Why Don’t You Get a Real Job and Stop Abusing Those Poor Kids?

The Nomadic Family - Gabi Kalf and Co

This is a guest post by Gabi Klaf.

My mother recently wrote, “I cannot support what you are doing to the children.” Kobi’s mom won’t stop crying and sending guilt-tripped, concerned messages, including but not limited to, “I’m so upset that you’re not coming home that I can’t sleep at nights.” Fun. My  father says we’re inflicting irreparable damage to our offspring and told me the other day, “There is a reason that everyone in the world adheres to socially-accepted norms. You can’t change the rules just because you feel like it.” But here’s the funny thing Dad, I can. And I have and what’s worse, I will continue to do so.

I hate to shake things up and the truth is, I really do hate to shake things up. I usually don’t. I avoid conflict and face-to-face stand-offs like I avoid wet dogs on a hot day. Way back when, whenever people would talk religion, politics, or money, I would leave the room. I always had better things to do with life than stand there, being preached to by highly-opinionated people about things that I really didn’t care about. Eons ago, I stopped watching the news as I wasn’t interested in the negativity that they were pitching. Today, I leave the online discussions, and worse, I pull away from my family, who ask me in that you-are-so-in-the-wrong-child tone, “Why don’t you get a real job, act like a responsible adult, and give your kids the stability they clearly deserve?”

The Nomadic Family Lived and Worked in Siem Reap, Cambodia's Garden Village Guesthouse for Five Months
The Nomadic Family Lived and Worked in Siem Reap, Cambodia’s Garden Village Guesthouse for Five Months

I can’t possibly ignore the white elephant anymore. Come on, he just farted so garishly that we either choke and gently wipe our hankies to our powdered noses or we burst into laughter till the snot comes out and our stomachs hurt. We can go with the ‘Pride and Prejudice choice A,’ but wouldn’t that be as Barbie plastic and fake as pretending that all those in white-picketed-fenced-nine-to-five-two-and-a-half-kids-and-a-dog-retirement-planned life are happy? And we wouldn’t want to continue feeding an unexplored, unquestioned propaganda-ed lie just because it’s a norm that everyone has accepted, like that cow milk is good for you, even though we are the only animal on the planet who keeps consuming breast milk (of another animal species, mind you) long after we are independent. Hmmm.. So, why don’t I get a real job and give my poor socially-deprived kids a stable life? Because mom and dad, as a couple, as individuals, and as leaders of this family, we are so damn happy.

In the un-conservative way I see life, it is not my life mission to make my child happy, especially at the cost of sacrificing my own life-joy. The way I see things, a happy mom and dad makes happy children and a happy family. Of course, life back home had unreal perks, long-term relationships, and so much that we dearly love and miss. But the truth is, I believe, that so many of us grew up needing those social networks in our class or youth group, not only because it was fun, but because, just maybe because our parents were so emotionally unavailable and that family life was so unhealthy that we had to create a ‘family’ network outside of our homes. Imagine what life might have been like if your parents didn’t have to work, clean, cook, run errands, and chauffeur you all the time? Imagine what a child’s life would be like if they had in-love parents, pursuing their dreams, who were emotionally and physically available to them? Imagine what life would be like for a child if they woke up, unrushed, to cuddling and talking.

While waiting for lunch they play board or card games as they talk with their parents and the day is spent getting dirty and exploring their own wild imagination, not sitting in front of a mind numbing digital screen. And night after night, they would be lulled to sleep under the sound of their father reading A Wrinkle In Time? Imagine what it would be like for a child to be at the same exact hierarchical disadvantage and utter cluelessness as their parents as they hitchhike on the back of banana pick-up trucks throughout Central America, return in the pounding monsoon rain from Angkor Wat Temples, and mime their most basic needs to populations who have rarely seen the elusive White Man? Imagine what that does to a child’s self-growth and self-confidence to experience open-ended world travel with their parents, to share in the most unreal adventures alongside of a wide-eyed, clueless pair of loving adults?

The Nomadic Family Kids at Bayon Temple, Cambodia
The Nomadic Family Kids at Bayon Temple, Cambodia

Did anyone ask those kids who attend school for 8 hours a day, have homework for another 3, and are then dragged off to after-school activities if this is the life they wanted? Does anyone every say, “Listen, son, we’re going to work our asses off, be perpetually exhausted, and, oh, Dad will be virtually non-existent so that we can afford this standard of living. We’re going to sacrifice the very fibers of our soul to give this life to you? How does that sound, son? Would that be alright with you?”

No, no one asks Jr. if mom should also have a career, if dad should take the promotion, or if he would rather attend private or public school. No, in the vast majority of cases no one is deliberating with Jr. about the kind of life he wishes to have as a child. And is one life better than another? Is homeschooling better than system schooling? Is city life better than country life? Is a life in a Japanese American school superior to one of a child being moved by his parent’s military career to his newest school-of-the-semester ? For that matter, is there only one right, sane, proper way to raise a child?

I know I’m answering your question with questions and that might annoy me too. It’s just that rather than point a finger here, I would like to question one of the unquestionable pre-accepted norms we’re comparing my alternative life-style choice to. Yes, it is “insane” to travel the world with kids as a way of life. I’ll grant you that, but in that same breath, I think the normal way is even more insane. It’s just an insanity that everyone has bought into; it doesn’t seem so odd anymore that everyone around you is a slave to taxes, rat races, bureaucracies, and keeping up with the Jones.

As we enter year three of non-stop world travel, I must tell you that I have learned so much about the world (most famously in I Know Nothing and 99 Other Things The World Has Taught Me), about blissful, utopic, uninhibited happiness, about my family, and about myself. In terms of parenting, I’ve learned to give my kids poverty for Christmas, perpetual barefooted-ness, and an uncensored world education. I’ve learned that there are endless combinations that can lead to ecstatic joy and that any of those can bond and create a family life that I never knew was possible. Is my life choice ideal in every respect? No, none of them are. They all have their own unique, effervescent glow of ying and yang. As they should. I do hope my life-style choice gives others the guts to examine their own. I do hope my too-honest blogging inspires others to consider this other nomadic option. I do hope my nuclear family can continue our lives as The Nomadic Family until we deem it no longer meets our needs. And, above all, I truly hope our extended families can learn to sleep at nights, open their eyes to the fact that we are happy, and maybe, just maybe, learn to be happy too.

theywontgrowing

Let’s finger paint! Come on, let’s! You know it’s been a long time since you’ve allowed yourself to get messy. I’d be honored to hear how badly I’ve inspired you or ruffled your features. I’m joyful to bring this discussion on the table and see what mess we can make of it, together.

Why Don’t We Get Real Jobs? Because we are so damn happy.

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About the Author

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You can find more of Gabi’s unorthodox opinions and world travel adventures at The Nomadic Family.Insanely unorthodox, embarrassingly honest, and on her path towards spiritual awareness, Gabi Klaf blogs about her family’s ups and downs in their now third year of non-stop budget world travel. This family of five has lived with an indigenous tribe in the jungles of Ecuador, hitchhiked throughout the world, danced with drunk Vietnamese at weddings, and are now training for their Fall 2013 Annapurna Circuit trek where a film crew will accompany them for a documentary movie about how The Nomadic Family is redefining modern family life. Gabi writes about the untold sides of family travel life, those moments that take your breath away, adventures and mishaps while globetrotting, and how bits of her soul remain in this small town and off the side of that river. She is a guitar-stumming, energy-healing, ADHD wind-loving scaredy cat. Hugely romantic, tantalizingly sweet, and hysterically funny, Gabi Klaf represents a rare Rubix’s Cube of family world adventure.

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This post forms part of the ongoing series: Why Don’t You Get a Real Job?

47 Comments

  • This is fantastic. Thank you for writing it. We too face family that does not understand our stray from the social norm. Sadly, I also think they do not see our happiness. Keep it up!

    • Family is a difficult one as they always have expectations of you. If you are happy, keep living your life in the way you live it. What more is there to ask for in life?

    • Thank you dear Jade. It’s tough when we decide to go out on a limb and do things that those who love just can’t understand. They just can’t. I hope you guys find your own path to happiness. So much love and respect, and thank you for taking the time to comment, Gabi

  • I’m with ya! Hubby is an rn and as soon as the house sells, we are jumping ship! He will do part time contract travel nursing to sustain us while we live the true american dream! Thanks for sharing!

    • Laurie,

      I’m so glad you guys are making your dreams come true. Good luck with the house and I know, as you travel, you will find the way to make it all work for you. I do hope you’ll stay ‘in touch’ online on our blog and facebook and we love all the new and inspirational friends Jamie is sending out way. hugs, gabi

  • Thanks Jamie for pointing me to this post. I’m not sure I could ever take off permanently with my family (I found after just a year of doing it alone I was exhausted).

    I think there has to be a middle way, the extremes of modern life where everyone wants more of everything all the time is just plain wrong. There needs to be moderation in everything. I found the constant seeking of new things whilst travelling was empty – whenever I found something new and interesting I would embrace it, but after a while(6 months, a year) I got bored of it and moved on. Travel needs to be grounded in stability, only certain people have the mindset to build a life around instability (IMO)

    • Sometimes it can be hard to maintain something without a goal. I like living without plans but I can appreciate the other point of view too. As for children, I have no idea and that is still a long way off for me. However, at the meantime, I love the nomadic lifestyle and I hope for that to continue. I have read some interesting accounts recently of people who choose to write, video, do certain other creative interests as they travel in order to sustain their interest and this seems like an interesting idea. I have some upcoming plans so I’ll have to see how they pan out and how I’m feeling after a few more months of extended moving.

      • Where there is a will there is a way. It’s one reason i started my website, so I could earn money on my terms.

        • matt, I love that you see all the sides of travel, and yes, we also struggle at times with the exhaustion of the all-the-time new. for that reason, we don’t move that much. we spent 3 and 1/2 months each in almost the same place in both panama and peru, and 8 months in Cambodia, 5 of which were in the same hostel. yes, travel and life back home had a constant ying yang of meaning, boredom, lostness, and joy. we’ll just keep celebrating all of that. thank you matt.

  • You know I get it! Totally get it. I’m about to inflict the same abuse on my own children. Something someone said to me this week ” But won’t it be great when you put them in school and they’ll make lots of friends, I loved school.” No it will not! All these people that loved school and made lots of friends, did they ever experience an alternative? Were they rushing to school on a Monday morning, glad that the weekend was over? Did they lookforward to the news school year, glad to be giving up their freedom again? I doubt it. They just made the best of it because it was ALL THEY KNEW. The same as our parents enjoy their lives because it is all they know. You can’t really blame them for not understanding, but I do wish they’d butt out of our lives.

    • Alyson dear, how ever did you find me here love? I know, I know. not easy at all and sometimes it’s just great to know that there are others that understand how badly you are about to abuse your poor kids too. i’ll be the first to write to children’ protective services about you. watch out love, the world awaits you. gabi

  • Wow, thank you for this blog… so very inspiring to those of us who feel trapped and wish to do more than the same old with our kids. Its nice to see someone who has made it happen and it shows that the social norm is not everyone’s ideology of happiness. safe travels

    • I strongly agree with your words Sean. I hope Gabi’s story can inspire you to do whatever it is that you wish to do. If I ever have children, I hope to live in the same way.

    • Seanb,

      I agree with Jamie. I’m so honored and overjoyed that this offers you another way to look at what is happiness. I’m not saying there is only one way, mine; just that there are lots of options and this is the one we choose. thank you for sharing your feelings. I do home you join us online on facebook and youtube, both are ‘the nomadic family.’

      thank you, and Jamie, you rock, you know that right?

      gabi

  • wow! nice read. The scariest line in the post is “There is a reason that everyone in the world adheres to socially-accepted norms. You can’t change the rules just because you feel like it.” I do it all the time. haha!

    • Qi Heart. Yes, it is a scary chaotic world when you decide you don’t have to follow what they say you should do. I’m not saying let’s murder or rape cuz we feel like it, I’m saying if something seems right for me, even though others don’t see it as an option, it doesn’t mean I can’t do it. Social norms are for those who care to follow them. Some of us, dear Qi, choose not to. I like that too. connect to me on facebook Qi. I’d love to see how your life choices are pulling you along. gabi

  • Hi, Gabi.

    Obviously as full-time travelers we’re on the same page about all this, though fortunately Mark and I don’t have to deal with the negativity you guys do. Though he misses us, my dad’s super cool about our travel life, and anyone else who might have had a negative opinion had the courtesy to pass away long before we hit the road.

    You wrote, “Imagine what it would be like for a child to be at the same exact hierarchical disadvantage and utter cluelessness as their parents.”

    This is my favorite line in the whole piece, and you’re absolutely right. There’s something really special about sharing a challenge with your child from the exact same perspective. About being equally surprised, equally confounded, equally inconvenienced, and then solving the problem together. I love (often in retrospect, I have to admit) these moments, because they teach adaptability, independence, critical thinking, ownership… So much great stuff.

    Really good read. Thank you. And hang in there! 🙂

    • renee, thank you dearest. yes, I wish my parents and kobi’s would think the world of this, but they don’t and I can accept that one day, if my kids do something that I think is totally wrong, it will be very hard for us to sit quietly on the side and smile.

      I love sharing cluelessness with my kids. thanks for the love renee. I’ve missed you recently. gabi

  • Gabi! I love your post. Can’t believe I found you here too. There is no right or wrong, but you are the only one that can decide what is good for your family. We made the move to Spain, but we are hoping to make it over to Asia next year and be more mobile. You are helping to inspire that without a doubt. Keep being real!

    • Peek a boo! or should i say, “Tag, you’re it!” really love, we have to stop meeting like this. You follow Jamie’s blog too! Isn’t he the best? And funny, I should find you here too. Why are all of these pick up lines coming into my head, and ones I’ve never used…. Yes to everything you said. Yes! I am so honored and overjoyed to find that my big mouth is inspiring others, especially you. did you like the farting elephant part or was that too much? mwah! gabi

      • Yes, I loved the farting elephant part! Actually I love it all. You and your family have such good energy and are so positive. I love that. We try and flee from the negative stuff too… sometimes, it is those that are close to you. Parents will come around one day or not. We are lucky in that my parents say GO GO GO… I think after me living in other countries several times now and they are in 70’s, they say do it all while you are young. Now they wish they could but aren’t physically able. So they are all for us doing whatever we want. Take care and I’ll see ya (read ya) around.

  • I love this post. Great argument – I love the part about no one asking you as a kid do you want to grow up in the same place and going to the same school… So true. People only think its the “way to live” because they don’t know other ways. It is hard that you are an adult and they are challenging you still. I’m sorry you have to go through that. It’ll be interesting to see the path that your kids follow when they are old enough to live on their own… it may not be yours. 🙂 That’s the great thing about life, isn’t it?

    Take care and keep on keeping on.
    Anne

    • Anne, Thank you for writing. You know, what you said is exactly how my husband and I try to deal best with the situation. We say, imagine if our kids were to do something, marry someone which we think is just toxic-awful, how hard would it be at times to accept their life choices if we honest-to-God think it’s just wrong. It’s hard when you kids grow up and do what they think, what they should, and suddenly all you ‘invested’ in them is gone to whatever influences them today. i get that. i do. And with that, I find empathy for those who raised Kobi and I and cannot for the life of them understand why we would choose to abuse our kids and waste our lives as we are. Thank you Anne! I hope to see you more online, and together, we’ll see the life choices our next generation takes. Do you have children?

      Gabi

  • The “normal” culture of the American family was forever changed back during the Depression when people went wherever they could to find work and families for the first time were no longer living in close proximity to each any more. I’m sure your own parents followed their own path in raising their family that veered somewhat away from their own parents and possibly caused them to not live nearby them. It does not make any of us bad and I’m sure there are things we are teaching our children from our childhood. The only thing the extended family is upset about is they don’t get to see the grand kids the way they want to. That happens no matter what. Live your life! As long as they know right from wrong and grow up to be responsible adults that’s what counts!

  • You are one of my heros in life and I never even met you. We left our stable jobs to travel with our kids too. Love it most of the time. You are inspiring me to take the next step and have courage to live our dream. I do hope our paths cross some day in this wonderful world. Peace and love to you my friend. Barbara

    • Barbara, Thank you my friend. Sooo much love to you too. I am soooo honored and touched that I can have any role in serving to inspire another soul doing what their heart whispers, or screams, is right for them. Please find me on facebook so that we can keep connecting. And if you have a blog, please LET ME KNOW SO I CAN BE INSPIRED BY YOU TOO LOVE! And, our paths have already crossed! 🙂

  • How sad that your family has such a narrow vision of life. You can’t just go create your own rules? What an awful way to “live” life! F that!

    • Talon, If I had a little French small-rimmed hat I’d be tipping it at you at this moment. Yes, F that, and we are. “Well here’s the funny thing Dad, I can.” Yeah. Thanks for sharing it. I thought you would love the part where the elephant farts. Did you? 🙂

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  • hi there Gabi,
    i know just how you feel..I made a choice 17 years ago, to marry the man i love, and live with him in Bali.My parents have never come to terms with it.It has been very hard,and they do resent me for rejecting their lifestyle and choosing a different one.Although after a while I find i am starting to recreate that life here, and really do not want to.I admire what you are doing, and love reading your posts, which remind me to keep living the dream, and not get lost in that crazy life

    Thanks for all your inspiration

    Mary

    • Mary, I already must love you a lot. This is my third time writing this comment. (Island internet not too stable here). My best friend from high school left the love of her life because mom hated him, only to marry him, one divorce, two kids, and ten years later. The second time she told me accept it or leave my life. It’s a tough choice.

      I do believe our families are meant to teach us so much. Mine and yours. Mine and Kobi’s rejecting what we are doing has helped us form new families, like you, who do accept and love us, and they, we keep close to our hearts. I hope you find me on my blog and in Facebook so we can keep connected and keep giving inspiration to each other to live in our own truth.

      God bless you and tough choices Mary,

      Gabi

      • I feel honored to get 3 messages from you!! I think we have had some similar experiences in our lives..I spent a year in Israel working on a kibbutz.i am fascinated how you are able to keep traveling, I always ended up having to get a job to find my travels, and since having kids have stayed in one place a bit too long.i have 3 kids too, and find their school system totally uninspiring, so would love to take them away to learn by experience..

  • Well you know I agree with you 100% since we are doing the same “damage” to our children. This was really well said Gabi and I love to see you insiring others. Keep the naysayers out of your life. Just because they birthed you does not give them any rights to treat you badly or even have contact with you at all.

    • Mary, How nice to see you here and cheering for the child abusing team. Funny how it’s just hard for people to get it that people can make choices so different from their own and be so happy, and that that happy is not less significant than their definition of happy. I love creating new family all the time, family who loves and accepts me the way I am. And still, I think our families are here to teach us so, so much. Thank you Mary.

      Keep abusing yours, I’ll keep abusing mine,

      Gabi

  • Hi Gabi,

    Greetings from Australia! Are you thinking of coming down here? Beware, its damn expensive!

    Anyway I just feel like crying right now after seeing your video.
    I’ve just turned 24 and I feel like my whole life I’ve been trying to impress my parents and follow their ideals in life. This has caused me extreme heartache as I could never tell them about the man I love, I have had to hide things and it has taught me to lie. In the meantime I have lost him and it is heartbreaking.
    Now I have decided to do what I want so I can truly be happy because I really do not want any more heartache nor do I want to be deceitful.

    Keep doing what your doing because you are all having a truly enriching and unique experience. You learn more about life and people by travelling and you children are very privileged to be educated in this setting.

    I was told that without your parents blessing, everything you do will fail. I am not sure about how true this is but it is nice to have family support. Just tell them that eventually you will have to come home and that this is a temporary but profound experience.

    Goodluck! Stay safe!

    • i am so touched and honored that you shared this with me dear. i do hope you connect with me on our facebook page, or the blog so that we can keep writing personally one on one. i send you all the love in the world. you are amazing and beautiful and it is your family who is missing out. so much lvoe to you. connect with me, ok? gabi

  • Amazing! I am well-familiar with the difficulty encountered by the ones closest to you when challenging social norms and breaking free from a preconceived notion to free yourself to true happiness. This is still very much an active struggle for me personally, and it is inspiring to see you so boldly admit to these hardships and see you come through stronger and wiser than when you started. I look forward to learning more of your journey, and using the wisdom you’ve gained to better my own experience.

    • so do i cry now, or after i fully comprehend the weight of this message? keep commenting michael, keep following, we have much to learn, together. i love you. gabi

  • Hi Gabi,

    I love this post. It’s a true love story for Valentine’s Day.

    I feel for you not having your parent’s support but, if it helps, it’s so common. It’s sad not to have support from the people we love most but we have to accept that, try to love them anyway and know that it’s just because they’re misguided, fearful and worried about us.

    If I could have my childhood all over again I’d love to be part of your family. If sounds fabulous.

    x A

    PS. And Hi Jamie, I loved your post too. I’m 44 and have only had a few proper jobs for a year at a time and only then because I knew it would just be short term and would help me save money for travel.

    My husband and I haven’t had proper jobs at all for 15 years now and we never want to again 🙂 Great to meet you.

    • I’m glad to hear that Annabel. I think that we must be walking similar paths and I feel reassured to know that yours is still working out well.

    • dear annabel. you again come in as an inspiration to me. thank you for walking the path that clearly both jamie and i are walking. yes, it would be nice to have their blessings but not essential to do what you are passionate about. yes, you could be my kid 44 year old annabel. any time. and, then, maybe you could teach me how to flush those toilets in japan.

  • Couldn’t love it more- the post and the experience. Life is yours to live, that’s all that matters. If your kids are learning, healthy, and happy then you’ve done your job. More than that, you’re a good parent.

    PS – will your husband read a Wrinkle in Time to me, too? We could Skype….

    • paula. thank you. thank you. they are learning and healthy and happy. and, like all parents on this globe, i’m doing the best i know how to. thank you. and kobi would be honored to read to you a wrinkle in time- officially the best book on this planet.

  • no way! i could read this a hundred times! is it possible that my article sounds better, looks better, flows better, and sits better when it’s live on your site? no way! jamie, you’ve done a great job pissing me off enough to answer your question, “why don’t you get a real job.” your writing has inspired me to reply, and i thank you friend. I look forward to seeing more of my work here and more of your work on our travel blogs. much respect and thank you for letting me share my voice here too. [she bows] gabi

    • I love your ideas Gabi and I am more than happy to share some of them here. Thank-you for a wonderful eye opener and helping to show that anything, such as travelling the world with a young family, is possible.

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