The Cure for the Modern Family

Phones, tablets, laptops, game consoles, headphones, full time job, long commute, various extra curricular activities - all under a roof that spans over 2200 square feet and many doors capable of shutting us off from each other even more.  The American Family has become a mere shadow of what it once was, and mine was no exception.

When I learned I was pregnant with my first child 16 years ago, I was enrolled in private interior design college, worked full time for an architectural firm downtown San Diego and was on my way to a high falutin' career in interior design, with an emphasis in historical preservation.  I have always adored the old west and the great American frontier.  The adventure of the unknown, the insecurity of day to day living - it is all so romantic to me, no matter how difficult life must have been.  I dreamed of going back in time and being a proud homesteader with a ranch somewhere in the Western states.

Pregnancy does odd things to a woman's brain, but what it did to my heart and soul brought me back to my longing for a less complicated way of life.  I remember that all I could think about was quitting my job, taking a hiatus from school and going home to bake bread, make quilts and be a traditional mother to that baby I was carrying.

And I did.  I really did.  Pregnancy brought back that strong desire to be the woman I am certain I must have been in a past life.  By the time my third child was born, I had become as close as possible to that rugged frontier woman I wanted to be.  Twice a week I had fresh, raw goat milk delivered to my front door by the farmer herself.  I made goat milk yogurt and cheese.  I ground wheat berries to bake fresh bread daily.  I sprouted nuts and beans, then dehydrated them to use whole or ground in recipes.  I started a garden and had fresh herbs at my fingertips daily.  Everything I prepared for my family to eat was made from whole foods.  I had already given birth to two of my three kids at home with a midwife, breastfed all of them longer than I had ever imagined I would, and was putting my years of self-education in natural wellness and healing to use in keeping myself and my kids healthy.  I even home schooled my two oldest for a couple of years.  I was as "crunchy-granola" as they come!

Fast forward to the last six months.  That awesome job I had landed as an advertising account executive at the radio station was a dream come true.  I was getting to do all the things I loved the most for work - networking, sales, marketing, writing, being out and about in the community.  It was a job where I learned that I was a bit of an anomaly in the media sales biz.  I had an ethic where the client came before the money. Now, before ya'll get defensive, I think that in sales, it is imperative that one be motivated by the promise of a healthy commission.  However, that came second for me and I got burned a few times.  I would take a deep breath, learn from my mistakes and move forward with a smile.

Then about two months ago, I attended my son's annual Individual Education Plan ("special ed") meeting at the high school.  It was in that meeting that I had a very strong realization that I had been placing emphasis on the wrong things in life.  In my pursuit to earn a higher income, I was sacrificing my family.  It hit me like a Mack truck.

On an average week, I was away from my children for 60-70 hours a week.  I had removed myself from being the kind of mother and woman I had become and loved being when my children were younger.  I liked that woman.  She was an attentive, loving, present mother who made sure her kids ate healthy and had an ear to talk to, arms to hold them and a heart to heal their pains.  Now, they were on their own to figure out their emotions, work out their problems and I won't even mention the kinds of horrific processed foods I was buying so they could make themselves dinner each night.  Forget the concept of family time.  It was rare that all four of us spent more than an hour or two together each week.  This was not what I wanted or what they needed.  I was so far away from being the woman I wanted to be.

After a lot of thought, I started searching for a new job, but before I had received a job offer, I resigned from the radio station on the last Friday of February.  I had made such a confident decision about never working that many hours again while raising my kids, that I just knew the right job would be placed in front of me. It had to be, because I trusted the universe.  It had never failed me and always provided what I needed when I needed it.  I was at peace knowing I wouldn't be out of work very long.  And I was right.

Less than one week after resigning, I was sitting at my desk at my new job as Account Manager and Marketing Assistant at a wholesale garden art business whose offices and manufacturing facility are downtown Ramona.  The universe provided exactly what I wanted and needed yet again.  Not only was I making enough money to support our new, downsized lifestyle, I am now working hours more conducive to being a mom at a company that values my role as a mother and the sometimes unpredictability of parenthood.  I would only be away from home for about 40 hours each week, including my commute!

While all of this was going on, there were a few curves balls thrown my way.  The first was at the end of January.  They couple that was trying to buy my home through a short sale decided they were no longer interested in the house.  The significance is two fold.  First, the mortgage company would now move forward with a foreclosure auction, but second, the moving assistance that was going to be provided was going to be less than a third of what I was previously getting under the terms of the short sale.  To top that off, the house and property now had to be "clean."  Great.  If you saw the place, you would know the task I now face.  But somehow, I have faith.  It will all work out.  It always does.

Meanwhile, I had been rationing the last of the propane in the large tank that feeds the house.  The weather had turned cold and rainy, but we used the heater as little as possible.  I bought a small electric heater to help take the bite out of the cold nights and we were using the fireplace on the really cold nights.  The sale date for the auction was only a month away and I would have 30 days after that to move, so I didn't want to have to buy more propane for the house.  Then it happened. I tried to light the stove to make dinner and I learned that the day had come.  We were out of propane.  This was the second day of my new job.  On the third morning, the cable and internet had been shut off.  I just stood there and smiled, grateful we still had electricity!

I announced to the kids that we would be cooking and showering in the trailer from this point forward and that we no longer had wi-fi or TV.   The overall concept was met with resistance, but when they realized that I wasn't kidding when I told them I was not buying more propane for the house or having the cable and internet turned back on, they started accepting reality.  Then, one by one, they decided the house was too cold at night and that since they weren't watching TV, they migrated to the trailer.  By the fourth night we were all four sleeping in the trailer.  A few days later, we made the transition and moved our clothes, toiletries and everything we needed for day to day living in to the trailer.  We were parked next to this huge house, but it now stood relatively empty and its family was in a tiny new house on wheels.

This brings me full circle to remembering that woman that I once was and the family life I nurtured and loved.  Last night, as we were waiting for dinner to finish in the oven, it started sinking in.  I was resurrecting my family.  The phones were close by, but without TV or 2200 square feet of space with all those separating doors, we were actually interacting with each other.  We were talking and laughing - at times until we cried and our sides hurt.  We were connecting again the way we did when my kids were little and we played in the back yard, or on the floor in the living room. Technology wasn't separating us from each other and a slower, less complicated lifestyle was allowing us to savor one another.  All four of us preferred being together in the 150 square feet of living space in our trailer to the cold, open space of that monstrous house right next to us.

It occurred to me that we had been spending each evening like this since the transition into the trailer.  I had inadvertently "cured" the "Modern American Family" that we had become.  Our less complicated lifestyle was bringing us back to basics as a family, much like I imagine the families from the frontier and old west days were like.  Sitting around, talking, laughing and sharing.

  

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