From Rat Race to World Traveler // How Mother Julie Martin Quit The Daily Grind And Found Happiness
Photographer, world traveler, and mama Julie A. Martin is no stranger to the spotlight. A close friend to Babiekins Magazine, she is well-known throughout the children’s fashion industry for her colorful, vibrant images. If you follow Portland-native Julie on Instagram (@artfullyuncommon and @wild4living), you probably recognize her two beautiful daughters, and you know the slice of global color she brings to us all through her magical lens.
But you probably don’t know the behind-the-scenes: the overwhelming panic, the depression, the chaos that plagued her family in recent past. Julie’s sharing it all today, because she — like we here at House & Kin — wants to see women set free from the Instagram prison in which we’ve trapped ourselves.
Fed up with the American dream and the endless hamster wheel, she and her family decided to take the plunge — and do something that most people would call extreme. “I vividly remember the exact moment I decided I just couldn’t ‘American Dream’ anymore, ” she writes. “Not one second more. For someone that outwardly looked like they had it all together: a house, great career, husband and two kids — I was so utterly and completely unhappy and unfulfilled and I could not keep going a moment longer. So I did what any normal mother does in that situation — sold everything and become a nomadic homeschooling adventurer.”
Are you hooked? We are! Let’s let Julie tell the rest of the story.
“Okay, perhaps it isn’t quite the common path, but stick with me here because it’s going to get bumpy.
I haven’t even talked about some of these feelings before, or the reality of my situation at that time — because it’s quite painful to admit. I am an artist and photographer, and creating art has always been what makes me breathe. I wake up every morning to create. I draw, I photograph, I paint, and it’s the last thing I think about before sleep every night. Creating is what fuels my existence. It is also how I make a living. My husband and I made the same amount of money each year, and I felt SO lucky to be able to live my dream creating art every day, but as anyone that is self-employed can tell you, it’s a 24/7 job. I was a workaholic, but I LOVED my work. I was good at it, too, and being good at something makes you feel successful and accomplished. And who doesn’t love that feeling of confidence that comes with being on top of your game?
Being a workaholic often doesn’t mix very well with being a mom, however. I didn’t feel like I was as great at being a mom, as I was an artist and because of that motherhood was extremely stressful for me. My children always got my leftovers. They got my exhaustion. They got my irritability. Every single day I would hear, ‘All you do is work, Mommy.’ Every. Single. Day.
My girls acted out and constantly fought with each other. They were desperate for my attention. Because they were starved for true, relaxed, devoted time with me — and when I wasn’t distracted editing photo sessions or building props for a photo shoot, they did whatever they could to compete for my attention. Motherhood equaled utter chaos to me, because those little droplets of Mommy just weren’t enough and fueled an attention-starved cyclone in my home.
Often, by the time you get to that point of being overworked and stressed out all of the time and pulled in two directions constantly, you feel as though you don’t have a choice anymore. You’ve set your life up so that you HAVE to work so much to afford the life you’ve created. We’ve never lived extravagantly but you have to work to pay for the house, the car — or cars if you have more than one — taxes, ballet classes, credit cards, eating out, hobbies, etc.
I desperately wanted to spend more of my time with these two incredible girls, but I didn’t know how to do that and still get the bills paid. This is coming from a place where I created my own situation, I completely understand that. It was 100% my choice to set our lives up this way. Many women are in circumstances where they didn’t get to choose. I was the one in our household that managed the money, the taxes, the home, business and car loans, etc. We were firmly implanted on the American hamster wheel — and I put us there.
To top it all off, neither girl’s needs were being met in school and eventually, we decided homeschooling would be a better option for them. We have one daughter with special needs in the way of Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD and anxiety. Our other daughter was bored and completely unchallenged in school and easily could have skipped a grade. For someone who worked sixty hours a week already, I’m sure you can see where this is headed.
While homeschooling removed a lot of stress from our weekdays and was meeting the educational needs of the girls more successfully, it tilted an already imbalanced house of cards. Even on antidepressants, I woke up every day so stressed out and depressed and now I had two children that needed me all day every day, along with the work that needed me all day every day as well. There wasn’t enough of me…It broke, I broke. It all just fell apart one day. I couldn’t be NEEDED anymore. I couldn’t live life doing the same thing every day to pay for a life that made none of us happy.
It had gotten so bad that I actually daydreamed of getting some kind of terminal illness, so I could finally have relief from having to DO or BE anything to anyone. In my fantasy, I could let my business go and just not care anymore but I would have long enough to be around that I could take care of my affairs, prepare my family, and spend dedicated time with the kids before I was gone. Think about that for a moment: WHO dreams of that?! Who actually thinks like that?! I’ll tell you who. A woman spread too thin, doing too much, battling depression (while actually on medication), and definitely not living the life she wants. A woman whose own well was SO empty that she had nothing left to give anything or anyone, yet kept tearing that well apart just to have more. More to give to a life that was not benefitting anyone. Having a child with special needs alone can be extremely demanding when you are in the throes of just trying to figure out how best to meet her needs — let alone trying and run a full-time business, be a wife and mom, while somehow carving out a few minutes for yourself each day. On the surface, everyone thought I was thriving. This is extremely scary to thing to tell people, but this is what depression looks like for many. It can get so bad and we can become very skilled at not letting any of it show.
It was at the height of this internal mayhem that my best friend of 21 years died very suddenly and unexpectedly — and I was the one that found her. We read these pretty quotes in squares on Pinterest every day, things like, ‘You don’t know if you’ll have tomorrow, so..handle all the things today!’ Ok, not exactly that, but you know the quotes. They are the quotes people throw around but never really take to heart and live by. They are the quotes that make us sound like we are being so deep and mindful to our social media audience.
Let me tell you…. that event leveled me. I lived with an actual terror in my chest knowing that really, TRULY, you do NOT know if you have tomorrow. It was just a few days after that I told my husband, ‘We have to change. Let’s figure out a way to actually DO all of those things we dream of. I refuse to model a life of stress and unhappiness for my children, all the while telling them to follow their dreams. Let’s sell everything and travel the world with our children.”
We didn’t have much in the way of savings (American hamster wheel, remember?) yet within a few months we had rented out our home in Oregon, sold our belongings, the husband quit his job, and I became the sole breadwinner for a while until we could figure out a mobile income source for my husband. We even cashed out his retirement to pay off debt and pay cash for a car and travel trailer (a risky move, but one that paid off for us). We decided we would travel wherever I could book photo shoots, and along the way figure out how we could travel long-term, while also earning a living. We would homeschool our girls on the road and begin “road-schooling”, which would eventually turn into “world-schooling”.
My husband initially thought I as a bit nuts when I suggested it, but it only took a few weeks for him to come around. He wasn’t happy at his job either and was ready for a change. I worked out on paper how we could financially make it happen, at least for a while. I had enough photography clients around the country that we could easily road trip the US with our small trailer, while I worked. We were going to be together full-time, with fewer bills, showing our girls how to live the life you dream of. So, on April 29, 2016, we began a nomadic lifestyle with our children. That was three years ago — and our story gets amazing from that day forward.” -Julie A. Martin
Stay tuned for Part II!
Do you dream of taking a wild plunge like Julie did? Tell us about in the comments!