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The Early Days

We’ve been talking a lot about dreams, plans, and hopes for the future at our place lately as we try to figure out what the next “adventure” will be in the McHale household. It’s been reminding me a lot of the early days of our marriage. I thought I’d take a minute and share with you some of our back story.

We got married pretty young, I was barely 21, he was 23. A lot of people thought we were CRAZY. We weren’t crazy but we were young, in love, and naive. We couldn’t imagine doing anything in life apart from each other.

Curtis and I have always been adventure seekers. Our relationship has cycled through many adventure sports. We’ve guided backcountry canoe trips together and apart. We’ve paddled over waterfalls in our kayaks. We’ve been on kayaking trips in Mexico, hiking trips all over the mountains around here and we’ve done a ton of rock climbing too. We’re always seeking the next adventure. It’s very normal for us and we enjoy it most when we’re together.

Oh man did we have fun (and we still do).

All I can do is smile when I think about the first summer that we were married. We worked as canoe guides. We lived in a tent for the most part – we still have that tent and it still feels like home when we sleep in it.

When we weren’t in the tent we had a room off the camp office that we stayed in about two nights a week. There was no electricity, no running water, and no showers.  Our room had propane lights in it so if we were hanging out in there with the lights on we had to leave the door open. It’s true. Maybe we were a little crazy.

Here’s the thing I would do it again in a second!

When we moved west after that summer we came out for a guiding job for me. I had never had a “real” job because I had been a student my whole life and it seemed like a good paycheque. I still have no idea how we managed to pay the bills and stay afloat that first year. Maybe our naivety kept us going.

Putting our stuff into our first apartment was eye opening. The storage room was piled hip deep with outdoor gear and we had nothing else. No furniture, no bedding, no table/chairs. We slept on an air mattress for months and for YEARS our end tables and night stands were two milk crates stacked on top of each other and covered with a sheet.

I remember hosting Thanksgiving and asking our friends to bring something to share as well as their own place setting because we had NOTHING. 2 plates, 2 bowls, and 4 spoons/knives/forks etc. I remember doing our wedding registry and hardly putting anything on it because I had no idea what we needed and who wants that stuff anyway? Seriously dishes, casseroles, table cloths, towels, bleh.

Yep that was us. We would so much rather paddle a canoe, stand on a mountain top, sleep in a tent, and eat Mac “N” Cheese out of our camp pots than sleep in a house, own a whole lot of furniture and feel stuck there.

To a large extent we still feel that way. Sure our life is a little (or maybe a lot) more financially comfortable and our home is a bit more stable, but I’d still rather buy a new tent and take our kids out into the backcountry than buy new furniture.

As we’ve been talking about dreams lately and where we want to go from here we’ve been revisiting some of our dreams from our early days and realizing that now with our family they are within reach. Sure we’ll have to travel slower, Curtis and I will have to carry more, but our kids are SO able to explore the backcountry with us, and it’s exciting.

It kind of feels like we’re getting back to our roots. Since we’ve had kids our life has slowed down, but we’ve also come to have only one work schedule to work around. We’re getting out way more than we did in our years of both of us working full time jobs. The pace is slower, but the journey is still awesome and you see things from a much different perspective when you have little people around.

It’s fun to look back and talk about where we’ve come from where we are and where we want to go. I would encourage you to do it too!

 

To Work or Not to Work? The Personal Perspective

I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom now for almost 9 months, and I am still regularly asked how we made the decision for me to quit working. Let me tell you it wasn’t an easy decision to make and we struggled with it for a number of months before pulling the trigger.

When I first started writing this post I thought I could squeeze it all into one, but the more I worked at it (and the longer it got) the more I realized that to really do it justice I needed to break it up a little bit.

There were two sides to this decision for us, the personal side AND the financial side. Both parts held almost equal weight in the overall decision and I think it’s important for me to share both sides of the coin with you. I’m going to start with the personal side, because in some ways it set the stage for the transition and was what caused us to seriously consider having me leave work.

Before I go too much farther though I have to tell you that although these are the factors that affected our decision for me to stay home, everyone is different. Not everyone WANTS to stay home. So if you are toying with this please don’t simply follow my lead, do what is best for YOUR family and YOUR situation. Everyone is wired differently and things that work for my family may not work for yours.

When I returned to work after my Maternity leave I genuinely wanted to. I enjoyed my job, my employers and co-workers. I just hadn’t anticipated the pressures that would come with trying to balance work and family. In some ways with all the changes that parenting brought about in my  life the work/home balance was probably the one that I least expected.

I had been feeling the need for significant change for probably about a year by the time I finally gave my notice at work. I was stressed 90% of the time feeling like I wasn’t really giving 100% of myself anywhere. For anyone who knows me you will know that I don’t like to accept less than my 100%. I feel like giving less than that is failure. It’s just not my style. When you’ve got too many things on your plate you just can’t be 100% all the time.

While I was doing OK at work (you’d have to ask some of my former co-workers for truthful answers to that but I think I was keeping my head above water). I wasn’t doing great at home. The stress that I was feeling was affecting every aspect of my home life. I was always exhausted, and felt like I was failing at home on multiple levels. I was lashing out at my hubby over silly things, and never felt like I could relax or enjoy my “down time” because there were always things to do.

My days off would come and I would feel like I HAD to spend the entire day at home taking care of things around the house. Cleaning, baking, prepping meals, menu planning, budgeting, shopping, etc. All these things had to happen and I only had 2 days a week to get them done. Not only did I only have 2 days a week to get them done but they were 2 spread out days in the week (like Sunday, and Thursday) so by the time my second day off in the week came around I felt like I was starting over. I was playing a perpetual game of catch up.

I was loathe to plan a trip to the park with a friend because I knew it cut into the precious little time I had to accomplish anything significant at home. I also felt like I was leaving a lot of things undone and that my hubby as the self employed and working from home family member often had to pick up the slack. As a result I felt very isolated and lonely. I was desperate for something to change but I didn’t know what.

It was also never my intention to have a child and then only see her for 1 hour a day and yet by the time I commuted to and from work that was about all I was getting to spend with E every day and it was killing me. I was leaving the house between 7:30 and 7:45 to have her at daycare by 8 and me at work by just before 9. Daycare closed by 5 so my hubby was picking her up between 4 & 4:30, but I was rarely home before 6. I literally came home, we had dinner and then I put her to bed. I rarely got to play, interact, or spend any kind of quality time with her and I felt like I was missing out.

We also felt very isolated and lonely as a family. We knew that we needed to connect with other people, but we felt like we could never squeeze it in. “Friends” were people that we saw in passing on Sunday mornings at church as we dropped off or picked up E from the nursery not people that we actually had time to invest in. We were both socially starved but had very little time to do anything about it.

One of the most drastic changes in our lives since I left work is our social life. We have come to realize that we have some AMAZING friends. People that we would miss dearly if we moved away. Not only do we have pretty awesome friends, but we get to spend time with them without sacrificing time together as a family, or alone for the Hubby & I.

We have both felt extremely well cared for and loved by our friends over the last number of months (which is important when you don’t have any family around to fill that roll). In some ways the support that our friends have given our family over the last number of months has been overwhelming. Not only have we been well cared for but we have also been able to care for some of our friends in ways that we’ve never been able to do before because the pressures of work & home  took precedence.

Our decision for me to leave work was heavily influenced by the personal side of the equation. If I had felt like I was balancing work and life well then the scales would likely have tipped more in favor of me staying at work. If we as a family had felt like it was working well then the decision would have been different. That said, I knew I needed a change. I knew I was stressed and not that much fun when I was home. I knew I was missing out on important events in E’s life, and was unable to maintain important relationships with friends. Some people can balance it well and enjoy it. Others like myself prefer not to. Ultimately you have to do what’s right for your family, personally and financially, and we’ll talk about the financial side in my next post!

Big Changes Around Here

I’m sure you’ve caught this by now, but 2013 is a year of change around here. We’re two months in and I’m hitting that goal list again implementing more big changes in our lives.

Need more time for days like this!

Need more time for days like this!

I have to be honest with you, I didn’t share ALL of my goals in the original post because well, some just weren’t prudent to put out there at the time. One of the “private” goals that I had been keeping to myself was to be able to quit my job and stay home, putting my family first. The time line I had put on it was April 15/13. WELL, this is yet another goal accomplished EARLY. I am excited to announce that March 2/13 marks the last day of my employment. After which point I will be Mommy extraordinaire staying home, and focusing on the people and things in my life that really matter to me.

Must capture more moments like this!

Must capture more moments like this!

Over the last year and a half I have struggled with finding balance in my life and my family’s life. I am out of the house daily for work from 8am until almost 6pm – sometimes longer depending on the season – and E is in daycare for most of that time. Through the winter months I have two day weekends but they fall Sunday & Monday and my hubby works a normal job Monday – Friday leaving only one day a week for family time. Come summer I have two separate days off in the week, Sunday and a week day. It feels impossible to do anything as a family because there is so much that needs to be done. Then when it comes do exercise, or just getting out on my own I am squeezing it in early (like 4:30/5am early) or after work and not seeing E for a full 24 hour period. I often find myself having to give up things and relationships that are vitally important to me to accommodate my work schedule. I am exhausted all the time and feel like I have nothing to give, I’ve been running on empty for over a year now. I’m not complaining, I know that many working families struggle with the same things. I just can’t help but feeling that there has to be another way.

Need more of this

Need to fit in more of this

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed eight great years of work with wonderful employers and co-workers. They have become great friends to us. In a lot of ways they have become like family and I will miss them dearly. As I’ve been working away at tying up loose ends and putting in place the systems the next person in line to do my job will need I have to admit I feel sad. I keep asking myself if I am really doing this. I know they have enjoyed having me there, and I have built relationships that go beyond being co-workers or business acquaintances with my fellow employee’s and a lot of the reps and suppliers that I work with on a daily basis so I do feel sad to leave and I have found myself struggling with the decision from time to time. It feels a little bitter sweet.

Cannot resist this little girl!

Cannot resist this little girl!

But there is just something about this sweet little face asking me to stay home and play with her that makes my heart melt and motivates me to get life in order and re-align my time commitments with my priorities. Then there are the evenings that at 9pm we’re still washing dishes and making lunches and in my heart I know that I have made the right decision. I know that my family will blossom because of it. So I am stepping into change with some trepidation, but also excited to see where the path will lead. Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out!

Hoping to have time for a bit more of this in my life

Hoping to have time for a bit more of this in my life