Pursuing the life you desire

Before my son joined our family, my husband and I talked at length about how we wanted to raise Future Child. It was easy to discuss parenting Future Child since we didn’t know his or her personality, wants, or needs. Now, as actual parents, my husband and I laugh about these conversations we used to have — they were well intentioned, but incredibly naive.

One of the decisions we made before becoming parents was to both have jobs that allow us to work from home. We wanted — and still want — to be the full-time care providers for our child. In theory, having full-time jobs and being full-time care providers was easy. In actuality, it’s wonderful, but it’s an incredibly complex juggling act.

My husband and I love working from home and being here with our 17 month old son, but we’ve had to completely rearrange our lives to make it happen. My husband’s job demands that he be available during normal working hours, and, even though my writing schedule is more flexible, I still have administrative and consulting obligations that overlap with his, and writing by moonlight is a big adjustment for me. We’ve had to call in a babysitter a few times, and we’ve both found ourselves wishing the grandparents weren’t a thousand miles away, but most days it works out and we know we made the right decision for our family. We also know that this complex juggling act is a temporary situation — our son will be heading off to pre-school in a year and then to elementary school shortly after that. Normal work schedules will return to us in a blink of an eye, and we’ll be nostalgic for these elaborately scheduled days when they do.

When my husband and I talked about raising our Future Child, we imagined it to be different than the reality we experience. That being said, the reality is so much better than we imagined. We wouldn’t trade this time with our son for anything in the world. We’ve had to rearrange most every aspect of our lives, but we don’t regret these adjustments because we are focused on what matters most to us. We’ve cleared the clutter in our schedules to make way for the life we desire.

Only you know what matters most to you and your family. And, only you know what clutter needs to be cleared to prioritize these desires. You might need to adopt a complex schedule or make some major changes to the way you live your life, but when you’re focused on what really matters to you, you don’t regret a single minute of living. You know you’re living the best life for you.

Are you pursing the life you desire? Are you clearing the clutter that is distracting you from a life focused on what matters most to you? Are you finding a way — simple or complex — to make it happen?

16 Comments for “Pursuing the life you desire”

  1. posted by Nora on

    I’m slowly pursuing the life I desire. It’s never easy but, you’re right, I don’t regret it. If I didn’t have a schedule, I would be very cluttered! I’m simplifying and trying to focus on what matters more to me.

    Thanks for your post. It was very inspiring and love your blog!

    Keep it up!

  2. posted by Celeste on

    It’s actually good that you’re learning how to flex between work at home and childcare. You’ll still need those skills for a long time during inevitable days when your child is sick or the school has days off.

    I am finishing some projects that were clutter and choosing some others that I want to get rid of rather than finish. Pursuing the desired life is work in its own right.

  3. posted by Marrena on

    Wait until you have two! It’s like the work for one quadruples.

  4. posted by Meg on

    As a childless someone who brainstorms about parenting a future child, I’d love to hear a couple of the naive ideas you two tossed about!

  5. posted by Jen on

    This is a really good explanation of how an imagined lifestyle can be really different from the real-life version. And babies/kids provide probably the most stark contrast between imagined and real. Just a word to the wise though, if you think you’ll be returning to a totally normal work schedule once your son starts kindergarten, you will have to do some more rearranging of your lifestyle once that happens! We are facing that next year and are starting to come to terms with the reality of the situation. One look at the school calendar shows that, first of all, the kids are home by 3:30ish. Second, that school seems like it’s closed or on a half-day schedule at least once a week. Add in your week-long vacations upwards of 4 times a year, and it’s hard to come up with that kind of vacation time. (That’s not counting the summer either.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’ll manage it, especially if you and your husband can manage to work from home at least some of the time and share the responsibilities.

    I’m trying to anticipate it and figure out whether I want to handle my part-time job in 3 full days per week (and put my son in after-care from 3-6PM on those days) so that when he has days off I’m home for more of them already, or if I want to work, say, 4 days a week but only until 3ish so that it’s not as big of a deal when I have to take a day off or be home for a half-day or something. Fortunately I have a job where my schedule is pretty flexible and I can choose between those two things. It’s all a juggling act!

  6. posted by Leslie on

    @Jen is right about it being a juggling act even during your kid’s school years, but it is also simpler once they enter school (with the exception of the summer scramble). I’ve been fortunate to have a job with flexible hours during my 23 years of parenting, but it can still require quite a bit of working out–I tried to think of it as a chance to expand my creative thinking and negotiating skills. Since my younger son attends an arts academy in another city (and parking is limited) we are still working out getting him there and back, including days when his usual 8-5 schedule is cut to 8-1:30. Fortunately no-school days are a snap with a high school senior. :-) Next year will be interesting for me since it will be the first time in 20 years that I will be able to choose a work schedule based on what’s best for me rather than what works with my kids’ school schedules. I’m already mulling it over since I haven’t a clue as to what I’d like to do–go in early/late, work longer but fewer days (I work 30 hours a week). It will be a fun puzzle to work out.

  7. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Meg — The biggest difference we had between imagined and reality is that we forgot our Future Child would be a person. I’m sure that sounds idiotic (I certainly feel like an idiot for typing it), but in every imagined situation we forgot he would have his own ideas and desires. We think he should put on shoes before leaving the house when it’s 35 degrees outside … and he doesn’t believe it’s a worthwhile step. In fact, he sees no purpose for shoes whatsoever. We think a hat will keep his head warm, and he thinks a hat is pure evil. We would like for him to nap with a soft, squishy, safe stuffed animal, and he insists on bringing items like silicone pastry brushes with him into his crib. He’s awesome — and we’re glad he has such an amazing personality — but we completely forgot he would be his own man. Like I said, we were naive.

  8. posted by Jen on

    @Erin – it’s funny to hear that you forgot he’d be a person. Now that you mention it, I remember before my son was born (and even for a little while after he was born), my husband and I and our families referred to him mostly as “the baby,” which is kind of in line with your abstract thinking of what life with your son would be like before you experienced it. I would bet that most people fall into that trap of assuming that “the baby” will be what they think it will be and like what they think it will like. Think of all the exersaucers and bouncy seats that have been bought only for the parents to discover later that their child hates the $80 item! (FYI, their personalities and preferences just get stronger and stronger, although you will eventually be able to reason with him on the merits of shoes and hats.)

  9. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    I am at the other end of the spectrum, I have a last child, trying to be an adult, but still only 17, wants the priveleges of an adult, but the responsibilities of a teenager. Add to that, trying to figure out how to work from home vs going back into the corporate world. It is all difficult, but it is worth pursuing what you desire, rather than just taking what is handed to you.
    Bernice

  10. posted by Julia1060 on

    @Erin – lovely post and reminder about identity change. I’m currently in a major career transition that took me from a community setting to being an entrepreneur; it’s taken much longer than I expected to know “who I am” in this new life as it’s so different from what I did before. I think it’s important to mention that it’s also okay to do a “bite at a time” – that these huge identity shifts (be it from couple to family, employed to self-employed) are major mental and physical overhauls that demand rest, transition time and simple presence.

    Keep up the good work, btw – always happy to find a new Unclutterer post on my RSS.

  11. posted by Green on

    Here’s a quote on this subject of living the life….
    “The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”
    Oh! how much I wish to be this person who enjoys whatever I do with a passion… or do only what I am passionate about….

  12. posted by julia on

    I’ve worked towards a similar goal: to be able to spend time with my father (who is 90 and getting forgetful). I quit my dayjob two and a half years ago to work for myself from home, in part to get rid of a three hour commute every day.

    But aging parents are very different from children (I think; I only have the first so far). There’s the whole them being their own people thing, plus the parent-child dynamic, plus the forgetfulness, plus the lack of a partner in this, plus the lack of a social structure to help and/or acknowledge these situations. I love them dearly, but I’m 30 and it’s hard to balance living my life outside my family (career, education, dating, wanting to be a parent myself at some point, friends) with family life.

    Kids grow up (hopefully). Their independence increases. They gain skills. They progress towards adulthood at a somewhat predictable rate. Old age isn’t nearly as nicely standardized as that. My father’s forgetful and getting more so. Instead of looking forward to sending him off to school or college or marrying him off, the shift will (eventually) be death. And the timeline is unknowable. A year? Ten years? More? He’s in amazingly great physical health according to his doctor (and decent mental health considering his age).

    So while I feel incredibly lucky that a) I have a wonderful father, and b) I can have the flexibility to spend time with him, I don’t know how to fit the rest of life in. It’s not inherently clutter, but it leads to clutter in the same way that living with a waterbed for a floor would. There’s not firm foundation to stand on or anything stable to hold onto and things slide all over the place.

    I know this isn’t really something you’re talking about here, but it’s related (because people! they have personalities! and life is unpredictable!) and I’m assuming will become more common with the Baby Boomers. So maybe you have insight? Or maybe I’m just venting? But part of decluttering and maintaining that simpler life seems to be having a broader vision (even a vague one) for a year or two our and it’s difficult to figure that out in these here circumstances.

  13. posted by Sophie on

    Regarding forgetting they’ll be an actual person…my husband is known for saying of our two children, “When they’re human….”. He means when they’re grown up. :)

  14. posted by Adela on

    I think about this a lot – what are some practical strategies for getting a job that lets you work at home, or even closer to home than a 1 hour + commute? In this market it is unlikely I’d be able to sell my house and move closer to work. I am 15 years into my professional career, so starting seems difficult without a major pay cut. I have a professional job and work in a team environment in a downtown urban center. Any thoughts would be welcome.

  15. posted by Annette on

    I have three children in elementary school. My work is flexible and I frequently work from home. My husband is a realtor and is flexible too. Even with grandparents close by to help I sometimes feel the kids are shortchanged – when I have to be on a call in the afternoon and can’t engage with them. It’s frustrating trying to juggle parenting with work. I sometimes feel I do neither well while multitasking. And take note – school vacations are the ultimate destroyer of the work schedule. Working from home while the kids have the day off is like doing no work at all.

  16. posted by Sara on

    I’m really interested in Julia’s comment about the aging parent (thank you, Julia, for sharing that). I’m also 30 and my parents are a bit older than the parents of most of my peers. One is disabled and the other cares for him every day. I’m not my dad’s primary caregiver, but I do try to support my parents in various ways. I feel like I’m trying, but not able to help as much as I would like, and I brainstorm a lot about how I might be able to arrange our lifestyles better so that I can be of more help and also enjoy more time with them while I still can. As Julia mentioned, at the same time one would like to really engage with career, friends, dating, wanting to have Future Children, etc. It would be great if there’s a blog specifically about this!

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