumbling along together. xxxx

  7. GourmetGirlfriend10 March 2014 at 15:24

    phew to PJ being ok! Swimming lessons are a good thing! but yes taking a rest is good.
    mmmm bread

  8. GourmetGirlfriend10 March 2014 at 15:28

    Hi Kate!
    So nice you came by over here!
    I think that the worry part of parenthood does get really BIG as they get older. I totally understand this. We are heading into that territory & it makes me ever so aware of how different the parenting of older children/young adults is to the worries of young children.
    Following your gut is a good thing I think. Remembering to do that is sometimes not easy. And YES to having a network of peeps that feel the same as you!
    If somehow my blog has helped you then I am very happy. xx

  9. Another wise post Ruth, I love your last paragraph before the recipe. Great advice.

  10. Amy {The Misadventurous Maker}10 March 2014 at 22:39

    Yet again Ruth, you provide me with words to spur me on in this motherhood caper. I'm so appreciative of reading your take on parenting. It really helps a lot. Especially to an over thinking worrier type like me!! ;-) I must say though, I'm going with my instincts more and more these days. I'm trying to leave the thinking of "right" and "wrong" behind and just try to consciously lead by example and talk to my kids more so they get the reason behind things rather than just trying to get them to conform to my requests to make my life easier!!! With 3 kids 5 and under, it's easy to get caught up in survival mode so I'm glad I'm making an effort to relax (is that an oxymoron or what?!?!?!) and let go of my ideals and just be with the kids. It's seriously when the BEST conversations and hilarity ensues. And I'm with you on extra curricular activities. Other than swimming for survival purposes, we are not AT ALL in to over scheduling our kids. Weekends are for hanging out in our pjs, getting the boys in the garden with their dad and family outings at the running track and "big adventures" (which is what my kids call any outing we do!!!) Thank you for sharing your approach. I love these ones the most. And this dish looks AMAZING! I will definitely try it. My fussy eater won't try most foods but loves Asian flavours so I'm always looking for new ones to try.xoxoxo

  11. Another great post Ruth. I love Tom's book. I've had it sitting on my beside table for a couple of years now and subscribe as fully as I can to its tenets. And SO pleased to hear about your Bassett ~ that is great news! x

  12. Loved this post Ruth, and very refreshing. I have also decided that it's okay to lead a simple, quiet life for my family. I hate rushing here and there all the's exhausting. Also what a relief for your dog Polly Jean. (we have a little Jack Russell named Polly)!!

  13. What a great post! I just love that you haven't read the idle parenting book - ahaha! That just says it all! Totally with you on the idea of idle parenting (sounds good, and I did click on the link you gave... but the list was just too long for me :-)

  14. I love you and I love Joan. Thank you for keeping it real on the parenting front and always bringing forward the best music. Some times I feel disconnected from the world and absorbed in the life of my 9 month old but I can always rely on your reconnecting me to music. Thank you, thank you, thank you. and yay for the good PJ news. Have a super day

  15. dearest ruth. i showed my lovely sister anna (your old english teacher), the photo of you (in all your patterned glory!) from your instagram post and she said, "gee. ruth has always stayed 'true' to herself hasn't she?" so here's two of us who think you are doing a tremendous job of staying 'true'. x

  16. Greta post Ruth I think you have a wonderful family and love your way of parenting and thank you for this recipe it looks wonderful.I am so glad Polly Jean is ok,so so pleased for you and your family Xx

  17. The Risky Kids {Angie}3 May 2014 at 11:37

    I'm a little late to the party, but I wanted to say thanks for including a link to my post on Idle Parenting. It's always nice to see another parent's perspective, especially one that's coming through on the other side of the early years. It's hard, when you start going down that road where you become super-involved and find yourself micro-managing their lives, to shift gears and let them be. And also to let yourself be the kind of parent you want to be - not the kind of fantasy parent you imagined! Our house is messier than I'd often like, we've given up a lot of extracurriculars so that we're home more, and we look a little odd from the outside ... but we have a lot of fun and my kids are growing up to be sensible, independent people. Thanks again, and here's to laid-back weekends!

  18. I follow you in the way of idly parenting in many ways and I look forward to getting better at it. I totally overthink things of course but I've over thought my whole life and it's hard, hard, hard to change that now. Thanks for shining your light through the world Ruth. x

  19. Thank you for these words! Guilt is such a part of parenting, and it is wise to let go of the unnecessary tasks and not feel guilty about being in pajamas late in the day or something. I love the part about going to bed knowing you'd lived true to yourself that day. When I put relationships first, the day feels complete.


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