Our family, like so many others, experienced great financial struggle in 2009. As a result, my husband and I made the very difficult choice to walk away from a lifestyle which, at the time, we desperately wanted but could no longer realistically afford to live.
The decision, made after much contemplation, came on the heels of trying to sell our home for the previous eighteen months. A home our youngest two children had grown to love and affectionately call, “the castle house.” In their four- and six-year-old minds, the endless hand-scraped hardwood floors and expansive ceilings transformed them in to a fairy princess and swash-buckling pirate…which was a far cry from the way I came to feel about the floors (too much to clean), and my husband’s vision (too much wasted space to pay for).
While it was definitely a challenge, our family received a wonderful blessing and (what I consider) many important life lessons in the process of leaving the home behind.
First, and foremost, we learned it does not matter where you actually live, as long as you are together. Family dinner does not taste better when served off of the latest gourmet-top-of-the-line appliance, it tastes just as delicious coming from a 20-year-old electric cooktop. Sharing a bathroom, while at times an inconvenience, forces us to work together and to manage our time more efficiently. (It also saved me at least a half-hour of toilet scrubbing a week).
We learned we aren’t as much fun as parents when stressed out and frustrated as to how to cover the costs of living in a mcmansion. We began to realize our children, though they loved to imagine they lived in a castle, desire a place to grow up where they can feel like their mom and dad have time to pay attention to them (because they don’t have to work 60 hours a week to afford their life), and who can spend more time living in the moment rather than worrying about the future.
In addition, we have found less space allows us to spend more time interacting with one another. Sometimes this leads to additional squabbles, but we continue to find ways to work through the difficulties and become a stronger family unit for doing so.
My husband has worked hard over the past several years to financially put back the pieces which fell apart when we lost our home. Together we have chosen to walk side-by-side, chin up rather than allow one decision to shame us or snowball into other problems in our lives.
The most important lesson we learned in choosing to walk away from the “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-gotta-have-it-now-bigger-is-better” lifestyle is that our children were able to see what you can buy is never as important as having a family that can work together in difficult times.
This fall we were able to purchase a smaller home and have spent considerable time and sweat making some improvements to it. Our two youngest, (now 11 and 9) have invested their own energy into floor removal, clean up, packing and unpacking of their belongings. There is still a lot more to do, but we know it will happen in good time.
The blessing from the lessons of the past several years come down to building a stronger family unit by simplifying our lives.
Choosing to see the good in the challenges presented to us and making the best of what we have, instead of always searching for something more.
Kimberly Muench is a Flower Mound mother of five and author of “My Mothers Footprints: A story of Faith, Calm, Courage, Patience and Grace.” To see more of her work or to contact her, visit www.mymothersfootprints.com