“You’re so lucky to be home with your kids.”
“We’re not all lucky enough to be able to homeschool.”
It’s not luck that allows me to live the life I do. It’s a series of intentional choices and sacrifices.
No one has ever said to me, “You’re so lucky to be a therapist,” because no one attributes that to luck. I’ve heard, “You have such admirable drive and commitment,” and “Your passion and skill has really changed lives,” and “Your sacrifices have been well worth it.” But never, “You’re so lucky to be doing this.”
Let me explicitly state that privilege is real. I was not born into sexual slavery in a third-world war-torn nation, for example. There are people around me everyday who have more privilege and who have less. There are 1.5 million black men in this country who are missing from society – dead or in jail. There is sexism and ableism and socioeconomic advantage/disadvantage up the wazoo. If I had a penis over a vagina or my name was John over Julio I would make more money for the same work. And access to healthcare, come on, my life choices are severely limited if I’ve died from a treatable illness. I’m not saying that anyone can be a millionaire if they just tug hard enough on their bootstraps. The playing field is not level. Social forces are formidable but they are only one part of your story. So while we toil together on the meta, I focus hard on all that is within my direct control. And that is a lot more than people realize.
Above all, I’m not talking about racing to the top of the mountain. I’m talking about the choice to step off the mountain.
“You’re so lucky. That’s just not an option for me,” she says as she gets into her car and drives off to the house she owns in Del Mar.
I’m not judging your choice to have a nice car or own a big, beautiful house in a nice area (and I’m not suggesting ownership equates to financial health). Honestly. Do you. My choices are not the “right” choices for everyone. I’m just asking you to own those choices.
We all make choices based on our priorities. Own them.
We have sacrificed a lot to live the life we feel our children deserve and we’ve never regretted it. We may not have a lot of fancy things to count in old age but we are rich in connection and experience and damn, the rewards are sweet.
“When we buy something, we’re not paying with money. We’re paying with the time from our lives we had to spend to earn that money.” -Jose Mujica
And while we’re on the subject, let’s unpack the word “sacrifice.” Many see me as “sacrificing” when I decline an invitation to get a manicure but from within my priorities, I see that as sacrificing family time and money that could be spent on adventures. I don’t experience making choices based on priorities as a sacrifice. It’s not that I “can’t” get a manicure. I absolutely could. I “choose not” to get a manicure. The next time you are about to say you “I can’t,” I invite you to consider, “I choose not to.”
If my husband’s income was gone tomorrow, I would sell the house we poured sweat equity into and live in an island yurt family intentional community with my joyful, free boys and my humble work-from-home income. Or we would be a full-time traveling RV family. Or live in a tiny house. Or I would sell it at a profit and we would live in another fixer upper that I would work on. Or I would Air BnB my house as one piece to my patchwork income. I would definitely grow and expand my business, adding more patches as needed. I have Sage Parents who are single full-time parents, 2 work-from-home parents, multi-generational households, full-time fathers, spurt workers, and pretty much any other family-centered iteration. There are homeschool/unschool co-ops, forest schools, and free/democratic schools that can be utilized. My point being, this is not an elitist lifestyle – it’s not exclusive.
Being lucky or unlucky removes all personal agency. I am not a victim (or beneficiary) of my own life. I have created it. And while some privilege plays a role, it’s not luck that allows me to live a shared life with my children. Regardless of the few aspects of life that are truly beyond our control, our priorities remain intact and our choices reflect them.
I chose a life partner who was remarkably driven and committed. We chose to have children young, while our energy was high, our standard of living low, and our future years together long. I chose to dedicate myself professionally to a career that would deepen my maternal well and expand my financial opportunities. We chose to move to a whole new border for better housing and nature adventure opportunities. We chose to tap our focus, energy, and clarity to rise above the disadvantages we inherited. I forgo opportunities left and right that seem golden based on other people’s priorities but not my own.
I’m not lucky; I’m a writer. We all have a story. I invite you to pick up the pen and start writing yours.