I often think that our society has it all planned out for us, that the road is there and all we have to do is follow along. How our houses are supposed to look, how we raise our children, how we dress, how our bodies look, our work, how much money we are supposed to have, the food we eat - the patterns are all laid out for us. The main stream is easy to follow because the decisions have already been made. So what would happen if you suddenly decided to reinvent your life? If you removed all of those patterns and jumped off the beaten path? If you had to make all those decisions fresh and only based on you - without the expectations of the world around you, without other peoples standards, without the pressure to conform? How would your life look then, if you cleaned it all up?
When I met my husband, I immediately knew that I'd met someone who would go the lengths with me, who had the freedom in spirit to jump off the path with me. He was unattached to culture, wild and free and strong enough to stand his ground. Strong enough not to care. So gradually, we started changing things. We bought the farm, which had been desolate for many years and needed a whole lot of work. Our dream was to be as close to self-sufficient as possible and that the farm would provide food for us. We rebuilt the house, bought animals, cleared forest, put fences up, and not long after, the farm was a lively place again. We had babies, too, in the midst of this, and all that work plus our full time day jobs left us feeling tired. We were crammed in between our dream, so close we could smell it, and the stark and stressful reality of working day jobs and having our kids at day care. Gradually, our day jobs began feeling like something standing in the way of the life we really wanted, and it sucked the energy out of us. Until one evening. The kids were in bed, and we were talking about this, when I suddenly said to him "why don't you just quit your job?". We talked and talked, calculated how much money we would need, discussed it all, and realised that both of us having full time jobs wasn't really making us much money at all. In order to keep the life we had up and practically possible, we needed two cars, kids at day care, Ronja at the after school centre, we spent more money buying food because we didn't have time to make our own food. Working full time actually meant spending more money and losing time. Time with our kids, most importantly, and also time to use our farmland to its fullest so that we in turn could save money on food costs. Where's the sense in that? I saw this quote once, and I think there is truth in it:
"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it." (Ellen Goodman)
Cutting down on all of our luxurious costs (in example shopping, having two cars, holidays/concerts/restaurants), and reducing on the other expenses by becoming more self-sufficient in the food department, we saw that Mr. Payne easily could quit his job and stay home. That also meant that our little ones would stay home with him (Ronja had already started school). Having your children at home full time without the ambition to start kindergarten is very rare in Norway, and I have often felt that I have to defend our decision to others. Luckily, neither of us are very bothered about other peoples standards. What feels right for us and our children is best for us and our children. This subject is very touchy though - because I think many parents put their kids in daycare for many hours a day/week without really wanting to. I am not one to speak for others or generalise about other peoples lives - but I have picked up on that a lot from other mamas. They think they should because its good for the child, and they think they have to because of the family economy. After jumping off that grid and keeping our kids at home with us, my perspective on this has changed a lot. And this is where I have to weigh my words carefully: I do not want to hurt anybody, but I still think it should be possible to talk about other ways of living. I am not a better mother than anyone else. I have just chosen differently.
Now, I have quit my day job too, so we are both home. That is, we are both freelance workers, so we take the work we can get and juggle it between us. If I have a photography job, he's at home with the kids. If he has a tree felling job, I'm at home. We make enough so we can feed ourselves and our animals, pay the mortgage and electricity and not worry about next month. Deciding not to be a part of the rat race means less luxury, but it is so liberating. Simplifying our life like this, cutting it right down to the bone, has made me see clearer and enjoy the beauty and freedom of nature so much more. I have everything I need. I have my children close, the forest outside my doorstep, and a life free of stress and painful expectations.
I have heard many times how lucky I am to have this life, to have this farm, to have this man, to have all this time with my kids. It is not luck. Our life and our privileges are not a result of happenstance. We have been brave, made choices who felt scary but right, followed our hearts, not compromised and worked very hard. Out of all this comes this life we have: time and space to be together. This journey has been hard at times, but what it has taught me the most is that although our culture, the media or the corporate world expect us to keep up with their standards (spend most of your time at work, make money, spend money), we have a choice. We can govern our own lives, and there are many ways of doing it.
Freedom is there, but you have to search for it, you have to want it, and you have to be willing to make that change.