Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

4 icons

Early Retirement
by Pete and Simi

Simi, Pete, and our son S are an Equally Shared Parenting family and we could not imagine life any other way.

Ancient History:
Simi and Pete met as college students way back in 1994 and had a leisurely ten-year courtship before tying the knot in 2004. As we grew into adulthood together, we knew that we wanted to start a family, but we wanted do our best to have a balanced family life rather than the car-based juggling act of careers, daycare, and rushed daily routines that seems to be the norm in this prosperous but overworked country.

A Transition:
When we graduated from university, we both launched into full-time jobs as software designers and project managers. As the thrill of the new careers grew older, and we started being able to imagine ourselves with kids, we realized that it would be ideal to both be stay-at-home parents. This would of course require some inventiveness to cover our living expenses, and thus the idea of retiring before starting a family was born!

The Saving Years:
Once you realize that saving money can be more fun than spending it, it starts to happen pretty fast. It is easy and very common for families – even dual-income professional couples – to find ways to spend everything they earn. But we found it was also surprisingly easy to strip out most of modern life's expensive indulgences, while keeping the inexpensive ones, and eliminate about 75% of our spending in the process.

Every expenditure was creatively examined and sent to the chopping block. We bought a house that was less expensive than we could afford, and Pete renovated it from bottom to top over four years of weekends, which fortunately is his idea of leisure. We kept only one older but fuel-efficient car, which we bought with cash, instead of the usual two bank-financed statusmobiles. Biking to work allowed the car to stay in the garage most of the time, needing gas only once every six weeks. We cooked at home and only hit the restaurants twice a month or so. The same ideas were applied to groceries, clothes, haircuts, vacations, home energy use, and anything else that costs money. The concept of "shopping" was obsolete. The only retail store we ever visited was the grocery store – everything else was bought online, which is cheaper and also less likely to result in impulse purchases.

And we loved it. Hiking, biking and camping here in Colorado is more fun than opening cardboard boxes and dealing with warranty departments anyway, so we didn't miss the spending at all. But all of a sudden, we found that 75% of our paychecks were going unused. So we used the balance to max out 401(k) contributions, pay off the mortgage more quickly, and buy shares of conservative Vanguard index funds which started to compound. Occasional bonuses or other small windfalls were always saved 100%, since giving the savings a boost became more rewarding than having another gadget or piece of clothing sitting around the house

This is very different from the typical self-help finance book advice, which tells you to shave 5% off of your paycheck and save it before spending the rest. And this difference trimmed down the usual 45-year process of getting to retirement, to about 7 years. At 30 years of age, we both quit our jobs and started a baby!

How it all turned out:
We had our baby boy, S, in January 2006 and have spent almost every day of the past three years together since then.

Our daily routine is pleasant yet nicely varied. Mornings begin whenever the first person happens to wake up. Dad cooks breakfast for everyone while Mom and S play on the living room rug in the big patch of morning sun. It's usually around this time that Pete bellows out his daily statement to anyone within earshot: "now THIS is what I call a work day!".

After everyone is ready and dressed, one of us loads S, food, and accessories into his bicycle trailer and pedals off to one of the nearby parks, or to a local creek or lake along the bike path, or to our town's amazingly nice public library. That leaves the other parent free to have 2-3 hours of adult time to clean the house, do some part-time paid work, or take care of necessities like paying the bills and making phone calls. At around lunch time, the cyclists return home for lunch and S is tucked in for his 2-3 hour nap. Both parents usually dig in and work separately during this time, which can be quite productive. When S awakens, the afternoon shift is usually more free-form, sometimes spent together or sometimes apart if one parent is very busy. Then there is just barely time for our best attempt at a family dinner, bedtime preparations and tuck-in, and if we're lucky, some adult time for a movie or reading before falling asleep to begin the cycle anew.

We've also taken many family vacations, sometimes to inexpensive tropical places in the winter, sometimes six-week summer pilgrimages to Canada to visit our families and S's grandparents, and sometimes local trips just to camp in the mountains.

Life seems just as busy as it did when we were employed full-time, especially since we both still like working part-time occasionally to keep our minds active and to bring in extra money. But sharing the parenting is the core of our lifestyle balance, and the trick that allows this is working less. Luckily, we found that spending less money is the key to the whole thing: trading back some income in favor of more free time, and in turn for a whole different way of life!

©Copyright 2008 Marc and Amy Vachon

  Home · What is Equally Shared Parenting? · How It Works · ESP: The Book · Equality Blog · In the News · Toolbox · Real Life Stories · Resources · Contact Marc and Amy

All Contents ©2006-11 Marc and Amy Vachon