Modern day world means we are pressured to design a life around work. I've spent the past 15 years working towards the opposite—designing my life around my family's needs.
I can't see any other way now. This is the way, or at least, this is our way.
Society's focus on work, work, work...
In society, work is the focus. It is the economic engine. Society is measured by it. It sometimes feels like it is all that matters. Unemployment is frowned upon. It is measured, and our whole goal is to reduce it. A successful country feels like one that has low unemployment.
We're expected to work. Work. Work. To our deaths, as pension ages are creeping up, we're expected to work longer.
I can't and won't do it. This doesn't mean I don't work. I do, and I make a decent living. Yet I'm convinced I would have broken into a million pieces if I did not have control over how to do it.
And let's be frank, doesn't school look like the kids' version of work?
Towards freedom and designing our lives around the kids...
It's been a journey of experimentation for us, and sometimes I don't realise how far out our lives are until I see how others live, how they struggle to do anything without childcare. Or how school regulations or work expectations restrict everything they can do.
Parents understandably stress when they have no childcare. And it's not that I haven't struggled along the way or that I'm some kind of perfect mother. It's more that I have time to design this 'no childcare' expectation into our lives.
If we have no childcare, then what do we do instead? How do we find pockets of time to care for our own adult needs? How do we find time to exercise or work?
Sometimes the kids just play for so long (especially when they have a good friend to hang with) that we can exercise while playing. I tend to walk, run or jump rope. We can also choose to nurture our minds by reading.
Or, if you're like me, I take my laptop most places I go. I do work wherever I have the opportunity because I design my work to be that way. I set my own deadlines. I have no meetings and I focus on shipping. Sometimes the housework suffers, I guess that's a choice we make!
Another thing we do is take the kids on errands, like shopping. Our girls definitely make it a more expensive trip, but to be honest, it's no more expensive than paying for childcare.
I also won't shy away from the fact that they have plenty of screen time. It's amazing for learning and they love it! And being neurodivergent, it really does help us have downtime to recharge ourselves.
I feel that work personally benefits me because it is my 'downtime' to get lost in my (Rosie)land. My work actually energizes me. I feel calmer and more able to attend to my kids once I've had some work time.
And as a final point to this, I feel so aware and thankful that I am not a single parent. My husband and I juggle (not balance) everything. We take turns or responsibilities for all the things.
It's about building in choice and flexibility
We could do many other things to make our lives work "better". I could definitely make more money. I could accept more opportunities. I could chase more things. The stress is just not worth it.
I'll sacrifice money, no problem. Getting totally stressed out with life? That's a hard no.
No childcare as a mindset has just become a way of life. We have accepted that we are all seeking ways to live that feel balanced and nourishing for all of us. Though this is much more about avoiding stress than anything else. This doesn't mean we don't get child free opportunities. It's more that we don't rely on it as a way to live our lives.
At the moment our younger ones have a weekly 3 hour forest school and then also a full day out at an 'alternative school'. As parents we appreciate and value our child free time. Especially a full day without the little ones, this is what other parents get every single day?! Wow, it feels amazing, haha.
However, the main difference is that we don't rely on them. If those sessions stop, it's ok, and we'll adapt and move along without much stress. I do feel that if we rely on childcare, then we put ourselves and the children in situations that are often unhealthy.