The good news is that, over the last few months, my consulting business has started to take off. Financially this has really been a life-saver since Husband has not found work since he was laid off last July. The income I’m bringing in has made the difference between getting by each month on our own, versus dipping into our savings (reserved for buying that dream acreage!). I’m grateful for that; and the truth is I really enjoy the work I do – especially since I can do it almost all from home and on my own time, and it’s interesting.
The not-so-good news is that this month things have been so busy that I have not been able to fulfill my duties as Number One homemaker. Husband has been taking great care of the kids, but pretty much everything else has fallen by the wayside. Laundry has piled up, there has been no meal plan this month and the kids have been surviving on foods that I’d rather they not be eating so often. We’ve already spent too much on takeout, and I’m starting to get really sick of eating cereal two or three times a day. The house is a total mess and the plastic bag holder which I have managed to keep practically empty has now filled up (Hubby forgets to use the cloth bags most of the time). The kids’ bedsheets need to be changed…should I go on?
Now it may be that this month is just a fluke and things will be quiet again for another many weeks to come. But it also may be that business is going to keep going or even build up further, and this has caused me to do some thinking about what I’m going to have to let go of should I find myself more engaged in paid work. I thought I’d share that thought process with you, since my guiding values are those I consider to define Simple Living.
First and foremost, I will not give up so much time with my kids that I can’t be the primary caregiver and homeschooling parent. At MOST I want to work part-time (maybe 50 hours per month). Son will be joining Daughter’s homeschooling program this fall which means more reporting and greater activity on that front. I’m so excited about it and no amount of money is going to take me away from that. I’ve already decided that, when and if I am lucky enough to get to that point, I will hire an assistant to take over the daily managing of the business. I earn very good money for my time, but for me no amount is worth losing full-time status with my kids.
I will also not give up my volunteering with La Leche League. I think volunteering is so important and I get so much out of working with new mothers and helping them along in their breastfeeding and mothering journey. I am thinking of taking over an administrative position in our provincial chapter and I’d like to take a comprehensive breastfeeding course some time in the next year or so (taught by my co-leader, an amazing mentor and role model). It doesn’t take up that much of my time, but it is time away from family so it eats into what’s left after working.
And so I’m left with my one other role: homemaker. I love being a homemaker and I take great pride in the way I run my household. I love that we buy wholesome, healthy foods that are produced ethically and locally whenever possible. I love that we use only 1/4 of our allotted waste volume each week, and that we compost. I love keeping things orderly and running smoothly. But that in itself is pretty much a full-time job. Whenever I’ve taken a day off here or there to work, I almost always come home (or come out of my home office) to a house that needs a good day’s worth of organizing and tidying to get back to an acceptable (to me) state. As much as I love my domestic duties, they are very different from parenting, volunteering, and consulting in one very important regard: the latter three are jobs only I can do.
And so I’m entertaining the idea of bringing someone in every now and then to help me with the general housework. Up until last fall when we moved to this house we had a cleaning service come every other week – I decided I didn’t really care all that much about how clean things were – wiping down a toilet doesn’t take much time when a guest is on the way. What gets to me is when things aren’t tidy, when things aren’t in their rightful place. And of course certain things like laundry and taking out the recycling/garbage also need to be done fairly regularly otherwise the system starts to break down. If I brought in someone once or twice a week to do those tasks it would leave me more time with the children. I’d still be able to enjoy plenty of time to bake, hang laundry, and tend to my vegetable garden. I’d be a part time homemaker and my hired help would still be doing things my way, so overall the house would be running the way I like it.
I have struggled with the notion that someone who is being true to the concepts of Simple Living doesn’t hire domestic help. It seems rather elitist. So I began to think about what Vicki Robins wrote in her book Your Money or Your Life: calculate the true cost of your job and purchases. So I estimated the cost of having a housekeeper come twice a week for six hours each time and that amount is less than I charge for 2 hours of consulting. So it seems to me a pretty darn good trade, don’t you think? I work 2 extra hours in one week and I get 12 hours of housework done; that’s 10 extra hours with the kids.
Of course, this may all be premature. The above calculation also depends on how many hours I bill each month – the less I bill, the more of my income is being taken up by hired help. If things stay at their current pace and Husband starts bringing in some money it will be worth it, if I’m lucky enough to see business grow further it will definitely be worth it. On the other hand, things might slow down a bit now and that would be just fine with me, too! It’s nice to feel like I have options, and some control over my choices in life. And while I hate to sound preachy, that comes from being debt-free, y’all (props to Dave Ramsey)! So perhaps I am being true to Simple Living after all. 🙂