Overall, we’ve been very fortunate in our family. We’ve been able to do what it takes in order to pursue the lifestyle we want.
Only part of that is luck. Actually, what I’ve learned through the years is that luck is really a combination of working super hard without knowing when you’ll catch a break so that when that break comes, you can take advantage of it. Think of it as always having your house be company ready, because someone is eventually going to knock on your door. You don’t know when – even if it will be this year, but it will happen, so you’re going to be ready. [Note: my house is rarely company ready, even when I know company is coming. This is strictly a metaphor.]
That hard work isn’t just bringing in income, although that’s part of it. Doing without is also part, and I find this actually more liberating. It’s amazing to discover what you really don’t need.
But, another key component to having our lifestyle has been making do. And I don’t just mean making do as a companion piece to doing without… although we’ve done that. One winter, somehow, we had more than enough pairs of long pants for all three boys… and every stinkin’ pair had the knees ripped out. It took me several weeks, but I cut up old, outgrown pants and patched every single pair. By hand.
Wait – I wasn’t going to talk about that.
By making do, sometimes, you just have to make do by being creative. Using your imagination. I have found that the more I do this, the more resources I recognize that were right there all along.
Right now, the memory that is particularly resonating for me is of lunch in the first couple years we were homeschooling. Oh my goodness. I had these three high energy little boys. Granted, they were good eaters, if by good, you mean eating a lot and just about anything served to them. But sitting at the table, with manner vaguely reminiscent of human (versus chimpanzee) society, not so much.
Behavior Things were much better so long as I had their attention. It didn’t take much, they just couldn’t be left to their own devices (if I wanted to have a dining room still in tact at the end of the meal). At some point, I realized they were very happy to be read to… but after a couple weeks, I realized the problem with this solution was that *I* didn’t get to eat lunch (and I got hungry!). I don’t know where I came across it, but I had discovered Librivox, and I really think this saved at least a small portion of my sanity. We all got to eat, and my lunch we less-stressed since the boys were busy listening to some strange volunteer adult provide stories for listening.
This might seem like a small thing, but this was several years into parenthood, and well before my husband was able to work from home full-time. We had one car, and while, technically, we were within walking distance of town, it was a chore to do so with three youngsters. A trip into town (and possible have a conversation with another adult) was a lot of planning and took most of the day. Getting a small break – even when it was only twenty or thirty minutes – was a real gem.
As the boys got older, we didn’t need this same level of distraction to prevent the chimp-like antics, but setting the precedent helped in others ways. My husband and I were starting a business in a field where I needed a lot of training. Fortunately, I was able to do it all online, and we developed a routine. When I had a meeting (teleconferenced), I’d tell the boys, virtually always schedule it during their lunch (the eating still helps, to this day), and even pair it with a video (educational or entertaining, whatever seemed appropriate that day). I then took my meeting in an adjacent room, headphones on, microphone muted unless I needed to speak. It worked incredibly well – the boys were still able to do what they needed, we were together (and I even got some adult interaction).
This is all part of how we made do. Homeschooling, and being home with my children to do so meant we had to figure out how to do what we could with the resources we had.
Now, it’s a little nicer. The kids are older, and (theoretically) more self-directed. I have built up my business enough that I can pay for services to deal with tasks I used to have to do manually. When the boys started connecting mom-being-online with earning-money, they figured out – fast – how to be silent during phone meetings, and would save up (silent) schoolwork to do during that time. (More than once, when they started this, it took me by surprise, considering just how much noise they sometimes make during work that I would think should be completed silently…)
It’s not a perfect life, but none of them are. This is the life we’ve chosen, and this is one of the ways we’re making it work.
And it’s always nice to get a break now and then, even when it’s just lunch.