The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: If you've ever fantasized about ditching the cubicle for a more expansive life, Jessica can guide you through it. She and her husband left their high-profile jobs and created a simpler life in a small town for themselves and their three boys. Through her new website, she shares in detail how her family did it, to inspire others who feel the same itch. She also coaches other families on how to homeschool in a low-stress, enjoyable but effective way--a service she never dreamed would be as relevant as it is now! ~ Mary Margaret
You just launched your new website, Recalculating Happiness. What sparked the idea?
My husband and I have made so many changes over the last three years to create a life that aligned with our priorities. As we re-prioritized, we began taking small steps towards a new vision for our family. We wrote a new plan for our lives and dared to take on adventures as a team. We were opening ourselves up to change and what it would look like to live in a whole new way, one where we curiously approached the things we always dreamed of doing.
It all started with us deciding that we needed to spend more time together as a family. My husband, Matt, worked for a Fortune 100 company on Wall Street and traveled Monday through Friday each week for over 10 years. We missed him and decided the best way to be together more was to start traveling with him while he worked. This meant a new city every week, us squishing into a hotel room.
Matt would take conference calls early in the morning on the bathroom floor with the door closed as we slept. When he worked during the day, I would take the kids around the city to learn and explore. This time together made us realize that we wanted to travel together more often.
Matt took the unconventional approach and left his job. We spent the better part of a year taking a trip around the world. It was learning at its best--new cuisine, languages, mindset. It was more than we could have hoped for. However, once we returned, we thought we would pop back into our old life. But it all just didn’t feel the same. We decided to sell our house in the suburbs and most everything we owned to downsize. Now we live in a small mountain town.
So, what sparked it? Along the way people would listen to our story and always say the same thing: “I wish I could do that,” or “I have thought of doing something like that.” We started Recalculating Happiness to show people that going after your dreams is possible. We probably aren’t any smarter or richer, we just decided we could do it!
Can you tell us a little about your family’s previous life? It sounds like you were living a version of the standard American Dream. When did you realize it wasn’t all you had hoped for?
We very much were living the American Dream. Fifteen years earlier, when Matt and I got married, we made a checklist of all the things we wanted to achieve in our life. They included working at a Fortune 100 company, having a few kids, having a beautiful house in the suburbs, and saving for retirement.
We worked hard for years to achieve those goals. We were doing what we thought “should” fulfill us but it left us unfulfilled. We were on the right path by cultural standards so we never questioned it. Until one day, we did. We stopped to think about what it was we really wanted: a bigger house now? A higher-paying job? This was when everything changed. We started to re-prioritize. The new checklist included more time together, sharing experiences and slowing it down.
Was it challenging to downsize? Is there anything you and your family miss?
Downsizing was not challenging at all! We had just come back from traveling abroad where a one-bedroom Airbnb and our one allotted suitcase was standard. Going back to a 3,700 square foot house, a closet full of unworn clothes and a whole room full of toys for the kids felt underwhelming. We realized how nice it was to actually be in each other's company instead of spread out into different areas of a house. How refreshing it was to look in your closet and love all of the ten things you had in there--each one a favorite. Not to mention how much easier cleaning is!
We have five people in our family and downsized into a two-bedroom condo. The three boys all share a room and when we talk about what we might do next, they are very clear they want to continue that. What do we miss? A workspace and a yoga area would be the icing on the cake.
What have been the rewards of living a simpler life?
This list is endless. When we decided to move to a small town the intention was to live simply. We decided on cutting out all extracurricular activities other than skiing! This meant no chess club, choir, piano--all the things that consumed our evenings and mornings. We also intentionally minimized our social commitments. It took at least a month for our nervous systems to adjust to the change but, now that we have acclimated, our nights are filled with board games, reading and movies. No rushing here or there. It has given us so much white space in our minds and an overall sense of ease.
Did others’ opinions about your choices ever affect you?
We have heard no less than 1,745,789 opinions about what we have done. When Matt left his job, at the height of his career, people thought we were crazy. Then on the flip side, people tell us how amazing it is. I think when you decide to start making changes and realigning your priorities, you have to follow your heart and do what you know is best. Opinions become irrelevant. Not to say that it will be perfect or easy. Change is hard. But it will be worth it. So worth it.
Looking back, is there anything you might have done differently throughout the process?
Oh, sooo many things we could and probably should have done differently but then we wouldn’t have learned all the lessons we did. I think you have to expect to “fail” when you really start to change how you are living. For example, we absolutely loved the old neighborhood we lived in. So, maybe we could have downsized into a smaller house and stayed in that neighborhood. But if we had done that, it would have been much harder to slow it down and experience a simpler life.
How did you learn how to homeschool your three boys? Was it a tough transition?
Learning to homeschool the three boys was all done by trial and error. There are so many different methods and schedules and curriculums out there. Really, the most important step to take is the first one.
One sutra of the Aquarian Age, given by Yogi Bhajan is, “When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off." This rings true for homeschooling. Just start. The transition for the boys moving from public school to homeschool was easy and that is only because we decided it could be. The boys and I work on our mindset, have realistic expectations of each other and give grace every single day.
So many people have been thrust into a homeschooling situation they didn’t exactly plan for! What advice do you have for parents homeschooling during this uncertain time? I’m particularly interested in your view, because I’ve met your sons, and they are so impressive--polite, well-adjusted, down-to-earth, happy boys.
Oh, thank you! My best advice for parents during this uncertain time would be to work on your mindset and your expectations around homeschooling. I believe we are all capable of educating our children but just aren’t quite sure how that looks.
Often, in the homeschooling communities, when transitioning from public to homeschool, we take a period of time to decompress. It can be a month, week or day of waking up and cuddling on the couch to read, listening to music together, taking walks. The purpose of this is to re-frame our thoughts around what learning can look like. To learn in the spirit of joy, not to check something off a list. As far as expectations, many times we just don’t realize that school at home doesn’t need to look like school in a class. It can be easy. It can be simple. It can be fun.
What message do you want to share with the world?
So, you know that little dream that is stored away in your heart? The one that comes to your mind every now and again? Listen to it. Believe that it is your dream to have and believe it is possible. You should love the life you live.
Jessica Klasnick is a former top-producing corporate executive, and currently an alternative homeschool pioneer, mother of three, and founder of Recalculating Happiness. After successfully redesigning her family’s life to incorporate family travel and school with a working spouse, Jessica was the mastermind behind organizing an around the world trip with her family for nearly a year and educating her children in some of the world’s great cities. Her insights into how to organize an unconventional, adventurous life for families desiring change has made Jessica a sought after Homeschool Coach. She focuses on the topic of redesigning family life today. A life-long learner and champion of success, Jessica’s work combines life wisdom with practicality. She is a certified instructor in Kundalini Yoga and a meditation teacher from the prestigious RaMa Institute and a relentless optimist whose motto is “Keep learning, dream bigger and love the life you live."
You can learn more about working with Jessica at www.recalculatinghappiness.com and on Instagram @recalculating.happiness.
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