It was the end of April.
I was slowly emerging from the blues that had plagued me since becoming a mother five years earlier. I felt like a shell of the fun, vibrant woman I used to be.
On that grey, wet, dull, day (April is still basically Winter), I had five, consecutive, kid-free hours, between drop-off and pick-up.
This meant that I would be running around all day doing errands, and would be exhausted by the time I picked up our kids, ages three and five.
The to-do list raced through my mind: we just ran out of toilet paper, our eldest needed new indoor shoes for school, dinner needed to go in the crock pot before noon, and today was the last day that I could return the lightbulbs (I had bought the wrong ones...again….ugh).
“Is this IT?” I remember thinking. THIS is what I hustled my way through my twenties and early thirties for?
Within the span of five short years, I had met and married the love of my life, was blessed with two daughters, bought a home (and renovated it), and went back to school for my new chosen career path. Being granted the professional designation as a Registered Psychotherapist was a finish line that had seemed unreachable during those years with two young children.
It was SO MUCH WORK to get to that finish line.
Except the finish line was just some type of mirage.
I felt like life was punk’ing me.
Turns out the finish line was just a never-ending racetrack of work, and pick-ups, and drop-offs, and errands, and appointments, and cooking, and grocery shopping, and meeting my children’s emotional needs, and almost having sex, and and and and --
WHERE was the confetti and big happy ending that I had imagined?
There was supposed to be glitter and unicorns once I got that professional designation. It was the final piece of the life puzzle that would solidify my success as a full-fledged adult.
But the glitter wasn’t there. And there sure weren’t any unicorns.
Everything was the same.
I was still overwhelmed on my day “off”.
I could already see how the day would unfold; I would pick up the kids, eventually tear them away from the school playground, prepare dinner as they found various ways to annoy each other (I love them like crazy, but let’s keep it real), then my husband, Arjan, would walk in the door as it all came to a roaring climax.
I had become the mean-mom, and resentful-wife.
This scene would repeat again the next day. And then the next day after that. Until we got to the weekend where we crammed in the kid’s lessons, birthday parties, and if we were lucky, some social time with our own friends.
The thought of continuing this cycle, left me in a dark, dark hole.
I couldn’t do it anymore.
I called my husband, having come to the conclusion that if our life continued in this direction, our marriage would be doomed to fail and I would be the most miserable mother of all time.
His response to my emotional breakdown only amplified my fear.
“But I am happy with our life.” he said, answering his troubled wife’s phone call in the middle of his work day.
Oh no, I thought. If he is okay with this, and this is not okay for me, then we are in BIG TROUBLE.
I paused my racing thoughts until the kids were in bed that night.
Had I chosen the right partner?
The right career?
What the fuck was I doing all of this for?
And for who?
I had spent my twenties as a performer; a life filled with self-expression, creativity, travel, and like-minded artists. Had I somehow made a wrong turn? I had left that career behind to have a family and create more stability. Isn’t THIS what I wanted?
We sat down on the couch and proceeded to begin the most life-altering conversation of our lives.
It was a pivotal moment, where the fate of our marriage was palpable.
To my great relief, he realized that he too, wasn’t happy. Though he enjoyed his work culture, he felt that he was missing precious moments with our kids.
We both longed for more time together as a couple, and for more time together as a family.
This conversation continued every night, for a week. We shared our individual goals, family dreams and everything in between.
We were getting clear on our values and in doing so, had renewed connection with each other.
We acknowledged that we are better parents when we are parenting together, and five years with me as the primary caregiver, while running my own business, was leaving me depleted.
The first thing that needed to change: How could Arjan make space in his schedule to have more time with us?
We agreed that time is a resource, one that is far more valuable than money. We didn't want to wait until retirement to have time together and to travel...we wanted our children to experience the world beyond our nine-to-five routine. (Like seriously though -- what is this fucking life that we’ve been sold to work your hardest in your fittest and most mentally alert years -- and to save up all your time for when you’re 65++. It’s whack!!!)
We had one problem: MONEY.
How could we afford to travel? Take time off of work? We had a mortgage, bills to pay, and mouths to feed.
We looked at the facts: We own a house in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. We live on a strict budget with a modest annual five-figure income. The cost of living is high, no matter where you live these days.
How could we afford to travel AND have more time as a family?
The more we talked, the more our vision came into focus.
Once we let go of social and cultural expectations, there were many exciting possibilities. We even considered selling our house and moving to Nicaragua! (Pretty cool, right?!)
The conversations evolved into fun, playful interactions, ones that left us both (re)energized and hopeful for what was to come.
After plenty of brainstorming, number-crunching, and research, we found a way to spend the winter of 2018 in Mexico. Yes, MEXICO!
My best friend, Mara, had visited a little surf town called Puerto Escondido with her family, and raved about it. Being a smaller town, it had a lower cost of living; a crucial factor in making our vision a reality!
Arjan would take an unpaid sabbatical and I would work remotely, 5-10 hours per week.
If we could find a family to rent out our furnished home, we could make it work. (There will be an entire post on how we budgeted for this trip - stay tuned!)
So, here we are: three weeks until we move to Mexico.
Seven months ago, I wasn’t sure if our marriage would survive.
Today, I am proud to say, that Arjan and I have never felt more connected and aligned. We totally got our mojo back. (Phewf)
We hope to give other parents inspiration and support in finding the same success; Your idea of success, based on your values.
Be sure to join our mailing list for tools to stay connected as a couple, and to get the inside scoop on our adventure.
The next challenge for us will be packing all of our personal effects, and eventually, adjusting to life as full-time parents, in a foreign country.
Did I mention that we don’t speak any Spanish...yet?
Written By Allison Villa