At the beginning of May this year I (mostly) quit my job(s). My idea was to take time off from work, although I’m still doing a minimal amount of things for a couple of different companies.
I came up with the idea as a serious thing sometime in 2020 although it took me a while to actually implement it. I don’t remember exactly when I started thinking about it, but I was rereading some journal posts from 2020 where I started writing about it.
The COVID childcare hell
(I realize that “The COVID childcare hell” may sound a bit dramatic. I know that anybody with kids during this time period knows what I’m talking about and those without have no right to judge although some of them may anyway.)
There was definitely a part of my decision that was influenced by COVID.
For the first year of COVID I was working 20-40 hours a week as a data science bootcamp instructor and did some big contract projects on the side. My son was not in daycare. The whole situation was a lot of stress for my family.
Looking back on the whole thing, I sort of wished that I hadn’t even bothered to work through it. Although I had no idea at the beginning of it all how long it would last or how stressful and hard it would be. Plus I was too busy to even really think about whether or not what I was doing made sense.
Eventually I started to feel like what I was earning was not worth the stress for my whole family. While I was spending a ton of time with my son I was so burnt out that it didn’t even really feel all that enjoyable. And I just didn’t want to tell B one more time, “Mom is working. You can’t be in here right now.”
There were also a lot of factors for me that were more about having the time to create the things I wanted in my life.
I wanted time for exploring both on my own and with my son. Some people might use the word ‘travel’ for this urge. For me travel is a part of exploring, but there are other things too. Going on hikes and bike rides close to home, checking out new places close by and going on camping trips.
Even trying new restaurants or visiting a new museum or store can make for a fun exploring trip.
Also since I got a new RV I wanted time to take it out. Plus we wanted time to go on a family trip to Maine over the summer, which was so much fun for all of us, especially my son. I just wanted to wander.
I also really wanted to spend more quality time with my son and have the flexibility to do cool things with him.
I see how fast he is growing up and I want to make the most of this time. Sometimes I think of career opportunities that I am missing, but they just are not as important to me as quality time with my kid while he’s little. I really don’t like the feeling of regret and I don’t want to look back later in life and regret not spending more time with him.
Some day he’ll have his own friends, his own hobbies, his own life. Some day he’ll move out on his own. There will probably come a day when he doesn’t want to spend time with mom anymore.
I don’t want to spend weekends trying to just recuperate from work- trying to come up with meal plans, do the laundry and wishing that I could just nap for half the day all the while with B saying, in his whiniest voice, things like “Moooooooom!! I want you to play with me.”
I dream of craft projects, camping trips and bike rides. (Realistically though, all of these things can still be a lot of work to pull off with a young child and there is no predicting when a bike ride is going to turn into tantrums and tears.)
Another big driver for me was hobbies. I have more hobbies than I know what to do with. I am interested in so many different things and I just never have enough time to do them.
I wanted time for:
- Learning new things
- Drinking coffee
- Hanging out at the makerspace
- And my favorite hobby… starting new hobbies!
Time to do nothing
I also just wanted space. Quiet. Time to think. To dream. To do nothing. To rest or do yoga. I wanted to have hours that weren’t scheduled. I wanted to have time when I wasn’t busy.
I think that time and space breed creativity. They create ideas. They are restorative. I knew I needed this.
There were some general and some specific health-related things I was noticing. Almost all of the work I do is computer-related (programming, teaching Data Science via Zoom, etc) and I don’t believe there is anything healthy about sitting in front of a computer all day every day.
For a couple of years I’d been having trouble with daily, chronic headaches and I’ve long had occasional, sporadic bouts of cluster migraines. The almost constant headache state has totally gone away since I mostly quit working. I have also not had many migraines, but it’s a little harder for me to tell if there is a correlation there because good streaks are normal for me.
In a physical sense, I’m not sure I can go back to the combination of sitting and staring at a monitor all day. (Also, I have some wrist problems from projects involving lots of mouse work. S tells me that this is not something that gets better.)
Sometimes when I think about what sort of job I’ll take up next I dream of things that involve zero time on a computer like mowing grass or putting toilet paper in outhouses in the National Forest.
I also wanted time to explore some of my own business ideas. I have a few different ideas I’ve been tossing around and I just wanted the freedom to test them out a bit.
I’m unsure what is next for me career-wise, but I do think about it quite a bit. I’m sort of looking for increased clarity. I know that sometimes things just happen, but at this point in life, I want something that is really a good fit for me.
How it’s going so far
Time off has basically been amazing. At first, it was a little weird to get used to. I definitely had some early anxiety around the financial aspects – maybe some time I’ll write about that side of this and how I’m making this work. Oddly, that anxiety has faded a lot.
I had grand ambitions for the summer with B, which I half met. We made the first successful garden of my life, did lots of craft projects, spent time outside, visited the splash pad, went to the zoo and cooked things. Also, I spent some days counting down how many days it was until he would start pre-k.
I wanted to take some RV trips with him over the summer, but the AC that runs in the truck cab needs fixed and there is no generator so there is no AC with off-grid camping. The summer was hot and then it was rainy and all the places I want to go have dirt roads. I don’t want to camp in a parking lot. I also don’t want to get stuck in the mud with an RV and a four year old.
As the weather has turned cooler though B and I have made it out for a few trips. It’s a lot easier now that he is in school because I have a little time when I can plan and prep things without him trying to be on top of me all the time.
In general, things are easier with B finally in school. For the first time in four years I actually have ‘me time’ which has been so nice. I’ve been riding my bike more and doing short hikes. Catching up on lots of random things that I didn’t have time (or the quiet needed to focus) to get to. Learning some new things. Even taking on small work commitments for things that are interesting to me.
I am really, really enjoying this time and looking forward to what I’ll be able to do over the next few months.