I’ve always been a rule-follower.
I worked hard in high school, got good grades so I could get into a good college, so I could get a good job. I went to a good college, got a job. Got a graduate degree. Got another job. Got married, bought a house, got pregnant. I’ve excelled at following the “rules” of our society.
In following these rules, I’ve also been able to devote my life to my passion: working with children. Every job I’ve held in my adult life has involved working with, caring for, learning about, or educating kids. When I was pregnant I was working as a special education teacher, which I loved, but at a school I disliked. As soon as I gave birth to Baby Bear, I knew that outsourcing her child care wasn’t for me. There was no way I could leave her with someone else to go to a job that wasn’t my dream job. I needed to stay home with her.
Our First Chance to Choose Time Over Money
We reviewed the numbers to see if I could stay home with Baby Bear. Our budget was already tight; we were trying to payoff debt. Leaving my job would entail giving up my salary as the family breadwinner. Would the time with my daughter be worth giving up that extra income?
Thankfully, we’d been living frugally for a while. We bought less home than we were qualified to buy, and we’d already cut as many extra expenses from our budget as we could. I sold my new car and placed my student loans in deferment until I could get back on my feet with a newborn. Serendipitously, Mountain Papa got a promotion at work just after Baby Bear was born. This, combined with other deep cuts in our monthly spending, gave us enough to make it work.
A few months after Bear was born, I found a couple of children to care for in our home. I now have a small home child care business. Our income is still much less than it would be if I were still at my old teaching job, but we are able to pay for the necessities and still have a little bit of spare money each month to throw towards our debt.
It Paid Off
Being able to work at home and be with Baby Bear all day has been a huge blessing for me. I’ve had the chance to see her grow and try new things. I love that I’m able to be there with her in these first, most formative years of her life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
My life as a work at home mom is very different from how my life was as a teacher. My mind is freer now. I’m able to be present in the moment more, without thinking ahead to everything I need to get done at work. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year reading and reflecting. I’ve had the pleasure of watching my daughter change immensely in just over a year, which is the ultimate reminder of how quickly time passes.
Time is all we have. I fully realized this now, not just in clichéd terms, but really feel it deep in my bones. Each creature on this planet has a finite amount of time here. No day is guaranteed, for any of us.
While I’ve loved every second I’ve been able to have home with my daughter, it’s also been bittersweet. I’ve seen Mountain Papa leave for work each morning and return home, tired and weary, at the end of the day. We eat dinner, he gives Baby Bear a quick bath, and she goes right to bed. He only gets an hour a day with his family, five days a week.
I know this is the norm for most American families. Actually, we are faring better than the normal American family since I’m able to spend so much time with our daughter. Yet I keep wondering: Does it have to be this way?
That familiar refrain of our society’s rules keeps playing on repeat in the background: work hard in school, go to college, get a good job, live a good life, be happy.
There’s a disconnect for me, though, right between getting a good job and living a good life. What if the “good job” you have to afford your “good life” isn’t making you happy? What if you’re spending your whole life at a job you don’t like? What if you’re only able to enjoy the life you’ve worked so hard for two days out of the week?
Is There Another Way?
We’ve all heard about how “time is money.” It’s true, though, isn’t it? When you go to work, you are trading your time, your life, for money. Everyone wants more money, right? How else do you buy all the things you want?
But what if we choose not to want more money? Not to want more things?
What if we choose to want more time?
What if we stopped trying to increase our salaries and instead tried to increase our free time?
What this Means for Our Family
Increasing our free time is what Mountain Papa and I have decided to do. Our goal is to reshape our lives in an intentional way. We want to live our life the way we want to live it now, not in 30 years when our kid(s) are grown and we get to retire.
We dream of a life where we have a home with some land, a couple of kids running around, and the freedom to do as we please with our days.
Our current family income is pretty typical of the average American family. We make enough money to pay for what we need, and have a little leftover each month.
We’ve spent the past three years living as frugally as possible and throwing every spare penny we have towards our debt. We are thankful to be in the final stages of paying it off.
As we’ve begun to plan for what we’ll do with all that spare money we’ll have in our budget once our consumer debt is paid, we’ve come to the realization that we are happy with how we live our lives now. We don’t want cable again and I don’t want my smartphone back. Why are we trying to increase our earnings so we can increase our standard of living if we are already content with the things we have now?
Of course, I would be lying if I said that we want for nothing. It’s only human (American?) to want more, more, MORE. But what do we want more: a second car and a fancier house with nicer furniture, or the freedom to do as we please and enjoy watching our children grow? For us, the answer to that question (especially in these days of early parenthood) is more time.
Well, there is no plan. We don’t have a well-thought out, step-by-step plan for how to make this happen. We’re starting small, though. We’ll continue to live simply, being frugal and cutting costs where we can. Despite being drained after our workdays are over, we’re trying to build up our side hustle and will continue to throw every spare penny we have towards our debt. Eventually, hopefully, we’ll have built up enough consistent income side hustling that M.P. will be able to quit his job.
My hope is in sharing our journey, wherever it may lead us, that some of you will feel inspired to take back your time. I’m planning to post a monthly check-in for those of you who want to follow along with our progress.