Updated on 10.07.11

Dreams, Big and Little

Trent Hamm

My youngest child has had an intestinal illness that’s lasted for several days now. It’s involved a lot of upkeep and maintenance and attention, including lots of clothes and diaper changes and baths and sessions spent in the rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth.

One of the best parts of my own childhood was the constant understanding that my mother would be there for me if I were ill. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I’d be at home in a comfortable place and that I’d feel safe.

When I had my first child, it became clear to me that I couldn’t offer such a guarantee of security to my children, not with the career I once had. It bothered me a lot. I know that there are a lot of working parents who simply can’t offer such a thing, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bother an awful lot of them.

It pushed me to start making some radical changes in my life in terms of how I spent my time and how I spent my money. I started looking for paths to a new career, not because I disliked my old job (I didn’t) and not because I wanted to earn a mint, but because I wanted to have the ability to be there during these moments.

It was that sentiment that led, in a lot of ways, to The Simple Dollar.

In the scope of things, it was a little dream. The idea of finding a different way to balance my desire to be a heavily available parent and my need to be gainfully employed is a simple one. It’s not a big dream of founding a world-shaking startup. It’s not a grand vision of becoming the next senator from Iowa.

It’s a little dream, but it’s one that I wanted so badly that I could taste it.

No matter how big or how little your dream, you’ll never get there without trying a new approach at the way you run your life. If you keep doing things exactly like you’re doing them, your dream will always remain a dream. It never has any chance to become reality.

If you’re content with the way your life is right now, then keep down that path. If you want something different, you’re going to have to do something different.

Instead of spending your money on frivolous things, put some of that money toward getting rid of your debts. Instead of burning an evening watching Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, start learning a new skill. Instead of watching football all day on Sunday, spend the day building something meaningful.

Your dream might be big or it might be little. Either way, it’s not going to happen unless you choose to start making it happen.

This past week, I spent a lot of time with my son. I could tell by how he acted that he felt safe and protected as he recovered from being ill. There was never any question of leaving him with someone who would watch him, relegating a little kid who doesn’t feel well to an unfamiliar situation.

I was able to give him some semblance of the security I once had. That, to me, is worth any price. It was one of my dreams from the first time the idea of having children entered my mind.

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  1. Erin says:

    I find this article quite beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Instead of thumbing your nose at the programs people watch, why not say “take a critical look at how you spend your time and cut out the activities that keep you from moving towards your dream”? Or something like that.

    “There was never any question of leaving him with someone who would watch him, relegating a little kid who doesn’t feel well to an unfamiliar situation.”

    I’m not a parent, I but assume parents who do this aren’t dumping their sick kid off on someone just so they can have a night on the town.

  3. Nadine says:

    @ Vanessa – they’re not “dumping their sick kid off on someone just so they can have a night on the town.” They’re fully aware that their kid would rather be with Mom or Dad, and they know they have to go work anyway, and it stinks. In my experience, being forced to send a sick kid to a babysitter is one of the worst parts of being a working mom. Especially because it often is an unfamiliar babysitter, a special one for sick kids, due to the requirements of the regular daycare situation. And you know your kid needs a familiar environment more than anything else, and you can’t give it.

  4. Sarah says:

    This is a beautiful post…as a working mom it is hard to balance providing with always being there, but knowing the goal and the priority to be more attendant and present for one’s children is a huge motivator for me to use time wisely and also to forgive myself when I can’t always be there. I think you make a good connection between a motivation that can push one to live closer to your values and improve. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Rap says:

    In fairness, while I understand the sentiment of this post…..

    I really dislike the judgemental attitude. Why burn an evening watching Big Bang Theory? Valid… but why burn an evening playing a board game? Its a game, not a skill, and Trent could spent the time he plays board games with friends learning a meaningful skill, right?

    I mean, lets be blunt, no matter how you dress up a night of having fun playing board games, its a game, and all time spent playing is time that should be spent learning something meaningful. I mean really, board games? Settlers of Catan won’t save the world. Its meaningless. Your children can’t eat off your gaming skills! Likewise, they can’t eat off your ability to watch Big Bang. Trent needs to stop being a hypocrit and proudly tell us how each and every moment of his life is learning meaningful skills since every moment not spent doing so is completly and utterly wasted.

    Oh wait… am I judging? Gosh, how wrong I am to do that… but I find game playing a meaningless timewaster and judge Trent accordingly. Every moment he spends over a board is a moment he should as a *father* spend with his children since you know, he chose to have children and therefore he gave up any and all fun for himself.

    But funny… in fact Trent has any number of high maintenence hobbies that he refuses to toss aside in order to spend his every waking moment as a father.

    Yes I am being a bit cynical and harsh but after a while the hypocrisy of “I play fifty dollar board games that run for hours” vs “watching a half hour sitcom is a timewaster, if you gave a damn about yourself you’d be learning a meaningful skill” gets a bit cloying.

  6. kristine says:

    Geez Rap- you did reach your limit, didn’t you! Those 2 shows are junk, and at least board games require thinking, and exercise the brain. (if they are interesting.)

    But as beautiful as this was, all it did was make me feel like crap for all the times I had no choice but to bring in unfamiliar relatives to watch the kids when I had to work, as a single mom, and as the only one putting food on the table, in the ad industry, when not showing up because of sick kids is like asking to be passed over or fired.

    I did, through hard work, and luck, change my situation dramatically. But glowing about being able to nurse a sick kid on a workday is nothing but a painful reminder to the 95% of people who do not have that luxury. And this world would not work if we all accomplished that dream- unless we all became Amish. Someone has to make the shoes, man the power station, etc.

  7. Jules says:

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with watching football with friends (what was all that twaddle about “building and maintaining relationships” from all those prvevious posts?) all afternoon on Sunday, and there are times when I wish my boyfriend would be the same way every now and then.

    Also have to agree with the sentiment that Trent is just rubbing it in at this point. I mean, didn’t he once encourage people to take on second jobs or some such?

  8. Kate says:

    The Big Bang Theory is not junk! :o)

  9. Emma says:

    Agree with 6 kristine . Gongratulations on your achivments. Trend- a father bragging about being able to stay home with a sick child? He didn’t make any choice, he is already home.How about TREATING your sick child with a gift of a presence for a mother, the original caregiver?How do you know is a sick child wouldn’t love to nuzzle on his mum lap? So Sara chose to go to work, Tred didn’t make any offering because he was home – so where is the hero?

  10. Riki says:

    I don’t know what’s triggering moderation, but my comment is stuck there. Annoying.

  11. Riki says:

    I knew people would reactive negatively to this post as soon as I read the title.

    I am so happy for Trent. He obviously has exactly the life he wants and, from what he writes, he sounds like a great father. His children are lucky to have a work-from-home parent with the flexibility to care for them.

    But the thing is, we’ve read this article before. He recycles this material on almost a weekly basis and these personal insights don’t interest me. My life is very different from Trent’s and I have a very different world view.

  12. Jane says:

    You’ve got to get over your hypocritical disdain for television, especially because we know you watch TV!

    And the Big Bang Theory is hilarious. I think it’s a fine way to spend 30 minutes. Laughter is good for the soul. How is enjoyment (and yes, television can bring enjoyment) not a viable way to spend time?

    To be honest, board games make me anxious and overall I don’t enjoy them. They don’t enrich my relationship with people, because I tend to be a sore loser. I am working on that, but I find working on it (i.e. playing board games) to be stressful. Different strokes for different folks.

  13. Gretchen says:

    “Also have to agree with the sentiment that Trent is just rubbing it in at this point. I mean, didn’t he once encourage people to take on second jobs or some such?”

    Ditto. Except My first thought is always “green bean pickers don’t have a choice to do this.”

  14. Rap says:

    Kristine, honestly yes, I did reach my limit because I think if Trent handwaves enough, he justifies all of his timewaster hobbies as learning meaningful skills. Somewhere on this blog Trent has a picture of his huge shelving unit of board games. He justifies that with how he didn’t pay full prices for the games and sometime even displays cost per hour… As it happens, I greatly enjoy a game or two myself… but I don’t play moralizing games on how I’m *improving* myself by playing Ticket to Ride. Trent does watch tv and not every waking moment of Trent’s life is spent bettering himself so this snobby “Watch tv? Pish posh I was *improving myself* playing board games!” gets old. I understand what Trent’s philosophy is, but I don’t think he realizes how condescending and snobby he comes across when he touches on the tv topic, or how hypocritical since he does watch tv.

  15. Peggy says:

    How does Trent know about the existence of these TV programs in the first place if he’s not a TV watcher. Seems odd!

  16. Erin says:

    Wow, people. Talk about judgmental! Trent proved his point simply by his bility to be there when his child was sick.

    Did you not read the sentence that said he started reevaluating his lifestyle when he started *thinking* about having kids? And making the changes needed to be able to create the lifestyle he wanted?

    It’s about planning ahead and making life happen. Not having life happen to you.

    Think about it.

  17. TLS says:


    We only watch DVDs at our house because we don’t have TV reception (on purpose), so we don’t see any of the latest series when they are broadcast. But I am familiar with many of them because people I know talk about them and I see articles about these shows on websites and in the newspaper. Sometimes I get good tips about a show we’d enjoy on DVD.

    For the record, I don’t have a problem with people watching TV. My husband hates television advertising so that’s why we don’t have TV reception. To each their own…

  18. Telephus44 says:

    I understand how important parenting is, since I am one myself. However, when my son is sick I usually still go to work and his father or grandmother watch him. Does that make me a bad parent? I hope not. I hope that my child learns that MANY members of his family can make him feel safe and secure, not just me.

  19. kristine says:

    Erin, you are right. But I wonder how long you have been reading. The repetitiveness is being noted by steady commenters- it’s just a drag when anyone goes on about their good choices on a regular basis. I prefer the practical and non-self referencing “me” as good example posts. I would be very happy to read a post using a freind as a great example, and not a celebrity like Bezos or Jobs. When speaking in the present tense, he tends to use other people for examples of poor choices, and himself or his family as a good example. People notice.

    To those who took issue with my TV comment- I tried big bang- for me it fizzled at first sight of the pseudo Demetri Martin grossly overacting that persona. I do like TV, and I love to laugh. Bourdain’s No Reservations has me in stitches. I love Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. Loved L&O CI when it had DeNofrio, the occasional documentary, and my guilty pleasure- Judge Judy. My idea of hysterically funny is Black Adder, or The Alan Partridge show-on DVD. Up with the Partridge! So, to each his own.

  20. Kate says:

    Breaking Bad and Mad Men…definite junk, no doubt about it.

  21. Gretchen says:

    Comments are a little harsh. No one makes you read blogs. He writes about his life. I find it interesting. I may not agree with all of it, but I do agree with a lot of it. I think one of his points was that he remembered how important it was for a parent to be there when he was sick and that drove him to do whatever he could to be at home for his kids when they are sick. My mom worked when I was young and that drove me to do whatever I could to stay home with my kids. I did not have it and I wanted it. Every time I put them down for a nap at home in their own beds I am grateful for the many sacrifices we make so that I can stay home. Good post.

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