Being Strangled by the Australian Dream

A colleague of mine opened right up with me today. She is in her 40s, married with two kids (10 and 14) and two years ago got into a mortgage up to her neck. The kids are in private schools. The daughter does piano lessons. The son plays soccer. They live a 45 minute drive from work. Sometimes my colleague has to catch the bus to work which can take up to an hour and a half. Twice a week they take their son to soccer practice across town, which means they don’t get home until 10pm.

This just sounds like the Australian Dream.

My colleague migrated to Australia several years ago from Central America. She told me, with tears in her eyes, that, in many ways, she feels she has taken ten steps backwards. Her and her husband work to keep afloat, and there is little money left for entertainment and definitely not enough to work on the projects she feels will make for a more comfortable life–landscaping the backyard and putting solar panels on the roof–or travelling back to Central America to visit family every few years.

She told me that she longs for the day when she will be comfortable. When she doesn’t have to worry about money. I stopped her and apologised in advance for being so bold. I told her: “Sometimes we have to be less fixed on getting more money to satisfy our needs and instead reduce our needs so the money we currently earn is enough”. She agreed. She and her husband are going to sit down together soon and really work out what it is they want out of life. Is the mortgage necessary? Perhaps they are better off renting, or buying a cheaper house. Do the kids really need to go to a fancy private school? And are they perhaps more wise to move closer to work to cut down on the money and time they are losing to the commute?

(I am placing this post in the the “Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback” category as it is terribly apt.)

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6 thoughts on “Being Strangled by the Australian Dream

  1. Or they could talk to the bank about extending the mortgage to reduce the payments until such a time they are a bit better off, then step them up again.

    On 27 February 2014 07:36, Permaculture in the Mallee wrote:

    > Paul – Permie (soon to be) from the Mallee posted: “A colleague of > mine opened right up with me today. She is in her 40s, married with two > kids (10 and 14) and two years ago got into a mortgage up to her neck. The > kids are in private schools. The daughter does piano lessons. The son plays > soccer. They live”

  2. I can feel her pain. When I was married to my first husband we cavorted around the countryside advancing his career…not staying anywhere more than about 6 months and our three kids being dragged behind us like so much excess baggage. The Australian Dream was invented by some clever marketers and some nefariously psych wise advertising executives who know how to poke at that part of our brains that wants to conform…that wants to succeed and that want to be “different” and “stand out from the crowd”. One day there will be law suits against advertising companies like there are law suits against MacDonald’s…I guess we have to see an alternative and alternatives to “The Great Aussie Dream” don’t sell cars so they aren’t given the light of day by anyone other than we grassroots members of our communities who share. It looks like you just gave your work colleague something to think about. Another choice where she couldn’t see one before. That is what permaculture is all about…finding ALL of the choices and seeing which is best for your particular situation 🙂

    • Actually, I should add something. My colleague told me that she really wants to landscape her backyard. She wants a garden. I told her about PermaBlitzing, and how engaging with something like that might help her get things done. She was quite surprised to hear that people–strangers–would take time out of their lives, for free, to help out others. She mentioned that her next door neighbour offered to lend a hand with something in the front garden the other day. She was sheepish about accepting the offer, thinking that the neighbour doesn’t have time to help her and her husband with their problems; he has a family, work, his own house to look after. I said to her that maybe he wants the company, or a change of scenery. Perhaps pitching a hand to his neighbours is his idea of fun. The existence of Permablitz, working bees, and the like has confirmed this for me.

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