If there’s such a thing as the equivalent of postpartum depression after moving out of your birth nest, I can safely say that we have passed that stage with flying colors.
So it’s actually been ten months since we’ve moved to our new home in Los Banos. It’s also been a couple of months since I last checked on my blog, and even longer since I posted anything in here. Finally, I got around to writing here again. I have a lot of news, lots of stuff going on with me, and our new life in our new home, the farm, and the kids. But the most important stuff I really want to share right now are the things we already thought we knew, but are learning over and over, especially since we went on our own.
1. Family time is precious and priceless and is not convertible to cash.
Since Uri was born and I quit work and Turo had devoted all his hours off to spend with the kids, we have always believed that we were giving our children adequate time for bonding and strengthening our relationships as a family. A few months after we moved, Turo quit work and invested instead in establishing his own farming enterprise. Several months after, I also quit my consulting job. Turo’s farm is a short walk away from where we lived and my new office relocated to one corner of our apartment. This meant two things, either we were both working from home all day, or at least one of us was home any time of the day.
For a time, Turo and I felt a bit disoriented considering how different our new life is from our super-fast paced life back in the city. It was as if our life slowed down to a near halt, but of course the kids were there to woo our worries away. The time we spent with them were but ordinary. We ate meals together, watched movies and telenovelas together, brushed our teeth together, just the normal things that people do everyday. Since we moved, we hardly went to the mall, we haven’t seen a movie, we rarely go out of town, we didn’t go on a vacation, nothing ultra-special took place. But we have gotten the most number of kisses and the greatest number of thank you’s from our children for things as simple as pumping air into their bike tires, putting up a basketball ring, buying arroz caldo from a street stall, letting them wash their briefs or water the plants.
We don’t even owe it to ourselves the way that we have been able to spend so much time with our children. It was not as if we had to give up a lot to get to where we are now. The most we had to sacrifice was our economic productivity. This might sound impractical to many, but while we may be less financially stable now considering that we both have no permanent employment, we are actually investing in our own skills and strengths and we know that we will be reaping returns from these investments in the near future. We are doing the things that we’ve always wanted to do, earning from it, and experiencing fully and first-hand how our children are growing up. It does sound too good to be true, doesn’t it? It can be done, though, but only for those who are willing to put time for family before anything else, and this means before finances or career growth or other personal interests.
2. A tight-fitting belt can be tightened further.
We used to try to compare our lifestyle with those of other young families just like ours. We splurged on occasional travel and eating at fancy places but we felt that we had our spending under control. We were saving a considerable portion of our combined incomes which we kept for bigger investments such as a business or a car. And we thought then that we were living within our means.
When we moved to Los Banos, we were more than surprised to find out that a lot of the basic necessities were much expensive here compared to the prices of commodities in the city. It could be a consequence of high toll fees in SLEX or the increasing cost of gasoline, but more than anything it was an unexpected reality check for us and our monthly budget.
Just when we were living on highly irregular income streams, we now have bigger regular expenses. We had to pay rent and utilities and shoulder all of our food expenses. Apart from these, we had to stash some more cash for school tuition, car maintenance, gasoline and toll fees for whenever we traveled back to Manila, plus save a little more for emergencies.
Thankfully, we were able to adjust to the springiness of our financial condition. We were able to cut down on our medical expenses because the kids have gone beyond the age of sequential vaccines and because we get free pedia check-ups here. We were able to reduce our food spending by refraining from grocery shopping and buying everything fresh from the market. I’ve long known that processed food take up a huge chunk of our less necessary food expenses but never got around to skipping them when food shopping. While we skipped chips and hotdogs, we bought biscuits and cereals and milk in cartons and they all added up to the bill.
Now we cook pancit or mami or pasta for breakfast instead of the no-cook cereals and milk. We let the kids drink fresh carabao’s milk, not formula or reconstituted milk. We give them pan de sal with locally produced cream cheese for merienda instead of biscuits and other packed snacks. And we eat bananas for dessert. We buy and consume only those that are produced or can be bought within the vicinity of where we lived. These are all fresh, far healthier and so much cheaper compared to what we used to buy from the grocery. And we don’t really feel as if we’re skimping on anything just because we’re keeping to a tighter budget.
3. A dream is worth investing in.
Let me go back to Turo and his reunion with agriculture. Putting up a farm had always been part of our long-term plan, but it had always been pushed back because Turo, as any household head, was bent on providing adequately for his family. We moved out of the city because we wanted to go further toward this dream, but we didn’t expect that things will just fall right into place this soon.
It was a huge risk for us, to let Turo leave his job to concentrate on setting up the farm. It meant dropping our main source of income that pays for all our everyday needs. It also meant all cash outflows and no inflows until six months after, when the farm was starting to be productive. It meant draining away savings and incurring debt. The total cost of this investment was way more than we can afford. But we were willing to put in all money we had, and all money we are about to earn, so that this undertaking becomes successful. After all, it’s just money we’re losing, but we’re gaining the satisfaction and fulfillment of realizing our dream. Which do you think is worth more?
At present, the farm is still a work in progress. We started with hydroponic production for lettuce, but now we are gearing up to produce organic vegetables and herbs. We are battling with production problems, weather conditions, marketing, management, the whole gamut of issues that hound any agricultural enterprise. But we are learning incessantly and the farm is not even halfway to its fullest productive potential.
Just recently, the kids went on vacation with my parents for a week and Turo and I worked at the farm the whole time they were gone. It was hard physical work, the kind of work that I never expected I would do but only wrote about in the agricultural publications I used to work on. But sore muscles and all, we walk home at dusk together each day as if every inch of soil we tilled were the greatest achievements we’ve ever had.