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Why I’m home for breakfast these days | Letters to my sons

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This is the first in a series of letters I’m writing to my sons from my future self after I achieve moFIRE. Today, I write about why they’re seeing me at home for breakfast more often.

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Dear sons,

You may have noticed that I’ve been at home for breakfast more often. I know you’re super busy with whatever high schoolers do these days in the 2030s. But if you bother to look up from your phones in the morning, you’ll see me sitting there at the kitchen table with you.

First of all, don’t be alarmed.

It’s not Saturday. It is indeed a weekday. I know it’s weird.

As you blink away the morning haze of social media, you’ll see me calmly sipping my coffee. You might not realize it, but this is pretty remarkable by itself. For the last 20 years, there’s been no calm sipping of coffee for me in the morning.

Ever since I started residency training decades ago, my mornings have been one big rush to get caffeinated and out the door. Surgeons start the day bright and early, and most days I was already on the road before you got out of bed. The quick pang of guilt at leaving you with your mom would fade slowly as I barreled down the highway to the hospital.

Sure, we hung out on most weekends.

I tried to make the most of our time when I wasn’t at work or on call at the hospital. Speaking of call: I know I was grumpy and short-tempered the day after a blistering night of ER consults. Please forgive me; I was freakin’ tired. That fatigue eventually went away, but it took a few days each time.

And I’m sorry if I was fidgety and impatient when we did hang out. Over the last decade or so I struggled with the overwhelming need to spend our time productively.

I think it came from the imbalance I felt in my life. Most of my time was spent at work, so it made me really protective of any free time. No lazy afternoons allowed! I’m sure this was really annoying to you when you just wanted to hang out and relax.

Back to this new normal.

So these days, I get to sit at the kitchen table with you in the morning, sipping coffee with a contented look in my eye. I hope it’s not to jarring of a change for you. I hope that you won’t immediately reject my presence in that way that teenagers often do when faced with more parent time.

I hope it’s not too late to have that idyllic family life that I envisioned. A lot “my why” over this last decade has been more freedom so I could be home for breakfast more often.

And by the way, you don’t have to worry. I haven’t been fired. Well, not exactly. I’ve actually partially fired myself.

Let me explain.

Your mom and I created a real estate business over the last decade that can support us indefinitely. It took a lot of work and planning, and we had to keep it secret for a long time. Most people in our lives didn’t really understand what we were doing. They advised us to just keep our money in our retirement funds.

But when you boys were young, we decided that we weren’t content to wait until the age of 65 to start living life on our own terms. So we took a risk and built up a real estate empire that brings us income every month.

It’s different from the money we get from our regular jobs. That money only comes in if we go to work for 40 hours a week. For me, it was more like 50 or 60 hours a week and a recipe for burnout.

As long as our tenants are happy, the real estate income comes in even if we are sleeping. It arrives even if we go on vacation to Europe. It’ll come in even if mom and I get sick and lose our jobs, or our lives. Sorry if that’s morbid, but it’s something we’ve considered.

I decided to cut back on my work hours.

Now I work only when I want to work. I also don’t take overnight call anymore at the hospital. I pay my colleagues to take call for me. They’re happy for the extra income, and I’m happy to offload the part of my job that I hate the most.

So no more rushed mornings where I never see you. No more exhausted post-call days where I’m a zombie. I’ll be home for breakfast now.

So let’s talk more over toast and pancakes. Let’s take some longer vacations. And let’s live life on our own terms.

I’ll try to make sense of this all for you in the years to come. I know it’s confusing. Hopefully I’ll explain it well enough so you can do this too someday soon.

Love,

TDD (The Darwinian Dad)

What will you say to your kids once you reach your goals? Will they listen? Please comment below, share, and subscribe for more!

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10 comments

Wealthy Doc September 13, 2020 - 5:03 am

Yup, that’s pretty close to my current reality.
When I cut back to three days of work per week after FI it was a shocking transition for my family.
Now, none of us could imagine any other way.
I work because I want to. When and how I want to. And I love my work. Apparently it is a lot more enjoyable when you don’t have to do it.
Keep up the great work.

Reply
The Darwinian Doctor September 13, 2020 - 3:10 pm

Thanks for the comment, Wealthy Doc. It’s interesting seeing what docs decide to do when they don’t need to work to live. I anticipate I’ll end up liking the work even more, like you. Others happily move onto other things, like Passive Income MD or the Semi-Retired MDs. I can’t wait to have the choice! — TDD

Reply
thestockmd September 14, 2020 - 11:10 am

I enjoyed reading this. It hit a lot of the sore points in my own surgical career, and reaffirmed my rationale for investing aggressively to reach the “E” in FIRE.

I eat breakfast everyday with my kids. I hope one day they will realize the magnitude of the effort it took to be able to do this.

It sounds like you are well on your way to getting there too. Go get it!

Reply
The Darwinian Doctor September 14, 2020 - 11:44 am

Thanks so much for the encouragement. I absolutely agree — the “E” is a super important part of the moFIRE acronym. I’m not content to transition to our next phase “someday.” It’s gotta be sooner than that. — TDD

Reply
Medimentary September 17, 2020 - 10:05 am

I enjoyed your outlook on this post. The freedom to spend our time any way we want is something many of us in medicine hope for. For me, financial independence is really time independence. Once I have that, I can just prioritize what is most important to me. The priority of working in medicine can naturally just fade away lower on my list if that is what happens. I’m curious to see how this experiment goes for me. It sounds like you have your priorities already lined up. Continued success!

Reply
The Sunday Best (9/27/2020) - Physician on FIRE September 27, 2020 - 5:01 am

[…] The Darwinian Doctor isn’t reflecting on his past; he’s glimpsing forward into the future to a time where he’ll feel no need for a reset button. Why I’m home for breakfast these days | Letters to my sons. […]

Reply
Financial Samurai September 27, 2020 - 6:17 am

If possible, do not wait to have long breakfasts with your kids in 10+ years. I’d do so now. The future is not guaranteed.

Besides, spending time with them now is a hedge against them not want to spend time with you in the future.

Reply
The Darwinian Doctor September 27, 2020 - 4:20 pm

Such great advice, thanks Sam. I do have nightmares about that scenario pretty often. It helps me be present in the here and now, rather than constantly dreaming about the future.

— TDD

Reply
Alessandra November 23, 2023 - 7:04 pm

Great read. I can absolutely relate with feeling the need to overcompensate on the limited time off with activity to make up for a gruesome schedule. I’ve been inspired by your blog and I am transitioning to locums next year. Making the decision has been a big step and something I wouldn’t have considered even 1 year ago. Opening up to real estate investing and a different lifestyle to the “established norm”
in medicine is scary and amazing. It’s nice to see other peers doing it. Looking forward to our zoom call coming up soon.

Reply
The Darwinian Doctor November 24, 2023 - 4:42 pm

Wow how exciting! Thanks so much for the feedback and good luck with your transition!

Reply

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Dr. Daniel Shin

Dr. Daniel Shin

I’m Dr. Daniel Shin, a surgeon, investor, and educator on a mission to fast-track your financial freedom. From a $300,000 debt to a diverse investment portfolio, I’m now just years away from financial independence. Ready to join me on this journey? Let’s go!

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