Less is More

Less Is More

For some families, exchanging salaries and pensions for

home time is worth it

By Samantha Tengelitsch

While some people are forced to take part-time work while they seek full-time employment, others are choosing to reduce their hours. In some cases, they're giving up salaried positions with benefits and pensions in exchange for more time at home. According to first-quarter averages released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month, part-time workers are on the rise, up 2.7 percent since 2009.

A new mother finds balance

Leelanau County resident Erin Lane said she took pride in the long hours she worked in real estate to support her family.

"I liked the work, the pay was decent, and I was self motivated. I even went in on Saturdays," Lane said.

When she discovered she was pregnant, Lane moved to a different office that was closer to home, hoping to slow her pace.

"At that point, I was three months pregnant with our first child," she said. "My husband and I had just built a new house on acreage and we were enjoying building our household." The house and property, while a dream come true, also represented a financial strain for the family, and Lane worked through her pregnancy.

"As the months wore on, I became increasingly uncomfortable sitting at my desk for eight hours every day, and staring at a computer left me drained and with a headache every night. In my discomfort, I often broke out in sweats and felt extremely dizzy," she said.

After having her child and upon returning to work, she grew increasingly concerned she was spending too much time away from her daughter.

"I felt rushed and pressured to return to work because I had to keep the money coming in," she recalled. "Despite recovery from birthing trauma, nursing issues and post-partum depression, I was back at the office when Robin was just three months old. My increasing frustration with my situation led me to start asking the big questions: Is this really what I wanted? Was having cable worth hours and hours of my week being productive for someone else?"

Her answer? "Absolutely not."

Soon after, Lane began reducing her hours and launched her own business, aptly named Retro-Spective, selling retro furniture and house wares at Wilsons Antiques' East Bay location.

"For the past couple of years, I've been focusing on paring down our lifestyle so that I have time and occasion to enjoy my family, friends and home and – for the first time in a long time – pursue my passions. I want the work I do to feel natural, fun, creative and empowering."

What matters most

Matt Beery, of Elk Rapids, often worked up to 70 hours per week to support his family.

"I was exhausted," he recalls. "My job consumed my life."

He started looking for work that would allow him to focus on what mattered most: his family's quality of life. "I wanted to get my life back," he said.

Before long, Beery landed a position as a groundskeeper at Munson. "I love it," he said. "I now only work 40 hours a week and I have a life again. It's great to have balance."

Beery's wife, Karin, supported the move to fewer hours. "I've heard it said that people who make less money, but like their jobs, spend less and save more than people with high salaries at jobs they don't like," she said. "Matt doesn't have the overtime, so he makes less, but he likes it so much that we're spending less on comfort items like going out to eat and movies."

Creating a new reality

Gerard Grabowski and partner Jan Shireman co-founded Pleasanton Bakery on similar principles. The couple, known for their brick-oven baked artisan breads, said the price of a $60,000-a-year salary was too high.

As the couple broached the idea of starting a family, they found themselves at a crossroads of a good, stable livelihood juxtaposed with time spent away from family to earn the higher income.

"I saw I was going to be away from home a lot," said Grabowski. "The cards were stacked against us, so we knew we needed to play with a different deck, or play a different game."

Recognizing a niche for healthier, locally-grown foods inspired the family to launch a bread-making business from their home. While the move afforded them time together as a family, Grabowski said, "Starting your own business is a 40-hour-a-day job. So, the whole concept of shucking the 40-hour work week by no means is to infer that you're not engaged in your work."

Following the births of their children, the couple chose to home school and worked in between lessons, often incorporating their knowledge of baking and the family-run business into their children's early education.

Working from a simple business model, the couple supplied two or three stores with bread throughout the winter, making up the difference in the summer months.

"We worked from home for 15 years," Grabowski said. "We had some sanity, we supported ourselves very meagerly, but enough. You have to create your own reality and hope society will meet you because you're doing this different thing."

Grabowski and Shireman alternated breakfast duties, with one of them baking bread and the other preparing breakfast. But they ate together as a family every day.

Five years ago, just as their daughter was thinking about college, the Pleasanton duo finally moved their business away from home, relocating to the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Their daughter now attends Middlebury College in Vermont and their son will be attending Northwestern Michigan College.

"The world isn't going to provide for you the template," Grabowski said. "We had to make the decision: What's best for our family and then how can we make a living? Instead of, how can we make a living and how can I fit in my family with my job? That's always a struggle." BN