30 January 2014

strong feelings

Whoa.  That is all I have to say.  Just, Whoa.

"You are being irresponsible."
"You are having a midlife crisis."
"You are abandoning your sons."
"You are going to ruin your daughters."
"You're going backwards."

This was how the announcement was received.  While the vast majority of our friends got really excited for us (and some were even jealous) several took the time to judge our family and the choices we are making.  I want to respond to these assertions, not because I feel like I have something to prove or have to justify my actions, but to illustrate how completely and utterly WAY off-base these accusations are.

Irresponsible is what happens when your children end up owing money on your behalf when you're dead because you've done nothing but rack up more debt than you have equity.  Happens all the time.  Now, I'm not going to say that we are in hawk up to our eyeballs but because we need to use I will say that it will take another 10 - 15 years before we would break even and another 10 - 15 after that to turn a profit.  In those 20 - 30 years, I will pay the bank a grotesque amount of interest.  I am not in a position to help pay for my kids' education because I live paycheque to paycheque.  I have a pension plan through my company but do not have RRSPs or RESPs because there is no money left at the end of the month.  This is the reality of having a large family and a large house.  Every time I see the interest on our bank statements, I cringe.  And we cannot accelerate our payments without sacrificing elsewhere - cutting out our kids' extracurriculars or working more hours perhaps…  No thanks.

By eliminating this house, which is an encumbrance not an asset, we will be debt-free within 24 months and have freed up enough money in our budget to a) pay cash for our kids' education, b) help out with their books and rent if need be, c) take amazing vacations,  d) do fun stuff like go to Launchpad more often without worrying about not having milk money, and e) still have money left over to invest and/or save so some 25 or 30 years from now when we retire we can also pay cash for some little swanky assisted living seniors' condo and not be a burden on our kids.  If that's your definition of irresponsible then fine.  I'm not an extreme cheapskate.  I just want to put money exactly where it needs to go - towards having an amazing life with my family.

A midlife crisis is what occurs when a person suddenly realizes they are getting older and they freak out about their passing youth.  They go buy sports cars, have affairs with people half their age, and sign up for plastic surgery.  My husband and I have talked literally for YEARS about living "off the grid."  Finding a little patch of heaven close enough to the city to commute but far enough away we feel secluded so we can live off the land with as tiny a footprint as possible.  The timing is not midlife crisis-ish but midlife paradigm shift-ish.  One of the main reasons we never did this earlier was because it was impractical.  We are a blended family, and with our kids being so young and having court-enforced visitation schedules to maintain it didn't make sense.  But my sons are now 17 and 19; my stepdaughter is moving away from Edmonton this week and since she's almost 13, her visitation from this point forward relies heavily on (ironically) bus transportation.  I'm not having a midlife crisis - my kids are just growing up.

By the time we move into the bus and leave city limits to start our unofficial tiny house and skoolie hippy commune, my sons will be 18 and 20.  By the time we hit the open road to tour North and South America, they will be 19 and 21.  I have two amazing sons who have dads who love them every bit as much as I do, so if I were to go live on a bus in the sticks and they chose to stay put and move in with their Dads or come with us for some or all of our bus life , either way there is no abandonment happening.  I have been a primary parent to both of my sons since birth and my sons never asked to live with their Dads and their Dads never asked for the boys to move in, but I assure you I would not have stopped it.  Contrary to popular single mom mythology, Moms don't own a monopoly on being a parent, Dads matter a lot, and FYI men are capable of providing support and love to their kids every bit as much as moms.  (I'm sure widowers, male couples, and single dads will agree with me ere.)  I love my sons and know they are mama's boys (they actually call me mama still lol) but I think they could both benefit from living with their fathers.  I put in my time and while my door will forever be open and I freely admit I am likely to hover-parent my sons until the end of my time, between me, my husband, their Dads, and their extended families, they will never, ever, not for a second be without financial back-up, love, and all the support they can handle.  Abandonment my ass.

A far as our ruined daughters are concerned, well - you can kiss my butt.  Period.  We had our cabana for 5 years, which involved living in a tiny space, sleeping in a single room, working together to accomplish a task as simple a relighting a pilot light or making hot chocolate, and a whole lot of cuddling, playing outside, and reading.  We thrived in that environment and the girls BEGGED to go to the cabana.  Our girls have been raised in an environment full of love, support, and happiness… and that won't magically stop once we move into a bus.  It's an address change.   I don't think I read that thing on the internet where my girls are going to grow up to be homeless uneducated heroin addicted prostitutes if they travel a lot and don't live in a big house surrounded by material possessions.  The kids will still go to school.  I will still work.  We will still have our dogs.  And we live a life free from debt and owning more stuff than we use.  How creating a life that allows us to afford travel and university tuition and spend less time and money maintaining a giant house is going to "ruin" anyone is beyond me, but thanks for playing.

And as far as going backwards… well, here's the thing. We're not talking about living in horse drawn carriage on land that can only be accessed by helicopter and eating moosemeat raw from the bone after choking the moose by hand.  And I'm not dropping out to take up begging or stealing for a living.  I am talking about moving into a winterized diesel bus on an acreage (hopefully with other small home and skoolie/RV hippy friends.)  I am not quitting my day job, I am definitely not giving up my photography business, and HELL NO am I giving up Netflix (it's almost HOC o'clock!!!)  The primary difference between living in the house and living in the bus will be that when I get up in the morning, instead of waking up in a house, I will be waking up on a bus.  I will have a fridge, stove, bed, computer…  Without all my books I will have to get a Kindle though…  but I digress.  What I think is that my family is an early adopter in a growing social movement towards sustainability and living a more authentic life, one that I can afford without being a victim of an incredibly horrible financial and consumer system that is designed to keep you in debt and feeling incomplete if you don't buy buy buy.

What we are proposing to do is not for everyone's family.  I totally understand that.  Our values may seem different and our adventures may seem odd, but don't judge.  Don't be a hater.  Ask me questions and please don't accuse me of things, don't assume you know something about my thought process, and don't drag my qualifications as a loving and committed parent into this.  I am more than the sum of my possessions and where I live, and I'm not interested in being measured by anyone else's yardstick.  Maybe you're at that point in your life where it still isn't practical to downsize so this all looks incredibly insane but one day you just might find yourself, like us, looking around at all the stuff you've spent a lifetime accumulating and will spend the rest of your life paying for and see it not as an accomplishment but an encumbrance.



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