If you haven’t been following on social media, you might not know that our family just began an exciting new adventure! My husband Daniel cut back his hours to part-time at the distillery (he makes and blends whisky) to become a full-time homeschooling parent and I am a full-time self-employed writer and creator.
I know many of you have been following for years and years, so I want to update you about our lives because you might care to know what’s going on with us! But I also know there are other families out there who are serious about nurturing family life but also desire to do creative work and so I like sharing about our family’s journey in case it’s helpful to others. I always love learning about the unconventional ways families structure their work as inspiration and to help expand my ideas for what’s possible!
This isn’t the first time we’ve…mixed things up a bit. About six years ago, we announced that we were leaving everything we knew and moving across the country to a teensy tiny apartment on a working farm with no flushing toilets to pursue a different kind of life–one centered in home, family, and good work. Was that totally crazy? (Yes.) Was it ultimately a good thing for our family? (Yes.) I wrote a book about the whole thing if you’re interested.
And since our farming adventure, we were able to buy a little 100yo house before the Waco real estate market exploded (the timing could not have been better).
Daniel really likes his work at a distillery making and blending world famous whisky. And I’ve been homeschooling and writing and podcasting. But, like many of you, we did a lot of soul searching during 2020. We were both feeling ready for our next adventure and were sending up prayers to St. Joseph to guide our family.
Then towards the end of the year, a potential job opportunity came up for me out of nowhere. It was full-time with benefits and exciting! So we spent a lot of time discussing if it was something that might actually work for our family if it panned out.
I’ve been the stay-at-home parent since our 12 year old son was 15 months old! I was working full-time at a university when he was born. After hating being away from my baby and terrible time with pumping/nursing, we knew that not being separated from my babies was essential to my happiness and well being. So I stayed home and did everything attachment parenting style with the three girls and loved it. We didn’t even buy bottles because I just took my babies with me everywhere until they self-weaned. (It’s by no means the only way to do things, but after my traumatic first experience of the newborn stage, attachment parenting was so healing and intuitive and great.)
In short, I hadn’t even considered full-time work in over a decade. After discussion, prayer, and advice from wise friends, we realized the potential job opportunity wasn’t going to be the right fit for our family, but thinking about it allowed us to do some dreaming. (Dreaming is such an important part of moving toward big positive changes as a family and I talk about it a lot in my little ebook Making Big Life Changes Together).
Our dreaming about our vision for family life and work came down to what each of us are feeling most drawn to and equipped for at this point in our lives. My husband Daniel is such an engaged dad. He loves being with our kids and we’ve been trying to figure out how he could cut back on his hours–especially to do more homeschooling and spend quality time with our almost teenager. (How is it possible that B will be off to college in 6 years?!) And for the first time in 13 years, I’m not pregnant or nursing and all our kids are sleeping through the night. It’s a different world for us than it was a decade ago!
We started wondering, is it the right time to think about switching things up? Discerning that one potential opportunity wasn’t the right fit helped me to pinpoint what exactly my dream job would be. What would that look like? What do my gifts suit me for? What makes me come alive? We brainstormed about all of this and more.
I was wide awake early one morning and I decided to write out a description of some dream projects. I typed it up, took a deep breath, and sent it to my dream organization–The Word on Fire Institute. Were they interested? They were! I’m going to be working on some exciting passion projects with them over the next year–including expanding and cultivating a book club for their members (if you’re not yet a member, what are you waiting for?! Join today!).
And just in case you missed my recent announcement, I also have three books coming out in the next year or two! Two are children’s books. One is a picture book (and I’ll share more about that as soon as I can) and the other is a storybook that will be published by Pauline Press (probably in 2022). It came to me in a dream and I wrote it during the first lockdown last year. It’s about an order of mouse nuns who live in an abbey underneath the floorboards of G.K. and Frances Chesterton’s house and run a school (and solve crimes!). The third book I am currently in the thick of writing and it’s a non-fiction, working title: Jane Austen’s Guide to Life.
And of course, Christy and I are still podcasting up a storm with the Fountains of Carrots podcast and nurturing our wonderful Patreon community of supporters.
Here’s a few things that are working so well with our new setup:
-The flexibility of full-time remote work (for me, Daniel’s part-time work still has to be at the distillery obviously!)
-Daniel and I actually get to spend time together instead of feeling like ships that are passing in the night. Guys, we actually went on a DATE the other night. A friend babysat and we left our kids behind and ate dinner together. WHAT?! So nice.
-A break for me from homeschooling responsibilities. I was already facing some burnout BEFORE pandemic homeschooling hit and so this change is a huge blessing to me. I also have discovered that pre-school/early elementary is a homeschooling age I enjoy more than late elementary/middle school. I LOVE going on nature walks, the library, the zoo, the museum, the park and then snuggling and reading aloud. Teaching long division? Happy to pass the torch to my dear husband.
-Daniel is absolutely killing it as a homeschool dad and breathing new life into our homeschooling day. I’m so grateful! He’s getting to use his gifts that benefit our family and home life. He’s spoiling us with his culinary skills and weekly sourdough bakes.
-I have time to pursue the creative work I love. I haven’t worked full-time in over a decade and I have never worked full-time at a job where I love EVERY MINUTE of my work. I am so happy!
-Actual weekends of rest and family time. For so long, I’ve had to use the weekends to get any of my creative work done and Daniel and I always felt like we were taking shifts with the kids instead of getting to enjoy family time all together. Now, Saturdays are catch up days for house cleaning/yard work and family time and Sundays are real sabbath rest.
I asked Instagram if there were any questions about our big changes and here’s the answers!
How are you handling healthcare without benefits through Daniel’s job?
We are almost at the end of our coverage through his employment and will be buying insurance through the marketplace–the new legislation that offers increased subsidies is going to really benefit us there.
‘Weren’t you going to send Benjamin (age 12) to school?
We were planning to send him to a fantastic Catholic school with a classical model but then Covid hit and his first transition into traditional schooling seemed a whole lot more daunting so we decided to homeschool again. We think that his combination of giftedness and learning disabilities will be best served with homeschooling for now and seeking some tutoring that will begin equipping him for high school if he wants to attend then.
How are the kids handling the change?
They’re doing awesome. It’s been a gradual transition from just a few hours a week to more like half time to now full-time and I still do a lot of my work from home. So I don’t think they’ve noticed a big difference! And Daniel has picked up so much of the daily duties of meal planning and grocery ordering and cooking and dishes that my time with them is quality time and not just trying to get stuff done time. One of our kids doesn’t like changes….of any kind. So that child had some hesitancy about the idea of it but has done great with the reality of it.
Is it hard dealing with criticism from those who think women should stay home?
It’s always bizarre hearing from strangers who presume to know more about your financial situation and family life than you do. But since I’ve been hearing those criticisms for years just for daring to work part-time from home as a writer, I gave up trying to please everyone ages ago. A few years ago I wrote about ignoring strangers on the internet when it comes to knowing what’s best for your family (particularly about who should work and how much).
How did you make this shift with confidence?
We prayed a novena to St. Joseph, clarified our vision for family life and what we want our future to look like, mapped out the logistical/practical/financial side of things, and then jumped. I talked about our process for previous decisions in my ebook Making Big Life Changes Together. One thing that helped a ton was I did several coaching sessions with a dear friend who is an executive coach (check him out, his name’s Joseph Thompson!). Joseph helped me figure out where we wanted to be and how to bridge the gap between our current reality and that vision.
What do your hours look like?
I get up at 5am and work for two hours before the kids get up at 7. We eat breakfast together and then I leave for a coffee shop to work til lunch. I come back for lunch with the kids and then either work in my bedroom during afternoon naptime/quiet time if Daniel is distilling in the afternoon/evening or I leave again for a few hours if he’s home and get back before 5ish. Unless there’s an urgent deadline I don’t work evenings because my brain is too tired by then. We hang out as a family, go for a walk, watch a movie, etc. Usually one morning a week Daniel is working a morning shift and so I manage the homeschool morning with the kids.
Do you have mom guilt?
How do you make a reliable source of income?
Combination of contract work, writing books, freelance writing, and podcast (Patreon and sponsors). During non-pandemic years, speaking also contributes. It took 12 years of cultivating creative work to get here. Could I have done it faster? Maybe, but it wasn’t my priority while parenting babies and toddlers.
How did you build your career while being a stay at home mom for so long?
I think that’s a bigger question than I can answer in this post, but maybe this explanation of my journey as a writer will help?
How’s homeschooling going for Daniel?
Really well. He is very interested in science and history which were always the “if we have time” subjects for me. He’s been anchoring the day in what he calls ‘Schoolhouse Time’ with all the kids together. They learn a word of the day, listen to their composer of the week, learn about a geographical place, then do a short history or science lesson. The move from there to math and individual reading time. I do read alouds with them later. (We just finished The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis). They also do a lot of nature study with Daniel and take hikes together and look for wildlife.
Is it hard to let go of former responsibilities around the house and hard for Daniel to take over house things and not leave them for you?
No. The things I’m not responsible for are not things that I’m naturally good at. Daniel is passionate about cooking and baking and it is a WORK OF ART when he cooks. When I cook, it’s fine. I can do it and I’m happy to serve my family. But does it make me come alive? Nope. We’ve always split household chores (here’s a post I wrote about how we’ve done that in the past) so it’s not too much of a transition. I do the laundry. Daniel cleans the bathroom because I HATE IT. I tend to be more attentive to putting out of place random collections of things away. Daniel is more attentive to keeping the kitchen orderly and clean.
Are you able to save for retirement and college?
We are able to save and put money away for retirement. We have never planned to pay for our kids’ college education. We both got scholarships and will encourage our kids to do the same.
How long was the discernment process?
We were ready for a change in the middle of 2020. By October, we were actively discerning what changes to make.
There were a lot of other questions, but I think I answered them in the post or in our ebook, Making Big Life Changes!
We are thriving with our new schedule. I have been getting up at 5am (almost) every morning because I am so excited to get started on the day. I am feeling less overstimulated and burnt out and more engaged and patient with my kids. Daniel is loving his time with the kids and as the primary homeschooling parent. This is a dream come true for our family. While I’m working more hours than I was previously, we are working fewer collective hours as a couple which means more family time. It was a long time coming and is the result of over a decade of building my career “on the side.” I know we are very lucky and I’m grateful to be here doing what we love.
I know I haven’t been very active blogging over the past year (sorry!). But if you want to keep in touch, be sure you’re on the list for my email newsletter where I share my recent writing and podcast episodes, books news, reflections, and favorite things I’ve read lately.
Christina Jaloway says
I’m so excited for you and your family, Haley! I’m very much in the thick of parenting babies/toddlers, and it’s just not worth it to me pursuing anything else major right now, but I also know that this is a season of life and not forever. It’s so beautiful and inspiring to see how you and Daniel are creative in your thinking about how to get the needs of your family met now that you’re in a new and exciting season (all kids sleeping through the night—swoon!). I appreciate you sharing your journey and discernment process, and can’t wait to read your new books!
Thank you so much, friend! I love seeing your beautiful family grow and your joy in mothering your little ones. You’re doing important work!
You go, Stewarts! Well done! I’ve been following you for quite a few years and I keep finding you inspiring. All the best!
Thank you, Beatrice!
Liz Escoffery says
Haley- this is all so wonderful to read! It’s very apparent that you are following God’s specific call on your lives in this new phase of life. I’m also making a big change this year and my husband is also so I’m grateful to know there are others in our beautiful Catholic community doing similar things and it’s all grounded in super solid discernment. Im especially excited for all your books to come!!! Congrats!!!
Aw, thanks, Liz! Best of luck on your big change!
Thank you for sharing both the discerning and the logistics involved in this change!
I have a question: how do you keep your toddler entertained during school work? Is she napping, playing independently or participating in some way? Or do you hire childcare?
Great question! She is a very easy toddler and plays independently or joins in with the other kids. She’ll pretend to do math and scribble or just wander off and play with blocks. We got lucky!
How exciting! What an amazing opportunity to work with Word on Fire. I’ve always felt it a blessing to be able to follow along with your family as you journey through life. You guys never fail to inspire me. 🙂
WOF is so wonderful to work with! And thank you so much!
Kate S. says
This is such happy news and such a joy to read. Heartfelt congratulations!
Thank you, Kate!
I love how you share your family’s adventures and decisions while acknowledging that they are not the one and only correct path. You encourage others to figure out what is right for their families and pursue it, and that is beautiful!
I really appreciate that, Julie!
KAREN EDMISTEN says
I’m so happy for you and Daniel, Haley! This sounds like such a perfect fit all around for where you guys are in life right now. It’s everchanging, isn’t it?
It really is! Thanks, Karen!
This is such wonderful news! Selfishly, I’m excited to hear the part that you’re writing more books because I’ll love to read them. 🙂 Congrats to you all and wishing you lots of blessings along the way! 🙂
Thank you so much, Christine!
You have always been an inspiration to me and now you are even more so. What is your main new job, though? I have been a freelancer for years and even when I have a ton of work I can’t support a family on it so would love to know more about what you are actually doing as your primary job. Totally understand if that has to stay private. Thanks for sharing all you already shared; it is amazing and wonderful.
Hi Najwa! I mentioned in the post that the three main pieces of the puzzle are books, contracts, and podcast. Speaking is also part of it when events are happening! We also try to keep our living expenses super low (not that it makes us unusual! Most people do this, but it’s definitely part of making it without two full-time incomes).
Thank You for the update. Glad you are all doing well. God Bless.
Marion and Marilyn
Thanks for reading!
Congratulations on your new venture! I was a SAHM for 10 years and homeschooled the early childhood years. So worth it. Well done so far and all the best for the future!
Thanks so much, Jane!
So happy for you. You are definitely an inspiration to me.
Congratulations! Can’t wait to read more of your adventures.
(Also, I just love the radiance of Hildie’s little face. I have a hyperemesis baby (now 12), too, and there’s something so so wonderful about seeing such a vibrant little person coming out of that tough time.)
How exciting! Nothing wrong with earning a living while your children are in the care of the other person who loves them most in this world! Wishing you the best.
Thank you for sharing your family’s experience, Haley! I love how you and Daniel have divided and conquered work and household tasks throughout your marriage. I relate to being in the thick of the pregnancy/nursing cycle and trying to pursue creative outlets like writing on the side. Unfortunately, my husband currently has a very demanding job in the military, so this season is offering a bit less work/life balance. I recently read “The Grace of Enough” and was very inspired by your family’s focus on quality time together, community, and care for creation. I am now motivated to create routines and traditions that foster these values for my family in each season of life. Thank you for all of your work…I look up to you!
Congrats! Sounds like a pretty deep journey. Haha:) Money is always tricky. I hope you all figure it out! Blessings! God be with you and godspeed.
Laura F. says
This is so wonderful, Haley! I’ve been following you for years, (though I’m a rare commenter), and am so happy to hear about these changes-it sounds like a wonderful fit for your family. Also, I am a rather surprised by the depth of these questions-you don’t find some of them a bit…prying? lol