I worked in corporate America. I personally saw or was involved in lay-offs, corporate mergers, and hostile takeovers! And….. I have worked for myself for twenty years since then. From a quality of life perspective, I would not wish corporate America on my worst enemy, much less my own children. You might say, I am in full Rat Race Rebellion.
Let’s define what is “the rat race”. The wikipedia definition goes something like this:
“A rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to the modern city, many rats in a single maze expend a lot of effort running around, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually.”
Now, honestly, that definition is a bit too sensational. For me, the rat race is completely and totally consuming… mind-wise, time-wise and focus-wise. In this model, we tend to focus on climbing the ladder and using the title / money equation as our measuring stick for success. We work long hours and look for the financial reward. And, if that is what success means to you and you are in corporate America, then you are in the right place. But it is a trap, one that is very seductive and alluring. We have become obsessed with material things, stuff, wealth and keeping up with the Joneses. America no longer makes anything, we have become a consumer economy… and what’s worse, it is funded by us going into debt! We have been programmed to want more and more stuff, Bigger is better… Live The American Dream! That dream is a nightmare for families. Our children don’t want more stuff… the stuff is a temporary fix to fill a hole that we are leaving. That is the irony. That lifestyle we are chasing to give our family bigger houses, nicer cars, more vacations is tearing apart the very fabric of our families, our communities, our nation. There is a word for this “American Dream” and we just coincidentally learned it this week while reading Henty’s The Young Carthaginian … cupidity.
cupidity: eager or excessive desire, especially to possess something; greed.
How much is enough?
What do you need to be happy? Our family keeps the Biblical feasts and each year for Sukkot (Feast of Booths), we camp out. Throughout this feast we discuss the ancient Israelites’ Exodus out of Egypt. We ask the boys if they were in a similar exodus could they take all their favorite things with them on their backs? No? How about in a wagon? Or an SUV? How about an 18 wheeler, would that fit it all? And we quickly realize how much stuff we have. But is the stuff a luxury or just extra baggage? How much do we need to be happy? How much is enough?
What are we teaching our children by what we do?
If we tell our children that stuff is not important, yet we live in a cluttered house, full of stuff that we just can’t part with… are we sending a mixed message to our children? Do we just have to have the coolest, newest, latest techno-gadget? Do we need monster screen TVs so we can spend more time watching sports than being with our family? Our children are watching us and they learn from what we do, not what we say! Did you open the Bible this week? Once? Did your children see you praying?
What is the alternative to the Rat Race?
We have been introducing entrepreneurship into our homeschool for years now. The conversation has not been about money though. Rather we discuss the need to find what they love to do and create a business around it. How we hope to accomplish that is we introduce them to lots of experiences… things they might enjoy actually doing to earn a living. Their current list of opportunities they are exploring includes: photography, web design, photoshop, illustrator, homesteading, writing and blogging, farming, raising farm animals, refinishing furniture, and an online business. They have identified some things they don’t want to do for absolute sure, which is valuable insight too!
Do you want time to ponder? To create?
The one fact we constantly return to when discussing with our children their future lifestyles, relationships and careers is that THINGS can be traps. THINGS have to be maintained. Dusted. Cleaned. Protected. Insured. And there is a price you pay for each of those aspects. I wrote about this topic in another article, The Real Price of Stuff. We have all become so accustomed to living the lifestyle of a rat chasing cheese that we have lost our ability to discern boundaries. Balance. We have lost our focus on people and relationships. We have forgotten the freedom of not being bound (enslaved) by debt.
I know it is quite intoxicating to climb that ladder and use it as our measuring stick of success (especially when you are moving up). I owned a VERY successful and lucrative recruiting firm for technology employees. My clients included Disney, Hilton, International Paper, Williams Sonoma, Wal-Mart Corporate, Tyson Foods, just to name a few. I Get It. I lived it. However, I chose to homeschool and that choice had consequences. We are now in the process of dramatically downsizing our life (house, cars, clothes, farm, everything) to focus on our family, and our quality of life instead of chasing the money. And since our children are watching intently how we walk out this phase of our life, I pray we are sending a powerful message to them about where family, relationships, and friends rank in our life. One that they can learn from us without having to experience the same mistakes first-hand.
During this process I had to really explore what my own priorities were and discuss my decision with my husband. Did I want to return to the “drop my kids off corporate mom” or did I want to be a homeschool mom? I decided life is short and I want to spend all day, everyday with my children while they are still home. To limit the outside influences like peer pressure and the entertainment industry. To help them learn about the world and understand it through our system of values. That takes time. So, you see my rat race rebellion is really about prioritizing my time and choosing where I spend it. And in the process, teaching my children by my own actions.
One final thought… I am NOT encouraging our children to not work for Corporate America… but I AM suggesting they investigate all their options. And, if they choose to go into Corporate America, they will have my blessing, because they will have their eyes wide open and hopefully will have their priorities firmly intact.
Until Next Time…