“We’re in this stage of life where we’re supposed to have flexible time because we’re raising children, yet none of us have this time we need because we’re all working. It doesn’t make sense.”
One of my friends from Germany recently wrote this to me in an email and I agree wholeheartedly with him. So many of us are doing life backwards : having kids and working full time, but after the kids move out, then we retire or change to working part-time.
If people were financially free—meaning debt free—then we’d have more options to choose what we want to do. Stay home now with the kids, then work full time after they leave—if that’s what you want. Or work part-time now and into the foreseeable future. Heck—you could even take a year-long sabbatical. Those are options. But being required to work full-time because you’re mired in debt is not something that allows freedom to choose a customized lifestyle.
After we saved for nearly two decades (and scrimped at times—which caused massive arguments), we’ve reached the point where we’re Financially Free. Being debt-free has allowed us to make desperately needed decisions to alleviate the burden of our burn out. While having DH quit his partnership was very expensive in terms of lost revenue, it was the right decision for the long-term survival of our family.
Heck, DH even looks younger now. When I told him that one night at dinner, he said, “It’s all the green leafy vegetables I eat. They help me produce telomerase.”
“Or maybe you haven’t been a partner for a month,” I commented wryly.
“No, it’s because he’s acting,” our seven-year-old son piped up.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“He’s acting less stressed out!”
Our whole family belly laughed, as we often do at dinner now (We eat dinner together now!!).
Laughing is something we’re doing a lot of nowadays. Not rarely like before, but often now. My humorous husband is back. Even my father-in-law remarked upon it one night: “I can’t believe the difference in the atmosphere here.” He was referring to the significant drop in tension and stress that pervaded our house before our big change.
Usually, DH wore a stoic face when he left for his job. The other week, when he walked out the door for work, we were laughing. I can’t remember doing that since residency.
Folks, residency was over a decade ago!
Not only do we laugh more since becoming financially free, but we flirt more. Being up to $750,000 in debt can be hard on a marriage. It’s amazing what both of us working part-time can do to improve a marriage that was already good—dare I say it can take a marriage to great? (I recently met a divorced nurse who told her once nice orthopod ex-husband tuned into an a**hole in his later years—I bit my tongue from saying, “He was burned out!”)
And we now have time to do things like actually using our annual Legoland passes more than three times a year. DH can go for a bike ride on a Saturday morning with the kids. We now have room to breathe as a couple and as a family.
DH said the other day, “I don’t feel like such a slave anymore. I don’t have to do this, or I don’t have to do that. It’s such a relief!”
Obviously, us working part-time contributes to this shortage that’s already being felt. But us working part-time is better than us quitting completely because we are both burned out. If we kept working full-time, we’d leave medicine sooner. DH and I are trying to hang on to help alleviate the strain on a system that is already showing serious cracks.
People, it takes years to shift gears and restructure your lives to obtain Financial Freedom. You have to believe that one day it will be better. Have faith—you will see that day. It takes time, planning, and choosing what you’re willing to sacrifice today for the distant tomorrow.
Make your first move towards your future today. You got this.