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What if money was no object?

December 6th, 2012

Narrated by the late Alan Watts the above video addresses issues I’ve had with societies perpetual indoctrination of young minds with the ideology that the end goal in life is a career were you make money, lots of it, as if it brings some kind of resolve or resolution.

I opted out of this cycle years ago, in fact I never really bought into it. Growing up there wasn’t a lot of money around with a single mother raising 3 boys. We lived in hand me downs, made our own toys and buried ourselves in books.

That said it’s not like I didn’t have parents who weren’t worried about where I’d end up in life and they encouraged me to take up tertiary studies to have something to fall back on. Since I was living under my mothers roof I could but only oblige and so I studied fine art and graphic design (yes, I understand for many these may not be the best choice of fall back options!).

My passion was always music and I plowed everything I had into it and while I worked in the field of new media circa 1997-2002 it was a means to an end to make my passion a career. By 2003 I was on my way to having released my 2nd album and later 3rd, both nominated for South African Music Awards and which took me to over 80 cities worldwide to perform my music working with many of my luminary musical influences and heroes.

The downside in all this is that I left my then girlfriend, now wife and mother to our two children for up to 7 months of the year while I was on the road. In 2005-2007 I went back to working in design while she finished up her accounting internship and I started learning to build and repair electronic equipment on the side knowing that my end goal was to open a recording studio to keep me involved with my passion of music, but closer to home.

For 3 years I ran one of Cape Town’s best equipped studios, recorded over 100 records, mostly young independent bands and a few well known international acts, but I was working 12-16 hour days, 7 days a week and in 2010 I spent 7 weeks of 7 days juggling 3 projects, the last of which my swansong, Annie Lennox’s ‘A Christmas Cornucopia’.

I got back to South Africa two weeks ahead of Nathan’s due date, my career could have cost me one of life’s most precious moments and it was a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make and so I decided to take a year off to become a stay-at-home Dad. I leased the studio, took a small retainer we started to enjoy life a lot more.

Why me? Well Kathy’s moved up to become a senior manager in one of the Worlds largest accounting firms, earns more that I did, has family medical, dental and other fringe benefits and works fewer hours… It wasn’t a hard decision.

A year past and I decided not to return to the studio life and sold my assets, in that time I’d become the primary caregiver, family cook, urban farmer and added a string of other titles to husband and father.

Two years in now I’ve become a homemaker, decorating our house with thrifted finds, landscaping and building a place for us to call home.

Sure going from a dual income to single income has meant cutting back in many areas, but the quality of life we have is far superior to the life we had. My career changes had nothing to do with failures, rather a shift in focus to do what was best for our family and lives, rather than making money our goal.

It’s bought with it emotional challenges, I’m still constantly fighting the archetypal notion of the male breadwinner, being that I now make the bread rather than buying it.

Kathy’s going to return to work next month and I’ll be staying home with the two kids and have put measures in place to help ease things. We have a fantastic childminder, Happy, who will help me 4 mornings a week. Nathan will be a play school for 3 of those, giving me 4 hours on those days to pick up some freelance work, probably in electronic design work and hopefully leave time for my weekly blogging commitments and my day to day household chores.

All this to say, follow your heart. If you’re unhappy in your current work or life situation, change things, don’t live out of fear and let it paralyze you. I’m proof that change doesn’t kill you, it will move you, it will shake you, but you may just come out of the other side feeling happier and more at peace with those decisions.

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5 Responses to “What if money was no object?”

  1. Kenn Gibson

    Great article Matt! My wife and I are in the process of opting out of that cycle too. Since we adopted our daughter last year we have launched our own organisation called ‘adopted heart’ caring for orphans, educating about adoption, helping in the process! It’s become a passion and while getting out of the cycle may take some time, it’s good to finally have some direction.

    that and the songwriting/charity/ministry iniative that I have rolling in my head!

  2. Matt

    Hey Kenn,

    Thanks! I’m glad to read of your news in launching your own organization. I feel that often people like yourselves get stuck in the mundane of day to day living to earn that it pulls you away from your passion to serving those around you and I hope that you’ll be able to transition into a phase of life that allows you to be able to fulfill both these roles.

    Cheers

    Matt

  3. Bob

    The video is thought provoking, but ironically your story doesn’t seem to entirely align with its message. I would have thought that your work in the music industry was a better example of following your passion than is your wife’s work in “one of the world’s largest accounting firms”. Even if people do get really passionate about accounting (there’s a surprise!), I struggle to understand how that could outweigh a mother’s desire to be the primary caregiver for her children. If I think of my own wife, looking after our kids is without doubt the one thing that she would choose to do “if money was no object”. But I know there are lots of working mothers, many voluntarily so, so maybe that passion for being the home-maker is not as hard-wired in mothers as I thought it was.

  4. Matt

    Hi Bob, Kathy LOVES her job, and not just accounting, but auditing! She fought her way to being in the Top 10 in the country during her articles and since she studied her BBusSc with a finance stream (4 years), she still went on to do her post grad (1 year) and 3 years of internship, if you add the years up she could have been a registered Dr!

    She LOVES our children, but she loves the office and the challenges that it brings her. She felt I could offer the kids a wider range of holistic studies than she could as I love the outdoors, do all the cooking, grow our food, sew, craft and take care of our home and have done all the landscaping and interior design, all things I’m passionate about, more so than I was about music after a decade of doing it, though social norms prohibited me from experimenting/experiencing many of these.

    It’s an antiqued notion that Mother’s and Women are natural homemakers, there are many independent women out there that have chosen a career over child rearing and likewise I’ve met Mothers who are awful at child rearing, their husbands are better, but nobody will say a thing because of social norms.

    The video was merely to highlight that money doesn’t need to govern your career choices and addresses the issue of indoctrinated social norms.

    We each have our own story to tell, this is ours.

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