(Continued from here: For years we have been trying to do more with less. We, as employees, entrepreneurs, and parents seek to multitask and get more done in less time. The Great American Dream was to increase productivity and leisure time – but that hasn’t worked out so well. We thought we could systematize industry and agriculture, and allow ourselves shorter work weeks and more time to pursue self actualization.)
Here’s what we did:
When I left my job recently, it was a matter of choice. For over a year, we have known my job was killing me and my family. Although our only debt was our mortgage, the return on investment for this soul-killing job was very poor. I wasn’t making enough for our family to pay our bills. The cars both needed tires, the kids needed to visit the dentist, and there were other main maintenance issues that needed resolved. Though we weren’t in debt financially, we were in debt in many other ways.
I was growing increasingly sleep deprived, averaging only six hours sleep per night, and this was taking a toll on my mental, social, and spiritual health. The decrease in my mental and spiritual health was affecting my family severely. It was affecting our marriage, and I found it very difficult to spend quality time with my kids. We were digging a hole we couldn’t get out of.
I felt trapped. If I quit my job, we’d have nowhere to live and nothing to eat. How would we put gas in the car without an income? Where would we sleep? Where would I plug in my computer? I could only envision our family living hopelessly under a bridge and eating at soup kitchens. It was a horrible nightmare to consider.
“Whenever you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else”
This is when we made the decision to stop paying on our mortgage. Like most people, due to the global economic meltdown, our house was now worth less than we owed. But my salary wasn’t enough to do everything. We were saying yes to Wells Fargo and no to our kids dental needs, new car tires, and a livable life. This was a good decision and it took a lot of pressure off our backs. We began to catch up on things we were unwilling to go into financial debt to take care of.
But my job was still killing me and my family. Working the night shift, commuting three hours round trip to work each day, and being crammed into the front of the ambulance all night long was truly killing our family. We were reaching a point of desperation. We were dying. But we didn’t have a choice? Did we?
When I quit, several of my coworkers told me they wish they could quit too. But they feel trapped. It’s common knowledge, at least among the veteran paramedics, that the working conditions of paramedics at the for-profit mega-corp are deplorable. It’s really sad.
“But how does one get out of the trap?”
For my family and I, the moment of truth came when my Wonderful Wife said she’d rather live in a tent than live like we’ve been living. So, I quit. That was the moment of freedom.
We had been saying yes to my employer and no to our family. That is unacceptable. I chose instead to say yes to my family, my spiritual, mental, social, and physical health – and no to a corporation that does not really care about my family.
Good boundaries are essential for good health. In the past three months, since I quit working, I’ve lost weight, caught up on sleep, spent more time with my family, improved our marriage, let go of being grouchy and stressed, improved my patience, and starting exercising. it’s been awesome.
None of us can truly multi-task our families. Our own health has to come before our career, our tasks, or our hopeless rat race. One has to make conscious decisions on what is important. Don’t lie to yourself or live a life of denial. If you’re working more than 10 hours a day, or more than 50 hours a week, I can guarantee you are paying the price somewhere in your life. It may be your personal spirituality that is suffering, or it may be your marriage – even if you don’t realize it. It may be your physical or mental health that is suffering, or it may be your kids. You may not have any close friends outside of work, or you may be living a life of stress and busyness – afraid of the silence.
How many people, men in particular, have come home to an empty house and discovered their wife and kids have left them? How many parents have suddenly discovered their teenage kids are involved in sex, drugs, and alcohol and spiraling out of control? How many have have invested years into their careers, and finally found themselves downsized, outsourced, or working in careers that are no longer relevant? All that time, all that energy, and all that toil – for nothing.
Families are forever, jobs are fleeting. Whenever you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else. What are you saying no to?
Part 4 – What we did