In 2010, due to a family emergency, my wife and I wiped out our bank accounts. It was difficult, but we had to do it. We had nothing. In 2011, when my wife was pregnant with our second son, I quit a job that paid quite handsomely to write a book that I had been meaning to finish for half my life. In 2012, my wife would lose her day job and choose to become a full-time blogger, while I stubbornly remained a work-at-home (unemployed) dad.
Had we gone insane? Were we trying to become poor on purpose? Did we not care about our two baby boys at all? My parents were “concerned.” Friends were shocked. Others thought we had access to some family fortune (we don’t). During some moments of clarity, I would panic myself: What was I doing?
Fast forward to 2013 and through some bizarre miracle, we are in better financial shape than we have ever been in our lives. Not wealthy, not even close. But we’re saving. And investing. Our future has never looked brighter. What sorcery is this?
I like to think of what happened to us as the Oxygen Mask Paradox, a name which was born from being bored on airplanes and actually listening to the stewardesses. You see, on airplanes, they tell you that if the plane loses cabin pressure and you are traveling with a child, to place the oxygen mask on yourself before placing the other mask on your child. Stay with me on this one. There’s a point to this.
To any doting parent, this sounds like madness. Who are these evil people that made up these safety guidelines? What kind of parent would do such a selfish thing? If this was Facebook, you’d have irate mothers and the breastfeeding brigade condemning stewardesses and airline safety guidelines. Parents always put their children first. That’s what they do. Mothers give up their slice of cake so their kids can have more. Fathers spend the best part of their day away from their family so they can have money to pay for tuition. Mothers give up their careers to take care of the kids. Fathers give up their dreams.
Here’s an idea: Maybe we shouldn’t put our children first. Yeah, you got that right. Pursue that dream instead. Do something risky. Grab that opportunity. Start that business. Invest in your own future. Put that oxygen mask on yourself first. Because if you put it on your kid first, you’ll just pass out and be useless.
When the going got tough, we put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. I didn’t end up stuck in a job I hate. My wife was not enslaved by diapers and baby overlords. Breathe in. Breathe out. Now put the oxygen mask on the kids.
But wait. There are a few things most people don’t realize. We haven’t been completely irresponsible.
1. We have zero debt. We fully own our little condo and our little econo-car, and credit card spending is tightly controlled. This is key to our financial freedom.
2. We work hard. As in really hard. We are basically unemployed, but we take on all kinds of odd jobs that pay peanuts. We even sell stuff on eBay.
3. We got creative. We work from home, so we have no yayas, and our cost of living is low. We don’t spend on Starbucks, parking, or nursery school. And gas expenses are relatively cheap.
4. We’re saving for our children’s future. What money we do make, we squirrel away for the kids. When your next paycheck is a big question mark, this becomes doubly important.
I’m not sure our gamble will pay off. In the long term, the book I’m writing could be a big success or it could be a flop, or maybe it won’t matter. There was never much money in publishing to begin with. In the short term, my wife has her blog and plans for business, but who knows what will happen? We hope, and we believe, but we really don’t know. Either way, we’re exactly where we want to be, doing what we believe we’ve been placed on this planet to do. We don’t worry much. The future, though still uncertain, is something we look forward to, with gusto.
Photo used under Creative Commons from bulliver.
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