Lessons from one month off.

At the start of the year, it was one of my objectives to be 1 month free from work to spend more time with my wife and kids. Time for a review and a look ahead. Things are not what they were planned to be.

Some background

Fire is a journey, a long journey. By no measure a sprint. In our case, it will be beyond a decade to reach the FIRE goal. Unless of course, reaching a number on our account is not the goal! Realising that money is NOT the motivation, made us rethink the plan. The focus is now freedom and happiness.

With that in mind, the plan came about a year ago to take one month off in the summer to be with my kids and do nice activities. I spoke to my bosses and they approved. The plan was set in motion. Part of that month would be a 2 week holiday of slow travel to Croatia.

The rest of the time off would be split between house chores and family activities. Part of the deal was to be reachable for work and a on-day-a-week presence at work. Acceptable for me, logic even…

The reality

The plan has changed.

The kids were on a camp the first week of my holiday. The oldest really loves dancing, the younger is playing games and jumping on inflatable castles. This is part of the plan so I could DIY on the house.

The first week was reduced to one day. One day only. Due to the work situation, I felt it was needed to work more that week to onboard new people and close some loose ends. It did not really feel that bad… With some planning and helps of friends, we managed to drive the kids around. I am ok doing this, even when it means replanning the DIY jobs later this summer.

On my free day, I did a training in a new potential hobby. The day was great fun. More to come later.

The second week stays as planned. 2 days with the kids, one day work one day home and then off to Croatia. An insightful 2 days with the kids.

Week 3 and 4 are holiday weeks. When I write this, I am in the middel of the holiday!

The last week (half a week actually) stays as is. 2 days home and then work

What I have learned so far

  • Being present is hard for me. There are too many loose ends in my head. Things at work, the blog, FIRE community, options trading, a side hustle I would like to have. I know, I can not have it all. This is clearly an attention point for me. Learn to be present and happy, right here and now
  • A stay at home dad is a job in its own. Do not get me wrong. I love my kids! And they can be a pain in the a## at some times. With hindsight, I do not mind to have a break while being at home with the kids to discuss other subjects and have challenging tasks waiting for me. This is a take away I need to take action upon. To me, I ideally stay home 2 days in a week and work 3 days… An action plan for next summer: balance better family time and work time
  • Do not over plan what you can do on a day off. Time flies faster than you can imagine,  and there are the extra unplanned tasks. And dot not forget: some time to do nothing, just hang there and rabbit hole the internet.

Feedback from a week in Croatia

Croatia is a great country. We like the food, the atmosphere, the scenery. The weather is hot… between 35 and 40 Celcius, maybe a little too hot.

Being on a road trip holiday with kids teaches me a few thingsIMG_20170809_125631

Manage expectations: I had big plans in my head: hiking a national parc,  exploring at a slow speed a city or two, chill in a beach bar. And the kids had their plans and ideas: swim- beach,-ice cream and repeat! It took me a day or 2 to get this straight in my head. It was actually an article from Mo Gawdat on his formula for happiness that helped me! I now have a better expectation of a typical day…!

 

IMG_20170807_202904

 

Kids have a lot of time an energy. And they use all the time in the car to relax, so they are fresh of energy when we arrive at the destination. Great for them, challenging for us. There is not a lot me time or us time between my wife and me. Squeezing in time to blog and trade options is difficult. Reading blogs has been very slow the last week.

 

 

Improving for the next years

While you might have an idea of what a perfect month off looks like, what a perfect holiday feels like, there is only one way to find out: do it. That is what we did in 2017!

And this will bring you a lot of insights in what works and what not. The next summer will be different for us, based on what we have learned now

  • Rather than one month off, take long weekends off to do activities with the kids. This will help me to balance my work needs with the family needs. Both seem to be present strongly. I could have 2 weeks family holiday and 3 long weekends.
  • We will consider a “group” holiday with activities. We have our eyes on such a trip, we await the info evening. This should help us to have me and us time while also having family time.
  • Take into account that a 5 and 7 year old have needs and wants as well. They are not the same as adults. Manager that, for yourself and for them. (I explain them while exploring a city that a holiday needs to have something for all of us)

How is your summer coming along?

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15 thoughts on “Lessons from one month off.

  1. Nice insights! We’ve just one little one of 3 months old and he already taught me so much things! (Try to) be relaxed and flexible seems to help so far 😉 And I totally see the lack of time already..

    We’ve had 6 weeks off together this year, a great time to spend so much time together. Worth every euro and a great motivation to stay focused on the happiness and not the money!

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  2. Hello ATL,
    What a perfect reflection over your vacation time. We also just got back from a vacation in Germany…. And we / I had some same challenging moments with having a vacation and the 2 kids (5 and 9 years old).

    If feel lucky to read that other people have the same challenging moments, because sometimes you feel you are the only parents with thise challenges. 😉

    I still have a few days of vacation here at home….. so going to enjoy them!!!!! And hope tospeak to you on November 4th.

    TheGreenFIguy

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  3. Ciao ATL,
    Kids are a touchy subject I think. I see my sister, single mother of 2, she really busted her ass after the kids, now they are getting “old” and she has more time for herself… In a way I am really curious on how eventual kids might impact my life, on the other side I am quite jealous of “my moments” and I wonder how it’s possible to fit all in… Time will tell as usual, but I like your approach, and most than anything I like the attitude of your company, it’s really open minded and flexible to give you such an opportunity!! I am headed to Slovenia soon for a week holiday, so we might hit Croatia for a day, I have very good memories of it from when I was a kid!
    Ciao ciao
    Stal

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    1. Single mom of two… That is not easy! Most people I speak to, admit that kids means you have to dial back on other activities and hobbies… In our case, it starts to come back slowly.

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  4. ‘Being present in the moment’, yeah, I need to work on that too. Glad to read I am not the only one struggling with this!
    ‘Do not over plan what you can do on a day off.’, I learned that during my three months of unemployment. One or two tasks a day max so the days off stay pleasant. Having a free day completely filled with chores to do just leaves you exhausted in the evening and it didn’t even feel like you had a day off!
    No children here but we do notice that when children reach age 6, parents are able to get a bit of their life back (going to music festivals again and such). Pigs are a lot easier in that respect …

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  5. ATL, congrats on some well earned time off, even if it was less “off” than expected! I’ve heard good things about Croatia, tho it sounds like it’d be best to avoid August and the heat! Good luck on the adjustment back to the work routine!

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  6. Seems like the month off taught you some valuable lessons!

    It’s always a surplus to get to know yourself better by those experiments.

    Concercing my holiday: haven’t had one so far. July I was out playing in the woods (very good for savings rate though) and August is 3 weeks of studying. Last week I’m travelling to Malta for at least some holiday before the year kicks off again.

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  7. I am looking for ways to multiply my time so I can do everything I want but haven’t succeeded so far 😉 Indeed challenging to accept we cannot have it all..

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  8. Interesting post. As a 25 year old, kids and parenting are far away from me right now, but I can understand the dilemma that you sometime faces. I guess it´s times like this that having a anonymous blog becomes helpful. Kind of like having a diary.

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