Designing a life

We've been a little quiet, and some of you have been asking what we have been up to since taking our big trip. Perhaps it was all that mountain air, but in September we learned we were expecting and we welcomed baby M in June! Needless to say, we had all kinds of plans that we put on hold and being pregnant with a toddler is completely exhausting. It was easy to let a few things slip.

  Photo credit Nancy Alcott | Baby and Child Photographer

Photo credit Nancy Alcott | Baby and Child Photographer

Our trip helped us redefine our priorities as a family, and we made some big changes to our lifestyle on our return.

First, we downsized considerably. We left a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo in San Francisco, and we're now in a (much smaller) 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom outside of the city. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely times I miss the extra space. We don't have an extra room for family, it's hard to make sure the baby can nap without getting woken up by our spirited 2 year old. Living in 150 square foot trailer for 6 months really makes you see what you need versus what is "extra." By moving to a more family-friendly area and into a smaller space, we were able to cut our housing expense by almost two thirds.

I would be lying through my teeth if I said that adding another human to our family didn't give us the urge to buy a house or move into a bigger place. But moving somewhere “bigger” would mean we would have to spend nearly twice as much money, and then we would have to sacrifice the financial comfort we have created. Spending less helps us feel “unshackled” and free to make choices that are truest to ourselves. Perhaps it’s seeing our parents’ generation get saddled with huge mortgages in the housing crisis, but for us owning a home isn’t on the top of our priority list -- at least right now.

Second, we focused on building our "village." I used to be allergic to the idea of moving outside of the city. Now, I love it. Having kids in a big city can feel extremely isolating. We are lucky enough to have friends as our upstairs neighbors, and they have a little boy our daughter’s age (who she proudly proclaims is her best friend). We can go out to dinner with the kids without feeling like we are intruding on everyone else’s adult time: even the beer garden here has a toy box for kids. Without our immediate family close by, our village is the key to our survival as a family. When I went into labor with M, our lovely neighbor came down for a “sleepover” with A, which helped me feel totally relaxed and at ease.

Finally, we “designed” our careers. Part of the impetus for our trip was wanting to spend more time with our daughter A. Coming back to the real world, we knew this wasn’t something we wanted to sacrifice. We started looking for ways to generate income that would allow us to have at least one parent with a flexible schedule. A goes to preschool during the day and is thriving (and it’s significantly less expensive now that we’re outside of the city). Our new flexibility means at least one of us is around to grab her if she gets sick, and we have more time to hang out with her without having to rush off to an office.

Now we are "working" in traditional jobs less than we were before the trip, but actually accumulating more wealth (i.e. saving more) just from cutting down our expenses. I know, it's not rocket science, right? All of the newly founded flexibility has lowered our collective stress level considerably, and we are happier across the board.

Right now, I have all of the feels about where we were "this time last year." I keep looking back at pictures of A on the trip and feeling so grateful to have had that time with her. Now that we are getting (somewhat) adjusted to being a family of four, we've started planning our weekend warrior circuit. I’ll share some of my trip ideas here, so if you have a place we can’t miss -- drop us a comment!

This time last year: Catching good vibes in Asheville & the Blue Ridge Mountains