Invoking the F.U. Clause

It’s been a bad week.

Every quarter the VP of the business holds an off-site management meeting and the sixteen or so leaders from various parts of Europe meet for a few days. I attend in my capacity as Finance Business Partner and as an introvert, the whole thing is my idea of hell.

Acting the Part

From the beginning (go around the table and introduce ourselves for the benefit of any new team members) to the individual presentations (on which I am called on to probe the numbers and provide the finance insight), to the evening social events (an organised activity followed by a restaurant) – I am performing.

Don’t get me wrong, this is part of my job and so I don my professional persona and perform as expected. But the lead up to the event is always stressful as I think about the few days to come and I leave exhausted and fit for nothing.

Each quarter, this event is held in a different European location. And being a single parent, that adds to the stress. Thanks to my mum being willing to travel 8 hours on a National Express to come and stay with the boys, I do know that they will be well taken care of.

Unintended Consequences

Nevertheless, it had started to occur to me that my youngest was often ill when I was away. Once or twice could be coincidence. But again this week, the texts started around 7.30am complaining of stomach aches and feeling sick. It’s so difficult to judge when you are not there to see for yourself, so I told him to head to school anyway, thinking the walk in the fresh air would do him good and that the school nurse would send him home if needed. Half way to school he called in a panic that he was going to be sick in public and begging to go home.

What could I do? I was half a day away from being able to help him. He spent the rest of the day quietly in his room (PlayStations are strictly not allowed when you are off school sick), while I spent the day worrying and with a rising sense of guilt about my parenting – or lack of.

This child has always had a weak stomach and when for others it may be migraines or coming down with a cold, the first sign of any stress with him is sickness and stomach aches. And when it happens they are very much real – whatever the trigger.

But when I thought about how often this happens now compared to how often it has happened in his lifetime, I started to get worried. There has been a definite increase in these episodes over the last year or two and they almost always happen on days when I am not there as he gets ready for school.

I’m not there because I am away at one of the off-sites or I’m not there because I have left really early in the morning to get to work, but either way, I’m not there. At 13, I had thought this would be ok for him as long as it is not too often. At 13, I was babysitting other people’s children. But for him it seems it is not ok at all.

It’s some form of anxiety that causes his stomach issues to flare up which has just been confirmed by his doctor who ran a full battery of tests and questions this week.

Parenting Guilt

My guilt now is enormous. Since I have taken my current job I have to be away for a few days each quarter and then a couple of times a year I will be away for a week. And I leave to get to the office very early in the morning once a week or so. I have been doing this for about 18 months And in this time, unnoticed by me, my son’s anxiety has been gradually increasing and the frequency of his flare-ups with it.

It’s taken me all this time to figure it out. I feel like the worst parent in the world. My selfish pursuit of FIRE has meant sticking with a job that obviously doesn’t suit my family situation and is making my son ill.

We had a chat in the car today coming back from the doctor’s surgery. He cried. He said he was so sorry for messing up my work meeting. I told him it didn’t matter a jot and I would get a different job. He cried even harder and said “but that would ruin you being able to retire early.”

That, right there, was rock bottom.


Bring On The F.U. Fund

And so, I am invoking the F.U. Fund. I have enough saved that I could say F.U. to this job and live without financial worries for a while. I could work part-time elsewhere or take a mini-retirement of a year or two and go back to work later. Of course, this would set back my financial independence date and would see me working a few years longer than anticipated. But it may be that is what we both need for our health and happiness and well-being.

I have some thinking to do.

As I’ve written before, much as I hate it I’m onto a good thing at work. And there’s no point throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We live in a mobile society and I can work from anywhere so I don’t have to get to the office early – that part is easily fixed. But the trips away are more difficult to avoid.

Using the attitude allowed by my F.U. fund, I’m not afraid of declining a few of these off-sites and dealing with the consequences. It’s likely that I can stretch this behaviour out to the end of the year – missing a couple of away events is do’able (even if if feels like I’m not doing my job properly). But miss any more than two and questions will be asked. At which point I will need to come clean about not being willing to travel any more.

From this point on I am 100% certain I will no longer travel for work and I’m 90% certain that will mean walking away from the job.

I am 100% fine with that. Thank you F.U. Fund.

beach black and white casual cheerful

I’m not sure what this post is – a warning about being so laser focused on an outcome that you lose sight of everything else? A real example of the life-changing value of an F.U. Fund? An apology to my family for taking so long to connect the dots?

Take it as you will. But to my son – I’m sorry.

What Do You Think?

Comments are where things start to make sense. I’d love to hear from anyone who has faced a similar situation or can empathise with me (or my son). Do we get too focused on the goal and lose sight of the important things? Do we struggle to make changes that will lengthen the timeline to FIRE?

(1,005 days….. pending readjustment….. ).


21 thoughts on “Invoking the F.U. Clause”

  1. That’s a really difficult situation you are in – I agree you’ll be able to avoid to strategically avoid a few offsite meetings before anyone notices. Do you have a second in command you can send as a perk for them?

    For what it’s worth- it is not selfish to have some time away – you can’t be expected to be a sole parent and always on 24/7 – then you’ll just burn out yourself. I know the guilt is absolutely absolute, but try not to beat yourself up.

    I’d work on getting your son help and coping mechanisms for his anxiety, and test if he can cope without you in situations where you can come home if need be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ms Zi You,
      Thanks for the understanding – it helps. Sadly there’s nobody I can send in my place, I’m in a stand-alone role now.
      That’s a good call about situations where I can come home if needed. Maybe after things calm down, say next school term, I can test a little just going to the local office.


  2. playing devils advocate children (and some adults) are very good at emotional blackmail. I assume there’s no way he’s just acting out?

    I also assume from your post you’ve discussed the whole retire early thing with him already? I wondered if explaining why you are away and what the end goal is (two short years and then never having to be away again?) might help him cope better

    If not This may be a blessing in disguise. You may find another job that has much of the same perks but with less travel? Even one you might not want to leave early!

    Ultimately if it is genuinely stressing him out then there’s not alot you can do. I’d say you have to look after yourself as well though (which probably sounds selfish and I don’t mean it to be i just mean it’s not going to do him any good if your health sufferers ) . That said Plans are there to be changed and adapted!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, when it happens he’s genuinely sick. Emotions manifesting as physical symptoms, I think. And yes, we talk all the time about retiring early. The problem is 2 or 3 years to him is way too long a timescale to cope with.

      Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise – I hadn’t looked at it that way. Let’s be honest – it’s not like I love the job!!


  3. That’s an incredibly difficult position to be in, made very much easier by having FU money. One of my daughters has mental health issues and it’s very difficult to handle when you have no control over it and don’t understand the position it is coming from. Don’t feel guilty for not knowing or making the connection – I didn’t find out about my daughters MH condition until 3 years after it started. I put it down to teenage behaviour, her being over sensitive etc. Having her college make a safeguarding call to me at work was not fun 😦

    Changing your job and staying locally won’t fix your son in of itself, outside help will likely need to play a part. As would some gentle discussions between you on what his thinking process is. I found it very difficult to deal with my daughters anxiety for a long time as it didn’t make sense to me (why would it, I wasn’t anxious). Life is much easier now that she talks openly about her fears and I let her ramble and try to come up with suggestions that make sense for her. It’s taken quite a time for me to understand her rather than understand it. Text books don’t explain the reality for your own child.

    I wish you and your son every luck with this journey, time will help you both understand and make the necessary changes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for writing this and for your kind words – it was cathartic for me to write the post but it has helped enormously getting some constructive counselling. It is hard to separate normal teenage behaviour from MH issues, I agree – sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective.
      I know your daughter “tests” you but it’s a credit to you that you’ve reached a place where she can ramble at you – many mother/daughter relationships would not have survived the difficulties she (and you) have faced.
      I was thinking that changing job was the answer, but you’re right – I guess it will take more than that. I will tip-toe a little while we figure it out. Summer is fast approaching so the long holiday will help him a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a moving post, thank you for sharing. The current wok situation has you both unhappy, so it seems right to invoke the FU fund. Pursuit of FIRE should not be detrimental to yourself or to your loved ones.

    Rather than just say ‘no’ to the travel, is there any opportunity at work to discuss flexibility; are they aware of your son’s health issues?

    I know you’ve meticulously plotted FIRE in your spreadsheets but can see you taking these changes in your stride with more spreadsheets! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Weenie. I will try to discuss flexibility with them – it won’t be an easy conversation, but worth a try.
      And yes – the spreadsheet geek in me is out in full force, planning a whole new range of scenarios 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. It resonates quite a bit because my mom made a similar choice when I was growing up and she was raising my sister and me as a single mom. She left the private sector–and the money and benefits that came with it–to teach. I’m so so grateful that she made that decision, but I also wish she would have had the flexibility that an FU Fund would have provided.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi – it’s a difficult thing to do so all credit to your mum. The silver lining is that you appreciate what she did and you’ve learned how empowering an FU fund is.


  7. Good luck to you and kudos to you for having the courage to walk away from work and invoke your F.U. Fund. My son situation is similar in that as I’ve gotten older (I’ll be 52 in 2 mo’s) and wealthier (it’s still growing, I’m not ready to bail just yet!), my tolerance for B.S. is less and less. There are times I’m stretched to the outer boundaries of this tolerance.
    I have a question for you; are you going on COBRA? What are your plans for health care in lieu of your employer sponsored health insurance? Again, good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the good wishes, I appreciate it. I’m in the UK, so healthcare is not a concern with the NHS in place. That’s one thing us Brits don’t need to factor in the way that you do. I sometimes wonder how anyone FIRES in the US with that worry on your shoulders.


  8. My Friend,
    You are in a great situation and we in the US should envy Brits’ healthcare plan. You’re correct, FIRE for me is a huge concern only in regard to healthcare costs! I’m looking into the option of using one of the various health share ministries in lieu of Obamacare.
    I plan to blog a new article about my findings soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for having shared this.
    In your post I see myself in 5 years.
    I’m not in your situation, but I clearly see signs of what you mention in your posts. I’m more or less 5 years younger and just became a parent. I envision myself thinking like you and facing your issues at your age.
    Thank you so much for having allowed me to take a look at one of my possible futures, one where I weren’t going to RE before 5 years.
    Luckily I’ll be able to pull the trigger before facing major problems like the one you’re facing right now.

    Good luck, I’m (virtually) with you!

    Mr RIP

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congratulations on becoming a parent! And major kudos to you for having things sorted so you will be able to pull the trigger sooner rather than later and avoid this sort of problem. You think that children become easier as they get older, but I’m finding they need me now as teenagers more than ever – they just aren’t as obvious about it.


  10. I’m late to your blog fire but loving it. I’m in a LeanIn group and most of the members are mothers and several have commented that their kids need them more as they get older, not less. A little kid is (broadly) happy for anybody to help with their potato printing. But when you’re plagued with anxiety and don’t know how to put one foot in front of the other to get to school…

    My daughter is autistic and is doing great at school but she’s only 5 and I think it’s sensible to assume she’ll need a lot of support in teenage years (I certainly did). It also means I see so much of what you said about “performing” at work and the anxiety caused by not being myself in her and in me.

    Anyway, I’m some way off Fat FIRE and my spreadsheets are in a mess but I think I might be close to Lean. I’ve found myself typing the f bomb into work e-mails and then deleting a few times recently which is hardly a good sign (and very unlike me … I am all swan-like on the surface but Dear God some of the corporate bullshittery really gets to me).

    Your blog has really made me think about my values and priorities. My problem is I am part way through a long and depressing project which will take 2 years to fully reach the end of its life, and I’ll be plagued with guilt if I drop that particularly shitty-stick in somebody else’s lap and sail out of the door. Yet it’s tempting… Oh some days, it’s ever so tempting.

    Thank you for sharing and for all the food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

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