a minimalist career?

Happy to report no Freudian slips on TV yesterday. When I have the footage I’ll post it here. It was a very short segment but hopefully people got the message: stuff = time + money. Let go of what you don’t use, and stop accumulating, and you’ll have more of both.

Interesting comment from a reader that found me via the Globe and Mail on this post. “dd” as he or she calls themselves wrote:

I think you may be minimalizing something else though, and wonder if it’s intentional.

It appears you have a sex-based division of roles for you and your husband. You stay home with your child. You will find this will create a minimalist career and insecure future for you too, if that continues. Not your husband of course, who has a growing CV, established credit rating, skills accumulation, contacts/network support, professional reputation.

Sometimes minimalism is not a good thing.

To answer the comment I will get a bit personal for a moment.

My husband is an entrepreneur. His income fluctuates. What he does to earn a living fluctuates. While he has interesting skills and knowledge, we both agree that I’m much more employable. I have an undergraduate degree and work experience that make me a desirable candidate to work  ‘for the man’ so to speak.

I’m mostly a stay at home. I say mostly, because my son Henry goes to daycare twice a week while I work on my freelance writing career. Because we have scaled down our lifestyle and possessions I am able to do this. I’m thankful every day to have a spouse that is supporting me as I pursue this dream.

As for the other things mentioned that I missing out on by taking time away from the corporate world, my broad answer is this: my life is not about the accumulation of wealth. I want to pursue work that is meaningful to me. Now that I’m no longer focused on a five year plan to upgrade everything I own, I can tolerate and accept that my time away from the corporate world will impact my earning potential. My previous jobs have been gratifying in that I received praise for a job well done and enjoyed working hard, but they weren’t rewarding. Doing something just because you are good at it isn’t always the best reason to pursue a career or climb the corporate ladder.

I’m 33 years old and in the last few years I’ve noticed a small trend among my peers. A few people I know that have been in lucrative jobs, jobs they were successful at, have left them to return to school for something they are passionate about. Obviously the reward of money and the prestige of a sexy job title at a large company were not enough to keep them in careers they didn’t enjoy. It’s like that Starbucks cup quote is coming to life in front of me:

Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever. ~ Po Bronson

It’s true, I don’t have any guarantees of a career and a sweet employee share program to cushion me into retirement. But are those a necessity for a happy life? I’m reminded every day that there’s more to life than making a lot of money.

As for our more “traditional roles”, yes, I am currently home manager in our humble abode. My spouse and I have discussed at length that at some point he may take over that role and I may be the primary breadwinner so to speak. If that happens, I know my husband would enjoy more time with Henry and the freedom to pursue his own passion projects.

This is not meant as an attack on the commenter. I really like a good conversation starter from another point of view. It definitely reminded me of this Salon article about a recently divorced freelance writer that gave up her career to stay at home with her children. It also reminded me of another quote that has inspired me over the years.

Risk nothing and you risk everything.

Thoughts and comments welcome. Am I making a big mistake going after a dream and enjoying these early years with my son at home? Is it too hard to believe that I am okay with not making a lot of money in my life?

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  • “Risk nothing and you risk everything.” that is one of my favourite quotes. A bit like another one I like “Everyone has a chance in life, but not every one takes a chance”.

    I gave up a management career with a big company over 10 years ago for family reasons. It has been difficult to keep ahead of the bills ever since, but I would not go back and change my decision because the time that it has given me to spend with my daughter as she has grown up can never be replaced with any sum of money or success.
    The greatest gift you can give someone is your time.

    • “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time.” Thanks for that reminder, David. I believe that is true for both the time I give the people around me and the time I give myself.

    • Motherhood is noble and involves much work. Unfortunately, American culture does not fully support, much less celebrate, the worth of females in 2011. Mother’s Day sells a lot of cards, encourages gift giving and offers retailers/restaurantuers another marketing opportunity.

      Fifty per cent of women end up parenting alone for part of their children’s lives. The American public offers these women no paid maternity leave, no dependable assistance with their children’s physical needs other than food, $580 a month for 5 years max on which to ‘live’ and $670 a month for a family with a disabled family member with no consideration for the ‘living allowance’ needs for children.

      Birth control at the no-hassle clinic runs $250 cash or credit to get started on oral contraceptives. They do not bill insurance. There is intense pressure put on single woman to engage in sexual activity during the very early days of a ‘relationship’ and the expense of caution can leave it thrown to the wind.

      There is, in my opinion, a general disrespect for the worth of women in this country as a regular practice.

      We end up returning to work after the marriage breaks up only to spend $600 on daycare when entering the market with experience at $10 an hour. The $1600 a month gross probably would make one ineligible for any assistance as this is a ‘significant income’. I’m really not sure what is an adequate income in the eyes of the misinformed authorities but I find far more than the remaining $600 a month is needed for the survival of a family.

      One should not be so judgmental about the actions of women as we are usually just left to deal with the hand life has dealt us. If you are lucky enough to end up in the 50% of marriages that do not fail and know the unfortunate goings on in some daycare situations, staying at home with your children could be a rewarding experience personally and financially, maybe not. Every family must decide as every situation is different.

  • 7 years ago I left my career to stay home with my children. I went from teaching both at the public school and college level to being s SAHM full time. At the time, money was tight and I received no support for my actions aside from that my husband gave me. I think it is hard for people to see the value in it and support it as it is such a foreign concept. Our society, rears us to be money makers from a very young age and then doesn’t understand those that go against that grain.

    The 7 years I have been at home have been such a blessing to myself and my family. My husband, though support regardless of whether I want to earn income or not, often comments on how much smoother our family seems to operate having someone home during the day to keep things rolling and keep up on things. This is the first year all of my kids are in school all day and at this point I thought I would want to go back into the work force. What we have found though is that the ability to be home all day by myself allows for things to get done during the day and frees up our evenings for family time. That time is priceless to us and is worth way more than money I would make from a career.

    Everyone is different and needs different things and situations to fulfill them. I see our life of making less income to have more time as no more or less a right decision than the person who wants to work full time for things, retirement, trips, etc… We are all, hopefully, striving for what fulfills us and our families and that is different for everyone.

    • Thanks for sharing here and giving me a perspective from someone farther down the road in this ‘career’ choice. So nice to hear about the value you have received from your time at home.

  • Expect my take on it later today in the comments – I have much more to add! I’m in a very similar situation to yours (in fact incredibly similar!) – I love the choice I made and salute you for your decision to pursue your vocation… as for your career ending, it’s just the start Rachel. I predict big things for you and very rarely am I wrong (make that never!). My life is also not about earning cash to spend cash – totally futile and pointless. Time you can never buy back. Jo

    • It’s not that I disregard the value of income and money. I’m well aware of retirement needs, etc. I’d easily be able to manage a windfall of cash should it come our way.
      It’s just that I’m seeing how little my happiness is tied to money. Sure, we need enough to get by and we’re still paying off debt. But if I did need to go back to traditional work in a corporate setting I’m not that concerned about where I would be on the food chain of it.
      I know you understand this as you’ve made the leap and working for yourself. Just putting thoughts down I guess.

  • Well my opinion is a biased one, because I am in the same ‘career’ as you are. But let me say this: My boyfriend and I, and our daughter Olive, live in a 4 and 1/2, on about 2000$ per month. Which is pennies to some. Greg was going to go to school for carpentry after being on EI for a year. EI is no fun, because depending on the government for food is no fun. Self sufficiency all the way. But then he got a job bike messengering. There is no option for raises, he earns by the delivery, so we will always be living in this tax bracket, but he gets tons of exercise, and is the happiest I have ever seen him. So we decided that instead of going to school, he would keep his DREAM job. I can really see us living this way forever, because its easier, not harder. As I am sure you know.

    • My sister is the happiest I have seen her and she is unemployed! So strange that what we think will make us happy – better job and more money – rarely does.
      Thanks for sharing, Julia.

  • “Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever. ~ Po Bronson”

    I wonder what rueful laughter echoes through the back rooms at Starbuck’s venues.

    “Everyone is different and needs different things and situations to fulfill them.”
    But we all need food and shelter. And though you are healthy (presumably) and vigorous, you may not be when you are 45 and 55 with no harc CV. And no, a free lance article here and there will not suffice for the employer. Why should it, when there are others (primarily men) around with unbroken careers? Or, if they did take time off work to play at house fathering, this will work in their favour. What a guy. For you it will be different. Will it ever be tiresome and difficult then to live off the government.

    I do not suggest that putting family and children first is not the way it should be. It’s the way it isn’t. We don’t live in a world that values that, and if we did, all your husbands and male partners would be at home enjoying the privilege of being with their child(ren) all the time, because it’s so wonderful for them too. It doesn’t matter what joy you experience out of this, you will still be at very high risk of living off the government in some way for most of your life, because your career isn’t, and your husband’s is. That’s how it will be viewed by human resources departments. And also by the time you decide to become competitive, you will be considered too old.

    • While I am trying to value your point of view, I have to say that I find it incredibly narrow and uninformed. It is clear to me that you are not a SAHM or independently employed individual and so appear to be approaching this from the traditional, more corporate, viewpoint. And, if you live in that world, then it is a valid viewpoint and fits with what you value. However, many (including myself and my husband), made a different choice, one that placed a greater value on family, time, and happiness than salary and retirement. And we did not make this choice lightly or uninformed – we entered it with thoughtfulness, a great deal of research, and with a financial plan.

      Yes, my husbands resume is more complete than mine is (I’ve been a SAHM) but I went into this with open eyes and a career plan. I am not ‘playing at house’ mothering – I am mothering which is an immensely valuable contribution to the people that matter – my husband and children. If others can’t value it or consider mothering or fathering ‘playing house’ well then I can only pity them. I’ve continued to take courses that keep me competative (when I had the time and money) and am now reentering the field on a part-time basis. I am completely qualified for a full-time employment but am making the choice (once again) that makes for a easier, happier life for myself and my family. My husband was most fortunate to have the opportunity to start his own business and work from home with flexible hours. Yes, this meant an additional hit to our income (at first) and we paid for our own benefits. However, and more importantly from our point of view, it also meant that my husband was at home throughout his childrens childhood – something he could never buy or do later. This has impacted our lives in an amazing way and I can put no price upon it. Now that our kids are in school full-time, he is beginning to look towards a new passion of his one that may, or may not, take him out of the home during the day. But, we know that it has to fit with the life that he and we want.

      As for retirement, you’re right, we do not have as large of a retirment account as if we had been with a large company that offered to match contributions. However, we do have Roth and additional IRA accounts and we are looking to the future financially – but our primary focus is looking to the present. If we had stayed on the duel-income path, I feel confident that we would have a houseful of a a lot of stuff (huge amounts of money spent on consumersim), a healthy retirement account, a frazzled and stressed out mind, and instead of spending the day together as a family, we would see our kids from 7:00am to 8:00am and 6:00pm to 9:00pm. The healthy retirement account and great CV just can’t hold up against that. By the by, I am not trying to knock down the duel-income choice. For many it is the best choice for them personally and I admire anyone who choses what is best for them. For myself at this time, this was, and is, the best choice. I’m sure that at some point we will return to a duel-income life – but not the life-style. Our viewpoint on consumerism and simplifing has been fundamentally changed by our current lifestyle and I feel, most thankfully , that that will stay with us throughout our life regardless of our financial status. I hope that has given you a small understanding that because a choice has been made to simlify it does not mean it was done without thoughtfulness, research, or responsibility.

    • Firstly in many family’s the men do stay home with the children while the wife works, my brother was the stay at home carer for my niece pretty much until she started school. Then my SIL wanted a change and started her own business so they swapped roles.

      Secondly its not how the world works, its how the USA works. In many countries and cultures the role of raising children is considered important, whichever parent does it.

      Thirdly, if the worst came to worst you are saying that a university educated woman couldn’t get a job anywhere doing anything and would just HAVE to go on welfare. Really? She was motivated enough to get a degree, work on her freelance career and raise children, but not enough to find work of any kind to support herself or family?

      You act like the only work that matters is the all important “CAREER”. Since I’ve moved to the USA from Australia, I found out the biggest cultural difference is that the pressure from people who seem to think work is everything and for so many of them “Their lives are their work” they seem to forget that for some of us we “Work so we can live our lives”.

    • I completely agree with Rachel in minimalism and that instead of a pursuing a career and money in order to be buying more and more ‘things’ we should focus more on our family and spend on what we need. However, I must agree with DD as well. Obviously I hope and pray and do not expect my husband to leave me, but unfortunately divorce is a fact of life for most people. Therefore I agree, that us women ( may it be fair or not) do have to keep our jobs going as well as devoting time to our children. I left the corporate world after my kids were born and now work part-time and retraining myself into a career, which will still give me potentially a very good income, but which will give me more flexibility.

  • I like this. I also gave up career to stay home. My son will start school next year and I don’t regret the years I’ve had at home with him, to guide him in our own minimalist journey. And, now, I can press play again on my career – one that I chose for its merits and pleasure, certainly not the fame and cash!

  • Life is today’s society is clearly changing and no one’s career is safe. Much of dd’s comments presume the male role is solely in business world. I know of at least 3 men in their mid-40s who have recently lost their jobs. One of these men was my husband. Luckily, he was able to take paternity leave and I returned to work earlier than we both expected. If we all ran our lives because we of how we thought our careers would be in 10 years, we would be in big trouble. And Rachel, I commend you for this journey you are taking.

  • I’ve been a lurker but thought I’d come out of the closet so to speak. I too left the corporate world to be home with my children. I left a lucrative position as director of a large department. I chose to leave because I wanted to be with my children. I grew up in the 70’s and spent my entire childhood alone while my parents both climbed the corporate ladder. I then did everything I was told a woman should do to “have it all”….I got the degree, the job, the husband, the children…but you know what? I realized I didn’t want it ALL, I just wanted some of it- my husband and children. I wanted to cook and clean and take care of my family because that made me happy and fulfilled me. My husband and I have embraced frugality and minimalism for years- we have been riding out the global recession with no change in lifestyle even though my husband has lost THREE jobs in the last 2 years. My husband is currently working, pursuing higher education (between the two of us I’m the only one with a university degree), and I continue to maintain our home and do the bulk of the cooking, cleaning, and child- rearing. We are both happy with our decisions. When the kids are grown and gone and pursuing their own versions of a happy life, I will then re-enter the work force. I don’t particularly care how much I get paid and at what point I’ll enter or even if I am able to work- because I know the lifestyle choices we have made yesterday, today, and tomorrow will enable me to live a contented happy life.

  • My point of view is well-informed, based on both experience and statistics.

    We cannot deny how the world around us works. And the fact that those high-minded values don’t seem to apply to men. If they do, why are they not staying at home? The only point I wish to make is women who stay at home, with husbands and partners who do not, are planning for a minimalist existence for themselves and their children. He is accumulating currency. You are not.

    *You = universal.

  • dd: And because I seem not to have made it clear, by “currency” I do not mean money. But that too. If your marriage breaks-up, as the majority do, you will find you have to prove you deserve part of the family income, because he and the courts consider it his. Not in 1950. Today.

    • @dd: The statistics also say that if you’re an old fart, male or female, no matter how wonderfully developed your resumé or CV is, you’ll have a difficult time getting a job. Our household was sweating it two years ago when my husband’s teaching position was cut. He was 42 with over 15 years of experience and two Master’s degrees and glowing recommendations. Most school districts could afford two new teachers fresh out of college for the amount that my husband would cost them. Yes, he managed to get a new job, but it was a close thing, and we’re hoping that he’ll retire from the current district so as to avoid the problem of trying to get hired with too much experience. Sad but true in the age of budget cut after budget cut.

      My other point I’d like to make, is that you live in fear. I prefer to live in joy. No one knows how long one has. My father died at 58, with a good CV, like you recommend. I wish he’d had a little less on his CV, personally. My husband and I have been able to have me at home for the past few years. Our house is paid for in full. Our car is paid for in full. We have $0 credit card debit. We took a vacation to Hawaii this Christmas. My daughter (8) has $180k in a trust for her higher education. My son (4) has $60k saved for his education fund. My husband and I both have retirement funds.

      Living mindfully and questioning assumptions is powerful. I don’t need to live like you do because I make the choices I make.

      PS. Watch out for believing the 50% of marriages end in divorce. It’s a hard statistic to prove, and to tease out from the data available. As best as the experts can tell, that may have been true in the 70’s & 80’s, but the divorce rate has been dropping in the past few decades, and it looks like well more than half of marriages starting now will NOT end in divorce.

  • Yeeesh, dd, how cynical! Although I agree with so much you have said (the corporate negative view of women taking a break from their career, the advantages men have in an “unbroken” career), I think you’ve missed the point in that Rachel (and her husband) have made a decision.
    That decision, to shun the “big bucks, climb a ladder, make as much as you can, buy lots of things” world means that they are free(er) to experiment with alternative careers and even have a break from a traditional career. They spend less so they can earn less.

    I’m in a similar position as Rachel – at home with the kids. I have four young kids, the eldest is six and I am currently on an official five year “career break”, meaning that a similar post will be waiting for me when I am due to go back to work. However, I don’t think I am going back. While not working, I’ve cut our expenses to a minimal amount, only a fraction of what we spent as DINKs, and we simply don’t NEED that money. Sure, I could put it to the retirement fund but, at the moment, my baby, my two pre-schoolers and my six year old, as well as my husband (and, of course, myself), benefit so much from me running this home full-time. That benefit is worth a small decrease in my pension fund.
    I think as a couple, it takes a massive leap of faith for a woman to give up a career to stay home. It really does and I could scare myself silly thinking about my husband leaving me and what that would mean for “our” financial situation. However, I choose not to live like that. We are a team – love, friendship, money, property – and that gives me the faith to allow him to be the sole breadwinner for the foreseeable future.

    No, Rachel, I don’t think you are wrong for following a dream and spending time with your child. Even if getting back into a “career” might be tricky (should you ever wish to do so), there are always “jobs” so I think the view that you will end up living off the government is a bit extreme!

    Still finding this blog inspiring so thank you for all your efforts.
    Karen (Scotland)

  • Even if you are secure for your future there will always be some people questioning what you are doing. I can stay at home as long as I like for my kids. People know I do not need to return to work for financial reasons yet not a week goes by that I am not asked about going back. Some people think my education is being “wasted by staying home and wiping bums!” (yes, somebody actually said this to me lol!) so I don’t think people only have your financial future on their minds.

    Sometimes people are disturbed about their own choices when you go against the grain of everything our culture is telling us, and hide it behind a facade of concern for your financial future.

    • “Sometimes people are disturbed about their own choices when you go against the grain of everything our culture is telling us, and hide it behind a facade of concern for your financial future.”

      So true. This is not only in regards to financial choices, but it seems that as soon as we do something out of ‘the norm’ they become cynical and oppositional supposedly for our concern, but really I think it shows their own insecurities.

  • dd Money does not equal happiness, nor will it ever. Just think when your on your death bed what will you remember? Working your butt off and missing valuable time with your family, or working so much that you were too tired to spend quality time with the ones you loved? While we all have our OWN decisions to make you can have your opinion and othersrespect that, so please give Rachel that respect too. It’s just like the old saying, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.

    Props to you Rachel, anything is possible.

  • I’m astounded at the tone of these comments. Did any of you READ what I said?

    Not plan for 10 year’s hence? Well, good luck with that.

  • Hmm… there is a phrase in Dutch that I can’t quite translate but it is along the line of “You can’t see what is in another person’s wallet.”

    What is boils down to is that dd can’t see what is in any of our bank accounts or know our contingency plans for the future. All you know, dd, is that many of us currently aren’t working. By choice. And we are therefore earning less money than you think we should be earning. Most of us (I’m assuming, as we are all reading a minimalist blog!) have chosen to spend less and that decision has probably made it easier to choose not to work.

    From the standard of comments (spelling, grammar, basic sentence structure), all of the comments have been made by fairly bright people who, I’m sure, are aware of their own finances and have both short-term and long-term plans.

    dd, your initial comment to Rachel and even your second comment were interesting and certainly add to the dialogue of Rachel’s blog. Are we indeed just pie in the sky dreamers living in an idealistic world where we can skive off for a few years playing house? However, your short comment above is a wee bit vague and patronising. No-one is going to go into huge financial detail in the comment section of a blog or give you their ten year plan. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a plan. Although some of us, like Phoebe Buffet, might only have a “pl”…

    Karen (Scotland)
    PS For the record, I have a Plan. It even has a capital “P”. :-)

  • I applaud you, Rachel! Thinking outside the box for family choices and career moves is hard, but actually taking those daring steps can be downright difficult. I’ve been seeing your articles pop up in a bunch of new places and I think that’s so neat! I think it’s awesome what you guys are doing and I wish you all the best.

  • I apologize if I sounded patronizing.

    History and stats show, women who stay home will be in peril in the future. Certainly there are exceptions.

    You could live three lives and you wouldn’t have lived as minimalist a life as I have, for as long. But you are not 70, this is not 1950, and I and women of my generation who lived a life of enforced minimalisim have worked hard so women like you would have more choice.

    This isn’t Kansas anymore.

  • So to recap, I’m all for your life of consumer minimalism. My posts are about you also choosing equality in child raising and career building. As a final word before I head out to the foodbank in minus 30 weather (I did what I’m advising you not to do), I repeat my caution: don’t plan for a minimalist future in a world that won’t remunerate you for that, and keep in mind your husband won’t experience what you will, even if he is unemployed, temporarily. (Do you call it unemployed when you stay home? Why is it kind of shameful when he is home *unemployed*.

  • I’m from the Netherlands and over here it’s very common for mothers (and fathers now too) to work part time. My mother was a stay at home mom for a few years when my sister and I were really young. However, she missed working and the financial independence. My mother worked 20hrs a week during the rest of my youth. I really enjoyed having a mother to come home to after school to talk about your day etc. She could still earn an income and build up a pension. Also, when we were older she could easily work more hours (but chose to work 32hours) without having a gap in her CV. I think this could be a great “middle way” for a lot of women.
    Rachel, I love your posts, keep going!

    • A while back there was a flurry of magazine and newspaper articles about the progressive maternity and paternity leave laws and benefits in the Netherlands. If I recall, it greatly encouraged men to take time off for child rearing. The result was that more parents split the work load and often mother and father worked less than full-time hours so they could spend time with children.
      Thanks for commenting, Eva. Cheers from Vancouver =)

      • Also from the Netherlands 😉 I work 20 hrs a week, part-time, during school hours. It means I’m financially independent in case of a divorce. That is really important to me! My children are 15- 19 but still appreciate me being home when they come home from school/university. Most of my friends work part-time by the way, very common here.

  • Living minimally and being financially comfortable are not mutually exclusive – in fact, living a minimalist lifestyle can truly help you achieve all your financial goals, while at the same time giving you the opportunity to enjoy what you truly value most in life. I too am living the minimalist lifestyle with my two kids and husband, and have been a stay-at-home parent for the past three years. I was one of those people that Starbucks quote referred to – the mix of praise money and security had lured me into a decent paying corporate job with amazing benefits and job security in a position that I was great at, but after 7 years, my soul was dying a slow death. My husband and I decided that I would stay home with the kids after our second child was born. We planned accordingly with regard to our finances and, even though we live in the most expensive real estate market in our country, we paid off our mortgage on two relatively average incomes within five years (all on our own). We’ve kept our lifestyle simple and it hasn’t changed much since we were university students, but we are no longer struggling to pay the bills and are planning for a very healthy retirement. :) Right now I’m thrilled and grateful for every day that I’m able to be home with my kids and thankful that I’ve been fortunate enough to make that choice – living minimally helped make that choice possible.

  • I am an engineer, in that I have an engineering degree, and I worked as an engineer for 9 years after graduating from university. The only reason I left that job, in fact, was that I was laid off. The mix of security, comfortable salary and recognition kept me locked into something that frankly wasn’t me.

    During the early years of my marriage, I was the primary breadwinner and my husband pursued his dreams. I qualified for our mortgage based on my income alone and I co-signed his car loan. Now our roles are reversed, at least for the time being. Watching my husband I can say with confidence that you can move in and out of phases of your life. However, your children will only be small once. Miss this time, and you can’t get it back.

    Am I losing career credential chilling out here in the slow lane? Yes, but also no. I’m doing freelance work and gaining other, different skills in addition to the ones I already had. I have a credit card and a bank account and a few bills in my own name, so I maintain my own credit history. I’m just in a particular phase of life now, and I don’t think it has to be forever. I would say the same for you.

    Now, if you really wanted a new car every three years it would be a different story. But you probably wouldn’t have a blog called “Minimalist Mom” in that case. 😉

    • Thanks for sharing, Amber. I like hearing about couples that have kept a fluid approach to career changes and household roles.
      And true, if I wanted a lot of things and a bigger home – we don’t even have a car now! – I wouldn’t be talking about minimalism.

  • Security is an illusion… ask the Nortel Alumni! They were certainly the last to think their job, benefits and pension were not secure.

    I a very well paid permanent job that I left for a term position that paid about 25% less – a big salary cut. I left a job I hated and many puzzled (read incredulous) co-workers! LOL

    It was only a one year contract, but it was combining three very ecclectic interestes of mine! It felt that the job was created for me. I loved the job and performed well during waht was in that industry a very unusual and hectic year. So much so, that I was offered a permanent position.

    Money is not everything, I LOVE what I’m doing and have absolutely no regrets. I never dread Monday morning; I look forward to go back! I try not to be too cheerful though, or my coworkers will start hating me. 😉

    Follow your passion, you can’t go wrong!

    • Thanks, MW. Your comment reminded me of something my sister recently said, that she thinks she probably spent $10,000 one year on eating out, stress shopping and other diversions because she was working so much and not enjoying her job.

  • I have a doctoral degree in biomedical science and was happy running a laboratory. However, I always knew that my priority would be my family and children. So, when baby number 1 came along, I easily walked away from my “career” to be a SAHM. While I am still self-employed a bit, I consider my job as “wife and mother” to be the most important career role.

    I may be in the minority, but I’m all for the traditional gender-separation of roles. I love staying at home, and becoming more minimalist has only enhanced that for me. Could I go back to work? Yes. Would I be well paid? Yes. Is it where I am supposed to be right now? My answer would be a resounding NO!

    I cherish each moment I am home with my children, and realize that time is ticking by way too quickly. Would I change anything? Nope. I’m happy in my gender-limiting role of wife and mother. I’m happy with my husband in the traditional bread winner role. I’m happy taking care of those who are closest to me. God made me a mother for a reason, and I am honored to have that be my primary career.

    Dr. Laura

  • Amber: I am an engineer.

    Blog owner: (We) can see False Creek. (For people who don’t know False Creek, it requires considably more than a ‘minimalist’ income. Or, you may be one of the few who qualifies to live in the small subsidized housing complex there. In which case, the taxpayer is paying for your minimalism.

    Wannabe: a permanent position

    ‘Nuff said.

    • Blog owner’s husband:

      Yes, we live in Yaletown, downtown Vancouver, and it’s ridiculously expensive. We talk a lot about moving somewhere else, because with the savings we would be in a position where we basically didn’t have to do any work except that which we were passionate about (unlike my amazing wife, I still do some work that is mainly motivated by paying the bills). And we might do that eventually, but on the other hand we really, really love where we live. So for now, we’ve decided to just sit tight for a bit and see how we feel in a year or so. But I wanted to assure you that wherever we end up living, it won’t be on the taxpayer’s dime.

  • I’ve just found your blog and wanted to share my experiences, too. I also have a doctoral degree. I left my lucrative career as a research scientist to stay home with my children, because that is where I truly wanted to be. That decision, plus our dream of saving up to buy a small acreage, caused us to find and embrace minimalism (or as we call it, Simple Living). I found, as so many others have, that living with “less” and eschewing the consumerism rat race brought far more happiness than our high-earning jobs did.

    And, on the topic of gender, it wasn’t just me who got the freedom to craft my life the way I wanted it to be. My husband left his corporate six-figure job to work as an independent consultant, which allowed him to work from home, choose his projects and his hours, and spend more time with our family. He is now currently starting a home-based business in an entirely different field, while I continue with the small consulting business (also run from home) that allows me to bring in some extra money with few hours, and to keep my foot in the door of science (my other passion in life besides my family). We have plans for the future and are at no more risk of becoming dependant on “the government” as any other person out there, since no job today provides any guarantee of future security or income.

    The problem with those who have drunk the Kool-Aid of “success” (big job, big money, big house, “good” neighbourhood) is their belief that any alternative is failure: a life spent flipping burgers or welfare dependancy. Some of us are redefining success and, in doing so, are seeing that there are many paths to true success. So why not choose the life you really want?

    • The problem with those who have drunk the Kool-Aid of “success” (big job, big money, big house, “good” neighbourhood) is their belief that any alternative is failure: a life spent flipping burgers or welfare dependency.

      I was recently a Kool-Aid drinker so I understand this thought pattern well.

      Thanks for commenting and including your experience with leaving less traditional work. And you’re semi-local from the other comment you left! Sending a wave across the Straight =)

  • dd, the focus of Rachel’s blog isn’t on the income. Where she lives is irrelevant and Wannabe’s good fortune that the one year contract (on a dream job) turned into a permanent post isn’t the point either. Minimalists can be rich or poor – it’s what they choose to do with that income that makes them minimalists.

    You use the key word yourself above:
    “I and women of my generation who lived a life of enforced minimalisim have worked hard so women like you would have more choice. ” We truly appreciate the battles women of previous generations have fought to give us that CHOICE. But the key word there is choice. We can throw ourselves into careers, sacrifice time with our fleetingly young children, and try to buy everything our hearts’ desire. And that is a valid choice if it makes us happy.
    Or we can step back, choose to spend less, and live a simpler life and that is also a valid choice.

    I feel for you that life has hurt you and we are all aware of the risks we take choosing to live on one income for a while but it’s a risk that most of us are willing to take for the so-obvious advantages to our families’ lives.
    I know women who have been hurt. My friend down the street whose husband left her with three small children – her plan, both life and financial, is wrecked. My Gran was “left” when her husband died unexpectedly in his early fifties. I am aware of the risks of “relying on a man” and allowing our household income to be “less” for a while. And that’s a risk I’m willing to take for a while to enable our family’s life to be simpler, more organised, calmer and, I guess “minimalist”.

    Best of wishes to you.
    Karen (Scotland)

    • I agree with you Karen – Choice – that’s the whole point. I chose to leave my career and reduce my hours when I had children, I then chose to go self-employed, and then I chose to reduce my self-employed hours further. Its my choice. I haven’t sold out, my career on infinitely less hours hours is better than ever in my eyes – I may not earn as much (I could if I wanted to) but I am living my life as I choose. I live for today not for my retirement – which may or may not ever happen.
      Money I can always acquire, time I can never get back.

    • Thanks for all your comments, Karen. Very balanced and I appreciate your POV from someone who has made the jump out of the corporate world.
      And love the Dutch saying about seeing in someone else’s wallet. I try and remind myself of this when I feel myself getting judgey about other people. I don’t know their finances, I don’t know their life intimately.

  • Gosh I really hope you are not making a mistake. Because then I am too. At 32 I’m redefining my career for the umpteenth time. Right now it involves staying home with my baby and little girl. At the same time I am trying to work through all of my business ideas and get down to the one that I really have a passion and desire to do. Not the one that will make us the most money or the one that is most socially acceptable. My 2 requirements right now are that it 1) Is something I wake up wanting to do and 2) It’s something that can help support a minimum lifestyle for us. It WOULD be nice if I could start it up from home over the next four years until the baby starts school.

    • It’s not the 50’s or 60’s anymore. People change jobs and careers many times over their life. Good luck, Leigh Anne. Rooting for you =)
      If you’re interested in ‘figuring it out’ check out craftingmylife.com. Amber runs a 12 week course that helps busy moms find their passions and plan for them. I’ve met Amber in-real-life and, while I haven’t taken the course myself, I think it sounds great.

    • Leigh Anne – I was 32 when I quit my career, and became self-employed. My first business venture didn’t work, but I had kept my overheads low and realised I needed to call it a day at the right time. It cost me 6 months of time and effort (I learnt a lot!), but at the same time I was at home with my daughter who was just 15 months at the time. Then (as always) fate stepped in, my business took a turn in a different direction completely out of the blue I got a call. I was actually lying in bed wondering what the hell I had done quitting my career, honestly I was, when the call came. I remember it like it was yesterday (it was 4 years ago). My new business took off that year. Keep your eyes and mind open and you will succeed. Just the fact you took the leap differentiates you by actually going for it rather than wishing it. Fortune favours the brave. Good luck!

    • I am in a similar situation. I am home with my daughter now and work part time in the evenings on a freelance job that stems from my old career. I save this money, and hope to turn it into a business when my daughter starts school.

      I think dd only thinks in traditional career track terms. I think life is different than it was then, and I don’t plan on living off the gov’t.

  • We had a busy day yesterday – story time, doctor, errands, early evening jog with the jogging stroller – so I wasn’t able to jump into the discussion here. Looks like it went very well without me.

    To quote Karen: “You can’t see what is in another person’s wallet.” You also can’t see into the future.

    dd: I thank you for your tale of caution with regards to staying home. I’m aware of the risks. I know my health could fail me, my husband could leave me or die (though we are well insured for that one), I may be working at Starbucks at 55 if I’m unable to find other work. I’m aware and I still choose to stay at home and pursue something I am passionate about part-time. My mother raised six children on her own, struggled a lot and ran a small business out of our basement so she could be at home with us and then started at new career at 50. She’s 65 now, still working, loving her job and life. When I have such great role models so close to me it’s easy to follow my heart instead of the herd.

    The SAHM vs. WOHM (is that the correct abbreviation?) debate will always be there but from reading the comments here I would say people are doing what works best for them. We’re trying to do what works best for us and right now it means I’ve left the corporate ranks.

    Interesting that the discussion turned to our income and lifestyle. Minimalism isn’t an income bracket for us. In fact, I would say we are able to reduce our lifestyle and embrace minimalism because we have the privilege to do so. We aren’t struggling to put food on the table. And yes, I’ve been fairly transparent that we’ve lived above our means in the past and are now working on paying off debt. I like talking about debt. I like talking about being in debt. I know it makes some people uncomfortable but I think one of the reasons so many people are in debt is because no one talks about it. We blindly think we should have what our peers have and what we don’t know is that our peers have maxed out credit lines too.

    Great discussion here and thank you everyone for contributing.

  • To dd: I feel your pain and know all too well what you are talking about. To this day I’m full of woulda coulda shouldas that I need to squelch so as not to fall into despair. Yet I cannot blame these young mothers and fathers for making the decisions they are making.

    To Rachel: Where I live, people who spent their entire working lives doing the “right” thing have lost their jobs, pensions, and health insurance in droves. They have lost both the time with family, the chance at happiness doing some other work better suited for them, and now their secure retirement. Those who live much more in the moment, with their young children, will at least have that, even if everything else goes wrong.

    The best approach is to be flexible, openminded, willing to take a risk and live with the consequences. Life is pretty much a crapshoot, to be honest. Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose, and whether you’re 30 or 70 you just have to pick yourself up and make your way toward the next day. A good life, like good health, is not a god-given right. Sometimes crap happens. So you might as well make the most of today :)

  • I worked full-time and had a successful career before my LO was born. After, it hit me all at once that it didn’t matter how much money I earned, how great my credit score was, of how many promotions I earned. If I failed at being a mother, that would be all that mattered. I consider my job as a mom more important than anything else. So important, I quit my job so I could be a stay-at-home-mom. So important, I’ve decided that unless we are starving and kicked out of our house, I will not return to work. My child is my calling, my mission in life, and my most precious asset. I love my child, I love being a mom, and nothing is more important than that. Not “CV, established credit rating, skills accumulation, contacts/network support, professional reputation…” nothing. I don’t think I’m the only mom who feels this way. Is’t minimalizing all about prioritizing? I have put being a mom as my highest priority and yes, it is intentional.

    • Love that you have such clarity about what you want. I never would have thought that I would actually want to be at home with my son. But here I am. Starting to understand that I can plan all I want but it’s best to keep an open mind to change – both in life events and wants.

  • I ve been reading your posts for a while,and i just want to say that luck is always following the brave,so just continue to live your life just the way you want it,the way that at the end of it you will be able to say that you lived exactely the way you wished…and there will always be people who disagree because of their own fears but im sure they would switch roles with you if they knew how….and i dont see what people dont understand about your life choices….instead of having you chose living…

    greets from Croatian girl from Finland

  • We can throw ourselves into careers, sacrifice time with our fleetingly young children, and try to buy everything our hearts’ desire. And that is a valid choice if it makes us happy.


    Nowhere have I said you should exchange being a stay at home mom for a career and buying everything your heart desires. As for your speaking from my fears, and life has hurt you comments…what a paucity of comprehension.


    • “It strikes me that a lot of you are not home by choice.”

      dd, I think that’s one of the most commonly-overlooked factors in the whole “to opt out or not to opt out” debate. A lot of women end up out of the workforce because they’re laid off or because their previous jobs are simply incompatible with reasonable family life. Again, security is not always so secure.

  • Oh, I wish I had seen this post sooner, so I could have really joined in the discussion!

    I just have a couple points to make:

    Rachel, I am also 33 years old, and the trend I’m seeing–that I think might be harder for women of older generations to see–is that both women AND men are choosing to move away from an achievement-oriented, work-work-work lifestyle that leaves little time for family, home or an outside life of any sort. Because of the Internet I am seeing worlds of opportunity open up to women who are staying at home. The choices are no longer (if they ever were) either work a 9-5 “career”, work a low-paying PT retail or service job, OR “be a housewife”. Increasingly it’s becoming accepted, even encouraged for people to move in and out of companies, in and out of careers, to contract, to consult, to freelance, to try new things. Company loyalty is a thing of the past–on both sides. I think this is really freeing our generation up to live more according to their values and as many have pointed out here, it doesn’t have to mean you have no marketable skills, no savings, no security and no backup plan.

    DD, I couldn’t help but notice a bit of snideness in your remark about “a few freelance articles.” Actually, you can build quite a lucrative career as a freelancer, particularly these days, when it’s much easier to have and keep access to those who would hire you. I should know: I left the workaday world to try out freelance writing as a career when pregnant with my third son, almost 8 years ago. I never returned to the office, and now earn half our respectable household income working part-time from home while also being the primary caregiver to our now-five children. If I’d had a more fear-based mentality, perhaps I’d have kept working an office job I didn’t really love just for security’s sake, miserable as I was. However, who knows. Chances are good I’d have been laid off anyway when the economy tanked. What’s that we were saying about security?

    • Lovely response, Meagan. Thank you for joining in on this thread of comments. Hearing from other women that have successfully managed a less conventional career and family inspires me.

  • I’m not going to bash one side or the other here. I believe everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion…but I wonder how our opinions are formed. The United States culture is to make money, buy excess crap we don’t need, and to expect that these things will make us successful and therefore happy. I used to buy into this because it was the way I was raised, what I saw on TV, and everyone else did too…therefore it was the pursuit of my friends and peers. It wasn’t until I got sick (unrelated to my stressed out lifestyle) that I began to question what I was doing and discovered that it is all a perpetuated lie.
    I quit grad school and pulled my, then, 15 month old from daycare (she had only been in for a month, but we both hated it.) I don’t feel guilty that she spent that month in daycare because it showed me what my family considers “rock-bottom”. I was a stressed out, borderline depressed, full-time mom who when to graduate school to be a clinical psychologist at night. When I started my child was only 6 months old. I had no time for anything and do to the deadlines and grades to be made…my family often came last (which is so interesting to me, because I have never liked holding jobs and have always placed my family and personal growth time way WAY ahead of everything else.) But I was stuck, thinking that I will have wasted my undergraduate degree if I didn’t keep moving in the career direction, wasted my hard work getting into a difficult program, racked up student loan debt that I wouldn’t be able to handle if I quit and stayed home with my wonderful baby girl. I had been brainwashed by society, feminists viewpoints, and my alma mater into thinking that the woman at home is an outdated and degrading role, indeed. What a big fat lie. My marriage was on the rocks…and i knew it, but until i got sick and realized that i could have died a sad, drained, not-even close to the person i had dreamed of me being life, I felt completely powerless to stop it. The weeks that I took off to recover opened my eyes to the type of life i wanted to live. I dropped my classes the next day, became a stay at home mom and homemaker, and never looked back. My marriage is solid and my husband is so happy with the division of labor. We are relaxed together not stressing each other out. I have time for him and my daughter not wallowing in self-pity due to all of the work i was expected to complete with an infant hanging off of my breast. I am attentive not distracted and all signs of depression have dissipated…funny how I remember thinking what a great client i would make when learning how to be a therapist.
    I just recently have purged my home of all of the excess too. Slowly becoming a minimalist family in our small rental half of a duplex. I used to think that I couldn’t wait to move somewhere bigger, because we were so cramped and now that I have gone through everything…this place is cozier than it was when it was just the two of us and we have added a child with all of her stuff into the mix.
    Happiness is definitely number one on my list. I wish only good things and a happy life to you minimalistmom. For every hater out there you have a supporter! Thanks for letting me share.

    • Thank you for sharing. Your story in inspiring in many ways – the first being you looked at your life critically and openly enough to see what it was you really wanted. I feel like so often we just ride along with what everyone else is doing, because that must be the right way if everyone else is doing it?
      I know I’m in this niche of simple living, that most of what I read and seek out is on the subject of living a less cluttered life and pursuing your passion, but I do feel there is a change coming. Meagan’s comments about the changing face of work – less security but more flexibility – have made me realize I already know a lot of people with less traditional careers. Freelancers, contractors, people that take mini-retirements to pursue other interests.
      Thanks again =)

  • I left work to stay home full time running our household. I truly believe kids are better off with the security of a parent at home consistently. I don’t even plan to return to work when the kids are at school, because I want to be there for them during school holidays and after school or when they are sick. And I want to be there for them when they have their own children. My mum left work 30 years ago and never went back, and I’m grateful for that.

    I am in no illusions as to what that will cost us dollars wise. That’s why I’m learning to live with less stuff. I didn’t march into this lifestyle without considering the consequences. Weighing up the positives and negatives shows a better outcome for my kids, and for household stress levels.

    I have am university educated, and am considering doing postgraduate study when my kids are at school, or pursue a career writing – or whatever takes my fancy that I can do flexibly or from home.

  • Oh, and I’m the one at home because my husband lacks the capacity to breastfeed.
    I’m also much better at this job than he is.

  • I’ve spent the past 12+ hours thinking about this discussion! I also shared some of the points of view with my husband. Like many of the women here, I hold several higher ed degrees and have spent a number of years working and then chose to stay at home with my child. When we found out that I was pregnant, my husband and I debated for many months whether I should stay home or not, but even from the beginning we were leaning toward me staying home. I won’t go into all the reasons why we chose this, or the benefits thereof, because so many people here have said what I would say.

    However, in contemplating the sad truth that in the US the work of a homemaker, be it the husband or wife, is unfairly viewed as worthless in the workplace, I’ve decided that it is time to capitalize on what the time at home does provide the future employee. I face the challenge of returning to the workplace in my future, but there’s no reason to not play up the amazing skills that I will have polished and include them in my resume! Time management, organization, planning, multi-tasking, work ethic, customer service…. To be a stay-at-home parent demands patience, creativity, and perseverance. What employer would not want these skills?

    I know that I will also need to keep on top of my field and continue to improve those field-specific skills, but I’ve determined that there is no reason that my time at home should be considered a “gap” but rather another job, honing valuable skills.

    • So true. Being a stay at home parent is harder than any previous job I have had (that includes being a full-time athlete). Harder but very rewarding.
      Thanks for your comments here. If you read through there are some great ones from other women in situations similar to yours.

  • I’m a psychologist in private practice, and I would be considered “underemployed” by many of my colleagues, because I keep my practice very small, therefore my income is much lower than it could be. But, I earn what I need to, and I wouldn’t trade the time I have with my daughter for anything. Our house is small by American standards, my car is old and dented (but paid for, and reliable!) and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Many of my clients present with anxiety and depression, and it’s no wonder; they are typically working in an office 40+ hours a week, raising kids, managing a household, striving to keep up with the Joneses, and working from a mindset that nothing is ever enough. I am glad to read about your life. Keep it up!

    • So nice to hear of another person making a choice for more life balance and less stuff. Your comments about clients and the relationship between “wanting it all” and mental health were enlightening. One of the many benefits to slowing down and working/owning/buying less is that I have time for my health. Not just exercise and nutrition but less stress.
      Thanks for stopping in. Many thanks for your insights!

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