Wow this school year has me just about as busy as I’ve ever been! As a stay-at-home dad, sometimes I wish that having all 3 kids in school all day this year would mean that I could lay in bed watching Netflix all day, but that’s just not the way it works! Yes I am free of kids till 2:00 PM when I leave to get the kids from school, but my afternoons and evenings seem to be full everyday. This week for example, I am coaching 3 soccer games and 2 soccer practices, along with teaching my adult small group at church Wednesday night and helping with children’s choir at church after school today. I’ve been so busy that I’ve been neglecting my blog, and it doesn’t help matters that I have been sick the last few days. I’m actually writing this post from my phone right now as I wait in the overfilled waiting room at the doctor’s office. Along with my sore throat, I lost my voice over the weekend, making it nearly impossible to coach and teach.
You might say, “Ok so your afternoons and evenings are full. I work full-time and coach my kid’s soccer team. At least you can still relax while the kids are at school!” If that’s what you think, then you are incorrect. Even if those daily after school activities were my only scheduled obligations, there are still matters of grocery shopping, cleaning the house, doing laundry and somehow finding time to run and workout.
This is where I must confess that I am currently failing on many of these fronts. Our laundry has been backed up for weeks. It all gets washed, but then it just piles up on my bedroom couch and rarely gets put away. My running and workout routine is shot. I haven’t run in 10 days. First I had a bad muscle strain from trying to hold a jet ski in place in waves with my feet while its gas was being refilled. The jet ski floated away quickly from the dock. I had one foot on a wood beam and one foot on the jet ski. I nearly did the splits, and the painful results felt like a torn groin muscle. I rested my legs for a week, but then I got sick just as my groin started feeling better.
Then there is my house. Except for running Toby the robot vacuum, I have been failing to keep the house clean too. In fact I have been worse than failing. I have crowded and cluttered our house to the point where you can barely walk through our living room and master bedroom. What is all this junk that has covered our floors and tempted my wife to collect my life insurance policy?
Over the last month of summer I stumbled upon an opportunity to make a little extra money. I previously wrote about our big family garage sale in August and how we managed to sell out the entire thing in 1 day. (It was supposed to be a 2-day sale.) As we prepped for the yard sale, I pulled many of the best toys to try to sell on eBay, where I once sold thousands of items in college, and Amazon, where I just recently opened a seller account. We had many toys for which people would expect to pay $0.50-$1.00 at a yard sale, but for which people were paying $10, $20, or in some cases $50-$100 online. I’m not talking about Dollar Tree junk, but I’m referring to action figures, nice Disney play sets and vintage toys from the 1960s-1980s.
So I listed a few of these toys, and the next day I sold a Handy Manny talking tool box set for $80 on Amazon! That’s when it hit me that selling toys online had a real potential for some great profits. So I unexpectedly started spending more of my time selling toys online, which was good because we could use some extra money.
After doing this for a couple weeks with items from our own playroom and my mother-in-law’s attic, which she was cleaning out to move, I was starting to make a little money, but not every toy sold instantly for shockingly high prices. Still I could see the potential of making decent money with more inventory of quality products. Then I started looking around town for more inventory that I could sell online. It was all great, but I didn’t really have time to do this all the time. I like making some quick cash, but I did not consider it to be a business opportunity.
It was about that time that some unforeseen changes in our family made it so that Jennifer and I need to make more money. We do not need a fortune, but we need additional steady income, not just a one-off bonus from a yard sale. Obviously when one spouse works full-time and the family needs extra income, usually the 2nd spouse gets a job. Ever since Jennifer and I became parents, we have always (I should say God has always) worked it out so that one of us is able to be an at-home parent. Sometimes Jennifer did not work at all, but other times she worked part time with a flexible schedule. With our current situation, if we hope to continue to have 1 of us always available to keep the kids during summer and holiday breaks, along with being available for sick kids and other parental duties that fall between regular business hours, then we would have to think outside the box.
GIVE IT ALL TO GOD
Every time in my adult life that I have accepted or left a job with a church or a business, I have always entrusted it to God and followed His lead, and every single time the dominoes have fallen into place. When I was in grad school I was working a full-time temp job that turned into a nightmare after a few weeks when they tried to change my responsibilities from sorting mail and carrying boxes to cold-calling senior citizens trying to sell them Medicare Part D Supplemental Insurance. I did not sign up to be a telemarketer for $12/hour, and I quit without another job lined up and trusted God to provide. I walked out of the building on my last day and got a phone call before I even reached my car. It was an old boss of mine with a Wells Fargo company offering me a full-time job for $13+/hour, health insurance, plenty of paid vacation, etc. I accepted and worked there for 3 years, supporting myself through grad school, my first 2 years of marriage and through the birth of our first child (thank God for that health insurance). It was a nice company with nice people, and if it was what I was supposed to do with my life, I could have stayed there and worked my way up the ladder with who knows what opportunities. However, we eventually reached a crossroads and moved on to new things that were right for our family.
Doors open and close as God sees fit, and my family goes where God takes us. Which is why it felt a bit fateful that I was just getting some online sales going when we realized that I need to find a way to make a steady income for my family while also still being available to our children. In other words, the best thing for our family right now and in the foreseeable future is for me not to just be a stay-at-home dad, but for me to be a work-at-home dad where I control my own schedule.
We live in a small town, and there are not many good employment opportunities. The decent jobs will 99.9% of the time be full-time hours working according to someone else’s schedule, including summers and holidays when the kids are out of school. Plus who really loves having a boss? Now don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in discipleship and mentoring. I believe in working your way up in life and having accountability to others for the decisions you make. A good boss can lead you to better yourself and the world, and a bad boss can take advantage of you and work you to the bone for little compensation. I have had both, and now I have simply reached a point where, given the opportunity, I would rather work 50 hours per week and be in total control of my own schedule and be free to travel with my kids during the summer, than to work 40 hours a week for somebody else, according to their business hours, for the same pay. In other words, I will work my butt off to have freedom in my life and to have a schedule that allows me to not stick my kids with a babysitter or nanny all summer. I would rather work insane hours all spring and be free all summer than to work a steady 9-5 job all year with 2 weeks vacation if I’m lucky.
I’m not putting down regular business careers by any means. If that is what my family needed me to do, then that is absolutely what I would do. Maybe one day I will be in a regular business career like most of the other men my age, but for now I am hoping to avoid that locked-down, freedom-squashing schedule, opting rather to teach my kids to experience life and not be a slave to a job.
Long before I ever went into ministry I had visions of being an entrepreneur. God took me a different direction, yet here I find myself more than a decade later faced with the opportunity to either create my own income or yet again work for someone else.
2 WEEKS LATER
I’ve been so busy that I while started writing this post 2 weeks ago as I sat waiting for 2 hours to see the doctor, I never finished it. Now here I am 2 Mondays later sitting at another doctors’ office, waiting to see the pediatrician with my daughter, so I figured I would pick up where I left. Life has not gotten any less busy.
The big change is that our house is now clean. I had to put all my eBay listing aside for a few days and spend my time organizing my inventory with the hope of seeing the floors of my house again.
6 WEEKS LATER
Once again I never finished this post, so here I am another busy 6 weeks later… Since I started writing this post, soccer season has ended, and Will has already started basketball practice. We took a family trip to Disney World, which I will write about in another post, my brother visited from Alaska for the 1st time in nearly a decade, and I took the kids camping at Rock Island State Park in Tennessee (which I once again will write about separately). I also have continued trying to build an online business out of my home. It has not gone as smoothly or easily as I had hoped, but I am learning a great deal and starting to see what works and what does not.
Will selling online pan out as a legitimate full-time job from home? That still remains to be seen, but I will try to keep writing about my experience. I have other ideas that I want to pursue to both be my own boss and spread the Gospel to others across the world, but my big ideas, hopes and dreams are more long term goals that will not bring quick cash like selling on eBay. I want to put all my education and ministry experience to good use and write Bible curriculums, books, study guides, etc. for home-school parents, home groups and children’s ministries. That could take awhile to develop into something that actually makes money, and the runner in me says that my big dreams are more like a marathon, while selling on eBay is more like running a 5K race. For now I will follow the road before me and trust God to take care of us financially.