Opting for Flexibility in Work
Wake up at 6am. Drive to the office. Sit in traffic. Sit in a cubicle. Try to be productive for eight hours. Go home exhausted. Repeat. Nope, not for me!
For myself, I started a small project management SaaS company that I run from my home office. I have to be on-call at all times, but it gives me a lot of flexibility. I can be involved in homeschooling my kids. I can go grocery shopping on Monday afternoon when the store is pretty empty. I can go shooting with friends on Friday morning. I can attend daily Mass during the week. We can visit family across the country whenever we want, for as long as we want.
I've always been intentional about what kind of work/life balance I want. I hate the idea of a typical 9 to 5 office job. It's soul-crushingly boring. Even if the job is in an otherwise interesting field, being forced to work between certain hours feels like slavery. It would be different for physical labor, but for creative professions—like mine, software engineering—it's bad. I can't be creative and clever from 9 to 5 just because the clock says I should be. The industrial factory model doesn't work well for me.
Creativity comes and goes, and depends a lot on my mood. Generally speaking, I have to want to be doing a task in order to do it creatively. If I'm worried or stressed about something, it's better if I go take care of that first, then sit down to work. Sometimes that means not doing much work for a day, or several. It’s not about being lazy; it's about not wasting my time when I know I'm not able to be productive at my current task. If I'm not making progress on X, I go do Y so that I can at least get something done.
Another factor is family time. Once you're providing for your family, work has pretty steep diminishing returns. What's the point of storing up Earthly treasure, really? Wouldn't you rather build stronger relationships with your family and community? Grow deeper in your faith? Learn a musical instrument? Spend time in contemplation?
So how can you achieve this kind of flexibility? You might find a remote, flexible job that gives you most of this, and I hope they continue becoming more common after we're done with COVID. But generally, you have to be self-employed. It's harder than people think. You typically spend several years with less income, no good insurance option, no job security, and it takes all of your mental energy. Once you find a niche and get established, then things get better. You roll the dice and trust in your own ability. You'll fail at first and have to be okay with that. I'll write more on how exactly to do this in the future.
This path is not for everyone, and there's no judgement attached to that. Typical office jobs offer a lot of benefits: security, consistency, health insurance, leaving work at work... Sometimes it's best to put work on autopilot and not take risks with it. If your strengths lie in other areas, then play to those instead.
For me, the effort it took to become successfully self-employed was absolutely worth it, because it enables us to live the kind of life that we think is best: traditional, unconventional, and family-oriented.