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

September 12, 2020 by The Darwinian Doctor 

Editor’s note: Today’s Post is from our PhREI Network founder, Daniel Shin MD, at The Darwinian Doctor.

Dr. Shin’s “Letters to my Sons” posts are some of my favorite posts in the Physician blogging sphere. In this letter Dr. Shin writes a “Vivid Vision” for his life ten years from now. He provides a clear vision of his personal life, professional life and real estate investing goals. It is a touching and motivating letter. This a great exercise to perform yourself. Having a clear vision for what you want your life to look like it 5-10 years is great way to improve your chances of achieving that life. You have done this your entire life: envisioning yourself in Medical School, Residency, becoming an Attending etc. Now is a great time to develop a new vision of what you want to achieve personally and professionally in the next 3 years.

The personal aspect of this blog post and goal of increased time at home really speaks to me. I actually just cut back on work and will be taking Fridays off to spend more time with my Daughters and Lauren. We have not reached financial freedom yet, so the increase time off may slow that time frame a little, but I think it is worth every penny.

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.

This post may contain affiliate links.

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.


TDD (The Darwinian Dad)

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