Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids

Finding Balance in Early Retirement with KidsFinding balance in life is tough.  Between your regular job, chores, time with spouses or people you’re dating, and going out to play with friends and family, time is limited.

The fact is that we all only have 24 hours per day… 168 hours each week.

Then you throw a kid into the mix… ha!  Good luck!  It’s like a turbulent hurricane of confusion every day.  And the frenzied mess doesn’t scale well either.  With each additional child you have, it gets even more chaotic.

So finding balance between everything in life is tough enough, but with kids, you’re almost out of luck until you quit your job or your kids grow up.

At least, that’s what I thought.  I figured that once I left my job, I’d have more time for everything.  More time for this blog, more time for Mrs. R2R, more time for hobbies and dreams, and maybe most importantly – more time to spend with my daughter.

Don’t get me wrong – I do have more time than I had, but so far, it’s not adding up right.

I struggle finding balance in general.  I’m a checklist guy at heart.  Everything (and I mean everything) becomes a checklist item, which is absolutely great for staying on top of things.  I’m very detail-oriented and I’m off-kilter until I can create a system to handle things.

On top of that, I always want to get everything done… like right now.  So lack of time has always been a big contributor to my stress level.

I can’t wait until I’m done working so I can finally have time for everything!

Yeah, well guess what – I overestimated my free time.

It’s only been a few weeks, but I’m still having difficulty in finding balance between everything.  Let’s break this down a little, shall we?


How I envision my day

Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids - How I envision my day
I KNEW IT!!! This is the sign at the apartment complex’s exercise room. I don’t see signs like this at the furniture store talking about recliners being risky… maybe that’s the better bet!

Leading up to my last day of work, I had a vision in my head of how things would flow.  I’m not looking for everything to be scheduled – hey, it’s retirement after all!  But I did still picture my average day generally flowing something like this…

  • Wake up around 7am when Mrs. R2R brings my daughter into the bedroom.
  • Watch a little bit of TV with her and then have breakfast together as a family.
  • After she heads to school, Mrs. R2R and I go to the exercise room at the apartment complex for a workout.
  • Take a shower and let the day begin!
  • Spend some time with Mrs. R2R.  Maybe take a walk if the day is nice.
  • Eat lunch with Mrs. R2R.
  • Work on the blog for a few hours.  Do a little work on a post and start making some changes to overhaul the site.
  • Start doing other projects on the to-do list:
    • Maybe start putting some of our stuff on eBay or Letgo (we are moving out of the country, after all!).
    • Time to crack open the list of some of the hobbies I want to pursue in retirement.
  • My daughter should be home now, so spend some a few hours with her and Mrs. R2R.
  • Read a book or watch a movie.
  • Go to sleep smiling about what a great day I had.

Not anything crazy, right?  It seemed pretty realistic to me and if that doesn’t hit on the “finding balance” scale, I don’t know what does!  But guess what – it’s not exactly how things have been going…


How my day actually flows

Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids - How my day actually flows
Look how stupid this was getting! I at least started shaving my neck though, so it wasn’t all bad.

Yeah, I’m learning pretty quickly that early retirement doesn’t actually give you extra hours in the day… stupid 24 hours!  Here’s how the day’s been flowing for me…

  • Wake up around 7am when Mrs. R2R brings my daughter into the bedroom… so far, so good!
  • Watch a little bit of TV with her while she eats breakfast.
  • After she heads to school, Mrs. R2R and I sometimes make it to the exercise room for a workout.
  • Maybe take a shower.
  • Holy crap – it’s lunchtime already!  Eat a quick lunch so I can try to get something done.
  • What the @#$% is all this B.S. in my inbox?  I guess when you’re no longer “working” you still need to deal with crap like paying bills and other day-to-day routine stuff.
  • Work on the blog for a couple of hours.
  • Wait – what just happened?  Mrs. R2R is leaving to pick up our daughter from school already?!
  • Spend some time with the two of them while still trying to get a little bit of work done on the blog.
  • Time for bed for my daughter – why am I already so tired?
  • Maybe I’ll read a little bit and go to bed… one or two chapters done – man, I really am tired!
  • Go to sleep kind of stressed that another day went by without me getting anything done.

So yeah, not quite what I was aiming for in my typical day.  This is honestly how things have been going the past few weeks.

I’m learning real quick that kids can throw a wrench in the works of any plans you have in mind.  Whatever your agenda is, their plans are completely different and are more important than yours.

I’m also pretty sure that any parents reading this are nodding their heads and thinking, “duh, you didn’t know that???”

And yeah, of course, I know that kids are a big demand of your time.  However, I also anticipated that I’d magically be able to fit everything into my day once I left my regular job.


Finding balance between the two

Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids - Finding balance between the two
Our last Ohio winter… I’m willing to pretend I enjoy it for the remaining few times we’ll play outside in the snow!

First of all, realize that the reason this finding balance concept is tough because I love my daughter and absolutely want to spend as much time with her as I can.  She was my catalyst for early retirement in the first place.  I love being around her and watching her grow and learn – she’s fun, funny, smart, creative and years beyond her age.

And second, it’s still only been only a few weeks since I’ve retired from my job.  I had already anticipated a learning curve along the way – just not quite as frustrating as it’s been so far.

But, here’s the good news – like I mentioned earlier, I’m a man of systems.  I figure out a way to make things work – that’s just my nature.

So I know I’ll get this figured out.  It’s an important harmony that needs to be worked out.

And the solution is simple:

  1. Don’t feel obligated to spend every waking minute with my daughter.  In all reality, she probably doesn’t want or need that anyway.  She’s eight years old and starting to figure out her own life.  Daddy-daughter time is fantastic, but it’s time for Dad to start easing off a little (and only a little!).
  2. Stop feeling stressed about getting everything done.  Sure, that’s easier said than done, but I need to start appreciating that there’s always tomorrow.  And that’s especially the case in early retirement.  I’ve now gained close to 50 hours every week and need to wake up and realize that it’s not crunch time all the time.
  3. Find some new hours.  It’s great that I’m sleeping in a little and getting up at 7am with my daughter.  But do I really need to be going to sleep early, too?  I’ve enjoyed catching up on my sleep, but I can probably stay up a little later and get a couple hours of work knocked out each day… that’s huge!

Yeah, that’s all there is to it.  It’s time to stop whining like a baby, take the steps I just mentioned, and start enjoying my days of freedom even more.

Interestingly enough though, I came across an old post from Mr. Money Mustache called Embracing the Nagging Voices of Success.  It seems I found this at the right time because I can relate to a lot to a lot of what he is saying…

Through all those years, I was looking at it the wrong way – I thought that the voices were there because I really sucked and really was always behind on everything. But eventually, after far too long, I started to notice that I was actually pretty far ahead, when measured against an average person of my age.

Finding balance between family and my “task list” is something I’m going to continue to strive to attain because it’s important.  But it’s comforting to know that even though I might not perfect this goal, it’s not necessarily a failure on my part.  It could very well be that I don’t even realize that I’m subconsciously just pushing toward success each and every day.


Everything changes…

Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids - Everything changes...
This won’t be most of the homeschooling, but it’ll be a nice change on the days off!

It’s funny because once I actually get this figured out, we’ll be leaving for Panama shortly thereafter.  Then, among other things, we’ll have one more big time-sucker to throw into the mix… homeschooling.

We’re planning to homeschool our daughter for the first year in Panama since we’re not going to apply for residency right away.  That means we’ll need to leave the country multiple times throughout the year for 30 days at a time.  Schools tend to frown on it when your kid’s not in school for multiple months of the year.

I’m actually excited about the idea of homeschooling though because it gives us a lot more flexibility in being able to do other things we want like continue to travel.

That said, it’s also more time that’s going to disappear from the day.  It’s a little different when you’re the teacher – you can’t really count that as family time together.

In other words, I’m going to have even less time to work on projects and such once we move to Panama.  I’ll need to figure out a new game plan at that time.

Mrs. R2R has been digging into the homeschooling more and more throughout the past few months.  The more we’ve discussed it, it’s probably going to be a mix of both of us doing the educating.  That should be helpful in spreading things out a little bit.


Kids are worth it

Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids - Kids are worth it
King of the world!!!

This is not a post where I’m looking to complain.  I couldn’t be happier with how blessed we are in life.  We’ve saved enough money to buy ourselves freedom allowing me to retire at the young age of 43.  We’ll run into hurdles just like anyone else, but we’re happy with where we’re at right now.

Taking a step back, this is far from a bad problem to have.  I don’t have enough time because I’m spending too much time with my family?  Seriously?!

There’s never been a better dilemma.  You get one time around with your kids… one.  And I have that opportunity right now to spend hours and hours more with her than I could ever have when I was anchored to a 9-5.

However, I feel it’s my duty to provide you with an honest look at what I’m running into.  Finding balance is hard in general for a lot of us.  But kids make it a lot more difficult.

And early retirement is great, but it doesn’t solve all of your problems.  Time is still finite and you need to find that harmony between what matters and what really doesn’t.

It’s still early in the process but I’m betting that there will always be some things that get put on the backburner so I can spend more time with my daughter.  Kids are worth it and those memories we have together outweigh the urgency of any of the projects I want to get done.


Have you ever had a problem finding balance in life?  If you’re a parent, have kids been something that made the balance harder to maintain?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

31 thoughts on “Finding Balance in Early Retirement with Kids”

  1. This post almost read my mind. I struggle with balance all the time, ergo the name of my blog. But we just adopted a little boy and I am struggling all the time in my head with trying to be the productive scholar I am, being there for my son completely and pursuing FI and having the life we had. I know something has to give but I don’t want it too.

    1. Congrats on the adoption, Jason! I definitely get the feeling of being torn because you want to do it all and don’t want to let anything go. Read that Mr. Money Mustache post I mentioned… we’re doomed to be this way forever! 😉

      — Jim

  2. I’ve definitely had a hard time finding balance over the years. When the girls were little and I was a stay-at-home mom I wanted our evening to be this awesome family time. But I also needed time to focus on me and recharge. I got in the habit of leaving for the gym right when Chris got home so that I could be back for family dinner and bedtime routine. But if I didn’t get out the door right away, I never went. And going to the gym after bedtime -forget it. There was no way I was doing that! That was my time with Chris! Then when the girls started school I thought I would gain all this time. I was going to go to the gym during the day and free up more family time. Instead, I spent most of my time driving to and from schools and sat or laid down on the couch with my eyes half open savoring the quiet, not having to get up to handle another request. And now that the girls are all in school full time, the days go by really fast. When I start feeling overwhelmed I remember something my therapist suggested, just pick three things to accomplish. Sometimes one of those would be emptying the dishwasher, lol. But the great thing was that I felt accomplished by those smaller tasks (or braking a big task into smaller ones) and ended up getting more done. I also remember reading something like that on Zen Habits. He encourages setting very attainable goals so that you can accomplish them easily and feel lifted up, which then creating this self revolving cycle of meeting your goals.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how home schooling goes. We’ve talked on and off about it for years, especially if we were to live abroad for a year or so!

    1. You and I are a lot alike, kemosabe! I like that idea of accomplishing three things… since I’m so task-list-oriented, that could be really helpful.

      Mrs. R2R’s really getting on top of the homeschooling, so I’m sure we’ll have some good stuff to share soon!

      — Jim

  3. Quite often it feels like kids are using up all of our time (and energy!). However, it is really interesting to look at how your days go, as you can clearly see the big part of the day is actually without them. And yet the feeling at the end of the day – and I can totally relate to that! – is “Go to sleep kind of stressed that another day went by without me getting anything done.”

    I think there is something to learn about ourselves there!

  4. I can totally relate, Jim. We’re empty nesters, yet I still have many days where I wonder where the time went, and why I didn’t get anything done. Enjoy the transition. The stress is 100% self-induced now. So … Induce less, and enjoy the experience. As I said in my post retirement article, “Retirement is exactly as I expected. Retirement is nothing like I expected”. Both are true. Weird, right?!

    1. Wait, so the day still flies by even once the kids leave the nest? What the son-of-a?!!!

      I like your advice, though that’s hard for the Type-A side of my personality. However, the other side of me that wants to sit around and drink beer all day long is raising a glass to that!

      — Jim

  5. We don’t have children and the days seem to fly by as retirement people. Some times I go to bed and wonder where the day went but I know I have a smile on my face and no work related stress. I also have lists of tasks that need to be done, some are completed and some move to the next day. Before I retired I had many items to sell or donate and not much progress has been made on the selling portion. I was able to give away many of my work clothes and my husband finally agreed to his donations over the Christmas holidays. Someone can use the wonderful suits, tie, shirts etc. Just not us. All good news in retirement just different than what was expected. Currently planning a vacation to Costa Rica vs selling stuff on ebay, hahaha.

    1. Some times I go to bed and wonder where the day went but I know I have a smile on my face and no work related stress.

      My father-in-law said almost this exact same thing to me the other day. That’s exciting to hear – it’s almost like hearing “it’s Ok to relax a little.”

      Love the vacation planning instead of working on selling stuff! And the best part… who cares? You’ll get to it eventually. 🙂

      — Jim

  6. I had the same reaction when I started my mini-retirement, and I’m still having it now to some extent. It’s almost like you can never truly get totally absorbed in something because there’s always that nagging feeling in your head that you know you’ve got to do something at a certain time.

    Now, I’ll have six hours between the time I drop my daughter off at school and the time I leave to pick her up, and while I can accomplish a lot, it’s hard to get into a flow. I just find myself always looking at a clock to see how much time I have left before I gotta leave.

    I feel you on lists, too. I found it helpful to still keep a list of stuff I wanted to accomplish with my day. Even if it didn’t get done and I had to roll stuff over, at least I felt like there was something tangible I could point to for what I did. Now I’ve got a whole whiteboard of stuff I’m doing and that helps keep me on track and feeling good about the day.

    I did start to ease up several months into the mini-retirement in terms of feeling like I should always be productive. It’s just hard to disengage from that mindset when it’s what has served you so well all this time!

    1. That nagging feeling and always looking at the clock is dead-on… drives me nuts. Interesting to hear that it took several months for the feeling to subside – that sucks, but it makes sense that you’re undoing a mentality that’s been ingrained over decades.

      I was just reading about the car accident – so sorry, but I’m glad your sons weren’t hurt.

      — Jim

  7. Hi Jim,

    Appreciate your effort in providing your perception on your retirement lifestyle.

    It will be handy when I call it a day on the full-time employment.


  8. Last year I wrote my post on kids being the best reason for financial independence (here fyi: ), and I still believe it today.

    Having time to spend with your kids when they’re young is a gift. If I wasn’t FI, I’d be stuck in an office for 12 hours a day and never see them.

    Kids might make our lives hectic and chaotic, but they’re worth it in my opinion. Yes, we did have to save a little more than your average FI’er… but so what!

    1. I definitely wished I could have quit the job while my daughter was as young as your kids were, but regardless, I’m glad I get to be with her now every day before and after school. The beauty of being retired is that now we get to spend our time smothering our kids and driving them nuts! 😉

      — Jim

  9. Your ideal versus actual days sound a lot like my weeks off. I have a lot of them now, but they always fly by and I’m usually either getting caught up on blog stuff after a week or weeks of travel or work, or trying to get ahead in anticipation of upcoming work or travel.

    I’ve heard that the state of feeling “caught up” is a myth. I believe that. As soon as I check one thing off the list, I find two to add. I’m sure it’s the same for you.


  10. We should be thankful that we have kids. There are thousands of people who want kids but do not have due to some medical issues. Kids are god’s gift. We can not be never happy living for ourselves. We can be happy only when living for somebody else be it kid, spouse, parents etc. And life always need not be planned and executed. Life is like a river. Let it flow freely.

    1. Thanks for the insight, Adarsh. I’m more thankful than anyone about my daughter and I’m happy to spend as much time with her as I can. I’d love to be a kid with her all day everyday, but I think if I’m not taking time to do things like the pay the bills or not pursue other dreams myself, it’s not healthy for anyone. Eventually, there still needs to be a good balance in getting things done – the key is that early retirement buys an opportunity to spend more time with kids than you generally could otherwise.

      — Jim

  11. I have a lot of trouble finding balance in life. I tend to do go do one thing very intensively for a period of time, then focus on something else entirely for a while after that. I don’t do well at parceling out my time and energy, unfortunately.

    I’ve learned to make it work for me as best I can, but it’d still be nice to have a little more balance when it came to working on my blog. I’m trying to carve out time where I sit down and just read other blogs, but it’s difficult because there are so many other things I feel like I ought to be doing at any given time.

    1. It’s funny that this must be just something that only some people feel. I was just talking to Mrs. R2R about this and she always feels like she’s got things to do, but it doesn’t bother her like it does me. Hopefully, you’re on the side where finding that balance doesn’t weigh on you too much! 🙂

      — Jim

  12. I find the day really flies by. Luckily, our kid goes to school so I have most of that time to myself. But once I factor in exercise, blogging, eating, there really isn’t much extra time left. That’s alright, though. I’d probably be bored with too much free time.
    Good luck with homeschooling. That sounds tough.

    1. Man, I would actually love the feeling of being bored for a while – I haven’t felt that in years! Our schedules seem pretty similar – hopefully, I can figure out a little bit of extra time somewhere in there to improve the site and start writing a couple of books down the line, but it sounds like that might be kind of tough.

      — Jim

  13. Sounds like a real struggle I wouldn’t mind trying, but I know it would be the same for me. When I had to take two months off due to a family tragedy, I couldn’t believe how the days flew by. I think I will get rid of all my clocks and time keeping devices for the first month after I retire, setup an “out of town” autoreply on my email, and make sure all my bills are on autopay. 🙂

    We are a bit behind your timeline, but I’m hoping to do the same in 5 to 10 years. I would like to know how it goes in Panama, we are thinking about Panama as well.

    1. I like your thinking, Brian! I should have put some of those rules in place as well! 😉

      I’ll keep posting more about Panama as we get closer to the move date and probably quite a bit once we’re out there. Maybe you’ll be a new neighbor down the line!

      — Jim

  14. This was a really nice post. I’m not retired, but recently shifted to part time, and also struggle with where did the day go and the mix of gratitude and impatience when spending time with my kids. My brain is often offering up that I am supposed to be getting something else done, largely out of incredibly well worn habit. One tiny trick that works for me (when I remember), is to consciously think “This is exactly what I want to be doing right now,” when I am spending time with them.

  15. Hi Jim! another Jim here from PA and I feel such a kinship as a slightly older “retired” stay-at-home dad with a 7yr old daughter. I left my job in 2016 when we moved due to my wife’s corporate career, and even now after >2 years I laughed about your reality vs. envisioned weekdays – feel identical. There’s always still the housework plus I do all of the household financial/admin stuff, after making their breakfasts and lunches earlier. As you mention, it’s easy to get sucked into the email and stuff on the web. Also makes one realize even more that, with coffee and chatting, folks in the office aren’t really getting that much done in one day… Even with free time, you mention in another posting some hobbies one envisions doing after retirement, but sometimes one can get paralyzed wanting to do many of them. Anyway, I wish I had discovered FIRE blogs years ago, but only started exploring them in early 2018 (mostly MMM) – today is my first day with yours but for sure I will start at the beginning and read thru. Best of luck with your family’s future move to Panama! – I will be envious but can’t wait to follow the story (including home-schooling). Unfortunately not in the cards for us since my wife is not on-board with being frugal/minimalist for FIRE. It’s not that we are big spenders – just typical suburban “too much house” and that our daughter does so many activities. One question, with apologies if it was covered – does your daughter have close friends that she will miss?

    1. Hey Jim – awesome comment and cool to hear your story! It really does sound pretty similar! 🙂

      Good question about our daughter… that was one of the reasons we wanted to leave sooner than later. It would be so much harder to move anywhere once she would start establishing close relationships. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to leave sooner, but we’re still in pretty good shape.

      She’s only in the 3rd grade so she’s just now starting to form “bestie” relationships. There’s one girl she’s pretty close with and it’ll probably be a little tough for them when we leave. However, they’re still at the age where most of what they’re doing is talking to each other over video chat, so there’s no reason that has to change.

      Time will tell how that goes, but we’d have the same problem even if we just moved to another city or state… fingers crossed she doesn’t hate us after this move! 🙂

      — Jim

  16. Yeah, BFF’s can form early, even 1st/2nd grade; but video chatting is cool. It should be fine if any other kids are around in the new place – I had a friend who did 5 years ex-pat in China with kids at the time about the same age as ours now – she jokes that they forgot about the “old life” within 3 weeks.

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