It was cool in the gazebo. Flowers bloomed boldly all around, cicadas buzzed in the treetops, and a little nuthatch tap-tap-tapped on the roof, looking for seeds he had hidden away between the gritty shingles.
Despite the beauty of the day, I was a little out of sorts. My dream house was for sale—and totally out of reach. I was telling my dad about it. Complaining, really.
When I had finished, my dad leaned back in his chair and spoke. I might not be getting all of his words just right, but the gist of it was this: “I was talking to someone last night. He was telling me about how much he works. He’s already replying to e-mails at six in the morning. He works long hours. He can hardly ever make it to any of his son’s hockey games.”
My dad worked hard too, before he retired. He would get up while it was still dark, do some work at home before leaving for the job site, come back and eat dinner with the family, and then work in his home office well into the evening. He is an amazing father, but it couldn’t have been easy for him to try to balance it all. I guess that sometimes, when you own a business, it sort of owns you too.
A red squirrel scurried into the gazebo and then darted away as I shifted in my chair.
My dad continued. “I told the neighbour about you and Dave. You might not live in as big a house or have as much money, but you have a really good quality of life. You homeschool your kids and take them all kinds of places. You’re able to spend time with them. Sometimes, giving up things can make you happier. Quality of life isn’t always measured by material things.”
Quality of life isn’t measured by material things.
It was a gentle reprimand. You see, I wrestle with this concept. I always have. In a world where success is measured by the size of your bank account and money is everything, living as though it’s not is counter-cultural. My husband and I make ends meet—but life could be so much easier if we shifted our emphasis even a little.
But what would that look like? What if we both worked long days? What if, instead of sacrificing money for time, we sacrificed time for money?
We’d miss out on God’s plan for our lives, plain and simple. It would be impossible for me to do what I’m called to do right now—homeschooling my girls. I wouldn’t be there to celebrate as they sound out words on a page or finally grasp those hard math problems. We wouldn’t be able to learn more about history and science and nature by exploring museums and beaches and farms. We wouldn’t be able to build solar systems in the dining room or go on hikes when we need to just breathe.
There wouldn’t be enough time for any of the things that really matter to us right now.
There are hard days. I lose patience. The kids fight. There are spills and messes. Sometimes, while changing diapers and scrubbing toilets, I think about people in power suits making their mark on the world and I feel a twinge of envy. There isn’t much glamour in sweeping up Cheerios and picking up toys day after day. But right now, I have an incredible opportunity to savour the fleeting days of my daughters’ childhood.
And I’m making my mark where it matters most—right in the centre of God’s will for my life.
This is what I’m called to do. Not everyone is called to this. But, for some reason, I am. So instead of wishing away the days, I need to be grateful. I’m right where God wants me to be, and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because quality of life? It has nothing to do with the size of your bank account. (It doesn’t have anything to do with homeschooling either.) It’s about priorities. It’s finding out what God wants you to do—and doing it.
(Thanks, Dad, for the reminder.)
4 thoughts on “Revising the American Dream: What Homeschooling (and my Dad) has Taught Me about Life”
Outstanding Mary-Ann!!! (And you really need to sell your photos, they’re amazing too.)
Agreed! Her photos are phenomenal!!
Yes. “Finding out what God wants you to do – and doing it.”
What God asks of families will be different. We believe we’re called to living in a poorer area and homeschooling. It’s easy to want more. But, I know that if we did, so much would be taken away from what we have now that it wouldn’t be worth it.
So well put Mary-Ann! I was tearing up reading this..such a powerful reminder of what’s truly important 🙂