Taking a slow year


For the last 15 years I have worked full-time. I’ve been self-employed almost all the time, almost always working a lot. Even on vacations I would bring my computer and work. I’ve always considered myself a person who can always make it just by working hard. It’s a skill and a mindset that gives me a lot of freedom as I feel I can always start from scratch and just work and get back on my feet.

But the work-first lifestyle has had some serious downsides. The lifestyle has given me a paranoid, “I-should-be-working-right-now”-mindset, where I slowly over time have completely seperated work and play into two different things. That’s not how I want to live and it’s the completely opposite mindset I want my kids growing up seeing their parents have.

It’s a bit ironic, because I have been promoting a nomad lifestyle and I talk about unschooling and freedom. But the reality is that I have often had that freedom, working from a super nice place on the other side of the planet, but still being a prisoner of my own mindset.

After we became parents we have definitely reduced our work-load while experimenting with different models balancing work, life and full-time parenting. The first model we tried was a simple 3-day weekend. But while the workload has been reduced when looking at the hours spent, how much it has filled in our heads and the overall priority has continued to be way too much to the unhealthy side. Not because we didn’t want to change, but just because it’s so deeply ingrained in us.

For me personally, I know that I can achieve some kind of results by just pure hard work. But I’m also aware that my best results will never come from just hard work. One skill I do have is being creative, connecting things that weren’t connected before and creating new stuff. Unlocking that potential requires a more enjoyable, playful approach with more hours in some kind of flow state. Working many hours with a long to do list and the Pomodoro method is easy, but I know I can create much better work if I relax more and do stuff that I find really interesting.

We want a lifestyle with unschooling and where we have our kids full-time is sustainable over the long run and enjoyable for all. We are extremely ambitious about this lifestyle being an adventure and something amazing. To make it sustainable we need to take it easy, learn slowly and be patient. This lifestyle of course has to be balanced with work, but if we just from the start go crazy with a lot of work hours we fear that we will hit a wall with the result being that we give up on our biggest dream.

Visualizing the next ten years and the unschooling journey we have in front of us, it’s very clear for me that my dream is not a super protected, child-focused life with a calendar full of homeschooling activities. Just as I believe schools can be unhealthy, I also think it can be unhealthy with the 100% child-focused homeschooling setup. My dream is that my kids have as much free play time away from their parents and with other kids and that they become a part of life and are a part of the everyday activities instead of only an artificial world only full of kids activities.

So my dream is a life where our kids are extremely free and we spend many hours together, where they are a part of what we do. I don’t want to replace full-time work with being a full-time teacher or facilitator for my kids. It’s not what I want and it’s not what I want for my kids.

Back in the days kids often went with their parents while they worked. Nowadays that is not normal and doesn’t really work, because so many people work in front of the computer. I want to replace the full-time work at the computer with some other activities that are also for my sake, but where I can bring kids too. Activities that are not for their sake, but where they can join or just be present. This is the life I want for myself, but also because I think it’s important for kids at all ages not to be in artificial environments just created for their sake.

Personally I find this step very difficult. I often get caught in comparison with my peers and feel everyone is super successful and then worrying if I’m doing the right things. Often I compare myself with close friends that I love, but where I actually don’t want the same lifestyle. It’s a huge challenge for me to not get caught up in this.

But how on earth does taking a slow year make sense, when I have also started a new company? In the past, the output of the projects I have done has mostly been limited by my lack of patience. Taking a slow year means also taking a year with fewer expectations and I think that is necessary to help me build my patience in creating a company.

We don’t have enough money to never worry about money or to retire early. But we do have the money to take the time we need, to make the right decisions and to work exactly as we want for quite a lot of years. Investing in a slow period now makes a lot more sense now than later in life, but hopefully they won’t be mutually exclusive. Hopefully this is not such much a 1-year project, but just the start.

And the best thing? I’m doing it all with my partner and we are slowing down together, just after welcoming our baby daughter Iris.


  • Ditte Maria Kollerup

    One of several good points here, is – in my opinion – the thing about a protected kids life with only things made for kids.

    One week ago, we spent a week together with my parents. They are both grown up together with brothers and sisters, and until seven years, they wasn’t in school.

    My dad said, that they were on them own a lot of time and they were given freedom and learned a lot ‘by doing themselves’.
    He said also ‘my parents did never sit down, they where working at home all the time’.

    Times change, and that isn’t either the way of making a balanced lifestyle.. but I see your point about how to bring your kids and not protect them, very important.

    I believe this topic is nessasary to make robust and curious children, full of opportunity for high quality of life 🙂

    • Nikolaj Astrup Madsen

      Yeah, there are differently some things we could learn from the past. Nowadays it seems like many people have the calendar full of activities for their kids, that it seems stressful. I really believe that kids learn a lot from being on their old away from their parents, but on their own… Not in another artificial environment.

      Another thing is that it’s not normal to bring kids to your work nowadays. I would really like to do some work, where my kids can somehow just be around.

      Thanks for your comment, Ditte.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *