Role Model – Courtney Baker
Our next legendary model is the family who:
• sold their crap
• paid off their debt
• do what they love!
Adam and Courtney Baker together with their beautiful daughters – Milligan and Charlie – are passionate about life design and financial freedom. If you want to know more about financial side of family life, find out about 1 Simple Tool to Change How You Budget as a Couple.
Right now, the family is busy with the independent production of monumental documentary “I’m Fine, Thanks”
Listen to the fascinating journey of this family in this TEDx presentation
And here Courtney shares her little and big secrets.
1. What are your major beliefs about marriage?
I remember a distinct time as a teenager when I was trying to figure out if everyone had one person out there for them, or if they could get along with many. Ya know, the whole serendipity thing vs personality type!
I subscribed to the ONE philosophy.
I would make lists of what my ONE would be like, what we would do, how much we’d love each other. If I found the ONE with the ultimate compatibility, marriage would be smooth and lasting.
Once I committed to my ONE, I thought all that work would pay off with a smooth, easy going marriage. I did it! I was going to break the family trend (my parents have divorced).
Very quickly, I learned that while compatibility traits are important, they won’t get you anywhere if you can’t communicate. I hated hearing the wiser people in my life blab on about “communicating”, but they never went into the depths of it.
Confessions. Arguments. Glee. Giddiness. Embarrassment. Sex Drive. Dreams. Vulnerability.
I’ve been converted to the bandwagon that the most compatible couple won’t make it anywhere without communicating. And as it was probably designed to be, communicating well with my spouse is the most satisfying experience in my marriage.
2. How have you and Adam first met?
We’re those people! We met on the middle school academic team. I told my friend I like him, she talked to his friend, who talked to him, and then telephoned back to me. He broke my 12 year old heart after dating for a few days! We dated again for most of high school, took a break, and then again post college.
3. Will Adam’s answer be different?
He’ll tell you the same story except he claims our middle school romance ended because I wanted to kiss him. But those details are a bit blurry!
4. Do you think that you grew up together?
The special thing about having a young relationship that turns into a mature relationship is that change is intense at the beginning. We were together when we hit puberty, left home for the first time, transitioned to college, and pursued careers.
Many times relationship don’t even begin until those things are established. In our first five years of marriage, we also added have a baby, sell everything we own, backpack full time, and produce a documentary.
We have done nothing but change and grow. I’m happy with the way he’s changed, because I’ve been a part of the process, a part of the conversation.
5. Was Adam’s proposal a surprise?
Adam and I pursued separate lives for most of college. Towards the end of my Junior year, we struck up a conversation again strictly as friends. As soon as emotions started to develop again, I distinctly remember saying, “I don’t want to date you again. If we’re going to do this, it’s because we plan to get married.” So, we agreed that night that we’d get married! Ha! That was October, and we got married in March!
Surprise proposal? No. Unless you count the surprise on our parents’ face!
6. Do you think you have lost your independence in the marriage?
I find it to be this perfectly balanced circle. We lose independence, so we lose control. We can no longer change it ourselves, instead we practice acceptance (or strongly encourage our husband to think about changing, let’s be honest!). Putting that trust in your spouse, building that interdependence is so rewarding that you want to sacrifice, to give up control, to share a life.
7. When you were taking that life-turning decision to sell your crap and go backpacking in Australia: who was driving it?
Who was driving it? Tough to say. We were both looking for an alternative to the “American Dream”. But I tend to toss outlandish ideas on the table half-heartedly, and Adam is usually the one that makes them happen.
That specific experience was funny, because we thought we were doing a really brave thing. Quitting our jobs and selling everything to go live in Australia for a year.
But in all honesty, we wanted to have a new home and a new job waiting for us when we got there. The real change didn’t happen until we arrived and fell flat on our faces! We are so thankful now that what felt right completely fell apart!
8. What were the biggest challenges in your marriage and how did you overcome those?
We had so many changes at the beginning of our marriage that we didn’t really develop our married personality. Our personality became the couple that knows how to handle change! There have been a handful of times when we’ve decided to slow our travel so we could eliminate all the stimuli and focus on us as a married couple and us as a family.
It usually falls after a big project. We’ll reflect on how that project changed us individually, and what new direction we’re craving. It’s very much like we realized some growth has happened, and now we’re taking time to talk about what this growth means. These conversations are 100% what keeps us together and propels us through change.
9. What are your domestic arrangements? How do you share the chore-load?
Early on, I worked teaching jobs so Adam had freedom to build his blog and network with like-minded people online. He amazingly balanced that with being a stay-at-home dad. But for the past few years, we have both been home.
When you travel, normal chore lists don’t always apply! But, there are some things that are consistent.
My roles include grocery shopping, laundry, navigating, booking, bill paying, stay-at-home mom, and in-house photographer.
Adam’s roles include generating income, networking, grilling, fort building, and driving any distance over 20 miles. We have been blessed to both be stay-at-home parents and share in disciplining our child.
As far as inspiration goes, that is something out of my control. I simply remember that you never know when it’s going to go away or when it’s going to reappear. But, sometimes, a little frisbee, golf, a movie marathon, or a night on the town can do wonders!
10. Are you building your family on the same basis as your parents?
We practice “Lifestyle design”. Basically, it’s a blank page. We can do anything, live anywhere, have any hobby, go to any school, etc. Instead of using a lot of family traditions, we are thinking more about what our family needs now or what we want to be able to do in the future.
It has everything to do with constant awareness.
Adam and I both come from divorced families, and so we hope that trend doesn’t continue. We hope that the constantly open conversation of what our family needs will give us awareness about our needs and allow us to change/grow together.
11. What are your thoughts about finding balance between the roles of mother and wife?
Adam and I started our family right away, so we don’t really know marriage without kids. One of my mentors once told me that the hierarchy of love should be your relationship with God, then your spouse, then your kids. Your relationship with your kids will be strongest if your relationships with God and your spouse are good first.
We try to keep that in mind. We take the time to make sure that we are growing as friends, partners, and lovers knowing that it will make our entire family life richer.
Even with that mindset, having kids is hard. Free time disappears. You lose your patience. Yet, you get so attached to them and couldn’t imagine it any other way.
12. What are your challenges as a mother of Milligan and Charlie? What do you want to teach them?
Quit trying to guess what your kid is going to be like. What will they look like? What sports will they play? I can’t wait to take them there. It’s fun until you realize you have set an expectation for your child and what you want them to be like. “But you were suppose to be the football star!”
The best way to truly love and accept a child is to give them a blank page. Guide them where their quirks and interests take them. Don’t force them to take piano.
Don’t make them have friendships for your sake. Don’t squash them because they have a weird humor.
Otherwise, I hope I teach the girls to think for themselves and to use their opinions appropriately.
13. Did you have a role model or anti-role model of your marriage?
I love that you bring up anti-role models! It’s a topic that’s not acknowledged as much. But I would say that I have more anti-role models that propel me to do better. But I have one or two positive role models that I’ve leaned on for advice and direction to get me there.
14. What would be the most important piece of advice from you to other women?
Be vulnerable. Didn’t fully understand it until I got married. Brene Brown explains it best in her Ted talk. In order to feel joy, you have to be willing to be sad. In order to feel acceptance, you have to be willing to be rejected. In order to feel intense love, you have to be willing to feel heartbreak.
Thank you, Courtney, I am positive: with your open communication, openness, growth and resilience to change, your daughters will have a great role model for building their families!
What do you think? Can you be vulnerable in marriage and feel safe about it?