This blog post was a big “ah ha” moment for me.
Lately, I’ve been having a really hard time getting work done in my home office. After careful thought, I’ve realized I actually don’t mind doing the work. The thing I mind is being away from my family.
In agrarian society, if I worked my own farm, my kids would be intimately involved in running the farm. They’d be with me, learning, relating, together. Maybe not all the time. But a lot of the time.
After the industrial revolution, and especially now with the tech revolution, we instead “go” to work. We leave our families. We disconnect. We partake in some advanced work that’s too “complex” for children to do, in a workplace where children aren’t allowed, miles away from where our children live. Even if we work from home, it is often work that requires us to shut ourselves away from our family to concentrate and peck away at a computer screen sending digital signals off into cyberspace (who cares???).
In striving for work flexibility and financial independence, I realize that this problem is actually what I’m out to solve. If I lived on a farm, I’m not so sure I’d care about work flexibility and financial independence, because I’d be with my family on a regular basis. But because I don’t have any farming skills and I don’t own a farm, it seems that the only way to truly be around my family as much as I want, is to have flexible work.
This blog post is such an “ah ha” moment for me because I used to think that my motivation for wanting passive income, and early retirement, was so that I could stop working. Right? I mean, isn’t that why people want passive income and early retirement? So they can stop working? But after really seeing this new way of looking at it, I realize that I don’t want to stop working. I’d be happy to be working and productive for the rest of my life! I just want to stop working in front of a computer screen away from my kids. I’d much rather be working outside, with my kids, teaching them about life and how to do stuff. If I get done with the day and I’m sweaty and tired, that’s fine. Hard work isn’t the problem. The kind of work is the problem.
I yearn for the day when my work will be more connected with my family, like taking my son out and teaching him how to hunt, or plow a field – I yearn for a time when the paths of work and family cross. I don’t foresee it happening any time soon, so in the meantime, I’ll try to accomplish my goal (spending time with my family) by having work flexibility.
I admire and often think of another blogger who, after achieving some degree of financial success, bought a farm, and pretty much went off the grid. He decided he didn’t want to spend all day looking at a computer screen, (or fill in the blank advanced tech job), so he hardly ever checks his email and only does bills, and other online chores, occasionally. He spends the rest of his time outside (imagine that!) with his family. It’s funny how I’m reading about more and more people doing this. I really suggest you click on that link above, because he does such a fantastic job of explaining why he left spreadsheets and computer screens behind, in search of nature and in his case, a farm.
It’s sort of this idea that when you’ve made enough money, you can afford to pretend that you live in the 1700’s and get back to a natural way of living. While I don’t foresee myself following this path anytime soon (maybe I don’t have enough guts?), there are baby steps I can be taking in this direction. The first step, for me, is a flexible schedule. The 2nd step is less consumerism, so I can rely on money less. The third step is optimizing our finances (passive income and a solid financial plan). I’d actually say, also, that camping plays a big role in this process – it puts me in a “temporary” agrarian setting where my family are all connected and working together on basic, physical tasks for that day’s work. And it’s no wonder that camping is the one activity which rejuvinates me and and makes me feel closer to my family, than any other activity.
I think the desire to get away from “modern work” is only getting stronger year by year, with new generations of workers. Why? Because work is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives. 30 years ago, yes we went to work, but we didn’t bring it home with us. We disconnected from work more often. But now, we are always connected to work – we are always checking email and sending meaningless digital signals off into cyberspace, at all hours of the day and night. So, as we become more out of balance with nature and family, we commensurately crave that balance more intensely.
In conclusion, I think this is such an interesting area to examine. Our work lives – where we spend SO MUCH of our waking hours – are so disconnected from our families. Is this how it’s supposed to be? Should we give in to society’s new, industrialized, definition of “work”? What can we do to take our power back and design a more natural life where everything is integrated? Some questions to ponder.
Ultimately, I think the goal for me is to make family time, nature, being outside – the goal is to make it so that these things aren’t just things that happen on evenings and weekends. They are THE things that I fill my days with, instead of things I squeeze in between the insanities of daily life.