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If you’ve ever felt like quitting your job to stay home and work for yourself and for your family, I get it. Here’s why and how I’m “opting out”.
As if the March wasn’t crazy enough, the month of April and this first sliver of May have combined to one-up it. The primary reason for this is that we have been undergoing a seismic shift in our family focus.
You see, I’m about to do something that feels crazy.
I’m quitting my job.
We have spent the past month or so prepping ourselves financially, mentally, and spiritually for what this really means.
I think a lot of people fantasize about quitting their jobs and maybe moving to the country or working for themselves, but few people take steps to DO IT. Most people feel like they are trapped in “the rat race”. That burdensome force that drives you to work everyday at a job you don’t like to make money to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.
Except I’m NOT stuck in some meaningless job in a high-rise downtown that is sucking the soul out of me. To the contrary, my job has been a passion and, dare I say, a vocation for me these past nine years. That’s part of what makes this such a weird journey for me.
The original dream…
In 2007 I graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education. I had just finished my student teaching in a phenomenal band program and was PUMPED UP to be a band director. Or maybe an elementary music teacher. Either way, I was ON FIRE and wanted to help kids make music and be their best selves.
Since I’d graduated in the fall semester, I stuck around for the spring semester to start my Master of Music Education. When that semester ended I began looking for full time employment.
If you’re keeping up with the timeline, you’ll realize that this is the summer of 2008. The market was just starting to collapse.
Like many of my peers just out of college with a music ed degree in 2008, I had a hard time finding a job. I interviewed at several different schools, but none of them were the right fit for me. I took a part time job at a local music store and started building a private flute studio, but the cash wasn’t exactly flowing in.
Then God called…literally.
I had basically given up on finding a teaching job for the year. Mired in self-pity and wondering why no one wanted to hire me, I remember vividly one night pacing up and down the hallway with tears in my eyes having a very desperate conversation with God. “I just want to find where I belong.”
The next day at the music store, the phone rang.
It was the principal from the small Catholic school in my hometown.
“Hi. Our music teacher has decided not to return for the next school year and I’m wondering if you know of anyone interested in the position.”
Umm…yes. Me. I’m all ears.
The position was teaching a small mixed instrumental ensemble, senior choir, and doing the music for all-school Masses. It was a part time job with low pay, but it was SOMETHING. Our interview was more of a conversation, and the principal seemed ready to hire me on the spot. A day later after some calls to my references I had the job and signed a contract.
Boy howdy was that first year hard.
Having prepped to be a band director, I discovered wasn’t experienced in almost anything the job required! There were electric guitars and a drum set instead of clarinets and trombones. I had to teach choir and play for Mass…and I’m not even really a Catholic! Just married to one.
I had to do a lot of learning in those first few years to make it work. There was a lot of crying, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. I had my struggles. “Why did I take this job? I must be insane!”
But over time, I managed to take this little program and grow it by 5 times its original size. I’ve managed to shape a “modern band program” that can play quality music and reach a wide variety of kids. I’m not going to tell you that I’m the best at it. In fact many days I feel like I’m the worst, but compared to the fresh-faced college grad that walked in there nine years ago I’ve accomplished a lot.
So what changed?
First, having a kid.
They tell you that having kids changes everything, and it’s so cliche but it’s SO TRUE.
Our son was born in 2013, and my first year as a mom was HARD. I think everyone’s is, but at the time I was working at the school full time, running on 3 hours of sleep a night and battling a vicious postpartum depression. Looking back now I’m not sure how I functioned. My husband tells me that it was sometimes scary watching me transform into this person he didn’t know. I should have sought professional help, but like too many women I didn’t. If we’re ever blessed to have more kids, I know in my heart I couldn’t work and maintain my sanity. Not after that.
Over time I improved, but as our son has grown it’s become very obvious to me that the amount of time I spend at school is having a negative effect on his behavior and emotional well-being. I’m so lucky to have found a loving place for him to go to daycare and preschool, but it has been an ever-growing struggle to function on a daily basis for all of us.
Mostly, it’s been hard this year to leave a little boy crying out for his mama to stay when I had to go do pep band instead of play with him.
Second, building a homestead.
When we first started looking for land in 2014, we looked with the intention of building a house and maintaining our normal lives, working our jobs like always and living like always.
But in our true “accidental” fashion, all of our values converged to make us realize something that was right in front of us the whole time.
We aren’t just building a house, or even just a “home”. We’re building a functional homestead.
We want to be able to provide for ourselves as much as possible, work for ourselves as much as possible, and live a simpler and freer life that our “normal” lives just don’t provide. I want the opportunity to be there for our son as we continue to build our cordwood house, to grow my own food again, and the opportunity to radically provide for my family in ways I haven’t been able to.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten to make a lot of new friends in the homestead blogging world. I’ve seen amazing projects that they are doing and heard their life-affirming stories. Time and time again I see the glorious possibilities and know in my heart of hearts that I want that for my family.
It’s what I’ve wanted all along…I just didn’t know that’s what I wanted.
There is a different way to live, and I want to live it.
So I am stepping back from a teaching position that I have grown to love for the past nine years. It has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Thinking about it puts my stomach in knots. I love my students, I love my colleagues, and I will always believe that music is a cornerstone of education for ALL students. But right now for our family, this is the way forward.
What will I be doing instead?
First and foremost, I’ll be working on building our house. I’ve had to miss so much build time because I was at school. I’m done with being on the sidelines. I want to be able to spend more time working with my hands on our house, and also to work on our land creating better soil and maintaining our trails.
I’ll still be teaching music on my own terms through my private flute studio. Music is a piece of my soul and I want to continue teaching it one-on-one.
Beyond that, I want to serve all of you dear readers to the fullest through this blog. Over the past year, I have learned that this little blog that started as a hobby has the power to reach and serve others in ways I’d never imagined.
I’ve gotten reader emails from all corners of the globe asking about cordwood construction, cloth diapering, and sustainable personal finance. I know that opportunities are out there for our story to help you on your way forward and give you the tools and inspiration you need to make your dreams a reality too.
I am humbled and honored to share this journey with you and look forward to growing with all of you!