Finding Balance May Mean Living With Less

Years ago, I remember reading several funny pieces in the American Lawyer by large law firm refugee, Cameron Stracher. Since that time, I have seen some of his articles in the Wall Street Journal. While I have never read his books on the legal profession, he is a strong and entertaining writer and I imagine his newest work, Dinner With Dad, is a good read as well.

What is interesting to me is that after he gave up large law firm life for in-house practice, Stracher found himself just as busy as ever. And because of some corporate changes that were in the works at his company (always a risk of in-house legal jobs as I have noted here), he jumped back into private practice and found his life once again out of balance. Now he writes about his efforts to be home for dinner every night.

Personally, I have never opted for that sort of existence but I can say with certainty, that there are trade offs. If I worked longer hours, I might earn more. If my wife had gone back to work sooner, (she was out of the work force for 7 years–until just this Spring), we would have saved more. Instead, we have chosen to forgo the annual winter getaway with the family. We have not been able to put as much money into our house as we would like. We have not saved for retirement at a rate that I believe is prudent; and we continue to drive our aging cars.

But our kids are doing great. They are well adjusted, all doing well in school and all have multiple interests. Teachers consistently rave about what a pleasure it is to have them as students and although we as parents, don’t always get to see our kids on their best behavior (who else can you abuse if not your parents!), to me, living with a little less has been well worth the trade off.

I’m not saying that I truly know what it is like to live without. By most measures, we are comfortably upper middle class. But we live in a community where winter getaways and ski weekends are the norm. Many of our neighbors have been doing major renovations on their homes. So in a relative sense, we are doing without. It’s not always easy to see the empty bank account; but I think it would be much worse to not see my kids.

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