Our Journey

Our Journey

I’ve always found inspiration in the developing world where the pace is slow and the people have so little. Usually it’s the strength and resilience in the women that I admire the most. However on a recent trip to Central America I have been changed forever by a group of children – many of them teenagers!! In fact the most respectful, thoughtful , smart, gentle and happy teens I’ve ever come across. Not a lick of attitude amongst them! “Who are their parents?” you ask. No parents, just an amazing organization and a lot of love and structure. As many of you know each summer [...]

Why I created HipMum

Why I created HipMum

I believe women in general are extraordinary, but mothers (not to blow my own trumpet) never cease to amaze me. As the proud mother of four incredible little people (ages 11,9,6, and 4) I understand the meaning of selflessness. Like most families, there is never a dull moment in our house. I’m constantly wishing I had more time to spend with each child and more time to myself. And I wish my bathroom felt less like a highway! Regardless of whether we’ve chosen to work from home, climb the corporate ladder, start a business or stay home with the kids – mothers are the busiest [...]

I am receiving more and more emails asking about our decision to move our family to Nicaragua. It seems I’m not the only one out there who is feeling challenged with with the excess and chaos of our society.

After living in Nicaragua I’ve come to the conclusion that we really complicate our lives in the Western world with disposable income – from filling our homes with so much stuff, to wanting and expecting more and more. The “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality means that we are required to work harder and harder (i.e. more stress) to maintain the life we’ve created, which then strips us of quality time with our family.

The question I always asked myself when I lived in an upper class suburb of Chicago was “How do we teach our kids to appreciate the simple and important things in life? How do we develop a sense of gratitude for what they have and teach them to appreciate and value what they own instead of growing up feeling entitled to more and more. How do I make them realize how incredibly fortunate they are in comparison to millions of children around the world?” To put it bluntly, how can I avoid raising materialistic, self-centered spoilt brats?

To those questions I came up with a couple of answers. The first was perspective. I felt that we needed to give them some perspective and open their eyes to the lives of others. Those kids who don’t spend every afternoon being taxied from school to gymnastics to music lessons to art classes to theatre group to karate to soccer. Those kids who don’t spend their weekends attending birthday parties at expensive venues like American Girl. Those kids who don’t live in houses full of toys, electronic gadgets and plastic crap.

The second was compassion. I wanted to develop a sense of compassion in my children for people with less. I believe when you feel compassion and take the time to help someone less fortunate, you always walk away realizing that you really have nothing to complain about. It gives you perspective, it creates the gratitude and it makes you feel ridiculous for worrying about something that suddenly seems so trivial.

To me perspective and compassion go hand-in-hand. Perspective develops compassion and compassion gives perspective.

I have to admit that all this analysis wasn’t only about the kids. It was also about me and the life I wanted to experience. I was approaching 40 and had spent the last decade bringing children into the world. I was creating HipMum which was centered around nurturing the spirit of the woman behind the mother. That spirit that often…well actually, unavoidably gets buried in the daily grind of raising young children. While developing the brand for HipMum, I really started thinking about ME for the first time in a long time. I was feeling the grind.

“These are the precious years”. “Enjoy every minute”. “They grow so fast”

I kept hearing it over and over from experienced mothers, friends, relatives and complete strangers in the supermarket. Appreciating their wisdom, I would constantly remind myself to live in the moment, enjoy this time, they grow so fast, precious years….

But something inside of me was screaming ‘HOW THE HELL AM I MEANT TO ENJOY THIS TIME WHEN LIFE IS SO CHAOTIC AND EXHAUSTING?”

Having 4 kids is busy – I get that. But add a layer of competitive parenting (that makes you feel that your kids must do every activity on offer or they will be left behind in this world) then busy turns chaotic.

It became clear to me how disconnected we had become as a family. Everyone was so busy doing their own thing. Kids were at school followed by an afternoon of scheduled activities. Younger kids spent their time in the car, or watching a gymnastics or music lesson (brain numbing stuff). My husband left early to commute into the city for work getting home after dark each evening. By the time dinner, baths, homework and the dreaded bedtime rigmarole was over, I would collapse in a heap of exhaustion.

When our house sold in Chicago we decided to make a drastic change. I had just returned from 2 weeks in Nicaragua with a couple of girlfriends and our kids. We had connected with  NPH – a home for abused and abandoned children and had spent our time doing service work with the kids.  It was such an incredible, life changing experience and I knew I had to return.

Read more about that trip here - http://www.hipmum.com/our-journey/

Getting rid of our whopping mortgage and a lot of our ‘stuff’ felt great. It was like we were untangling from a huge spider-web of consumerism and conformity and following our hearts.

For a year now 90% of our material possessions have been sitting in a storage container in Chicago. We have not missed a thing. We are choosing to spend 6 months each year in Nicaragua and 6 months in Park City UT.

In Nicaragua we completely check-out of the rat-race. The pace is slow and life is simple. We arrive with 5 suitcases and live in a 2 bedroom villa that is perched up a mountainside overlooking the bay of San Juan del Sur.

Our kids go to school and play with kids who live in one-room shacks with a dirt floor. Just as language is no barrier for kids, neither is this. There is no materialism, no toy stores, no afterschool activities – just good old-fashion outdoor fun.

We learn Spanish, explore the beaches and jungles, surf, swim, watch the sun go down, spend time with kids at an orphanage and meet new friends. As a family we do all this together.

As my husband’s business is based in the US, we decided to spend 6 months of the year on US soil. We chose Park City in Utah mainly because we had friends there and had visited a couple of times in the past. We thought it would be nice for the kids to learn to ski. We rented a fully furnished house and have now been here for 4 months.

We have loved our time in Park City – it’s a very cool town with friendly, laid-back people who truly value an outdoor life-style. We love being on the mountain with our kids – skiing, hiking, tubing and sledding. Again, activities that we all enjoy together.

My husband still works long hours – in fact he’s working more than ever, but in both Nicaragua and Park City, his office is 5 minutes from home. And when he’s not working, he’s playing hard.

The kids finish the school semester here in June and it’s back to Nicaragua for the rest of the year. Life is good – simplicity is lovely and quality time together is key. We are enjoying this time, these precious years that pass by fast.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Hayley Bracewell said...

    Oh Man! you make me weep – it is how it should be. You are brave and amazing and the best kind of mum there is.

    Apr 06, 2012 at 4:55 am
  2. Ali Davis said...

    Thank you so much for putting my vision and dreams into such beautiful words and action. I live in Park City and I saw your name on Jane’s List and I just spent the last hour looking through the website. I have a 3 year old and I have been searching for a way to immerse us both into a Latin American culture every summer for the exact same reasons you have described! Originally I opened my computer tonight to list our condo on craigslist specifically so that I could try to fulfill this vision and there was your website! Fabulous! Thank you so much for your inspiration. I know now that it can be done!!

    Apr 24, 2012 at 11:50 pm
    • HipMum said...

      You are so welcome! Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with. I am in Park City until June 5th.

      Apr 25, 2012 at 12:33 am
  3. Michelle said...

    The life you are living is so close to what I hope to acheive with my family. Simplicity and togetherness and thankful hearts that must overflow onto others. That is the dream I have for us. Hopefully, we will be serving alongside you and yours someday. :)

    Aug 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm

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