Three years ago, the Matúš family – Zuzka, Janči, Maroško and Jakubko – decided to radically change their lives . They had a beautiful house, Zuzka looked after the children at home and Janči worked all day to bring home enough money. No doubt, many Slovak families are in the same situation. For the Matúš family, something wasn’t entirely right in this seemingly ideal lifestyle. We sat down with Zuzka for a little talk about a different approach to life and also about how she raises her boys.
Our souls were suffering
“From my point of view, we used to live the life of zombies. My husband used to work from dusk until dawn and I was always with the children. We had a large house with a garden and we were well off. Everything was the way society would probably call ‘ideal’. But society doesn’t really look at a person’s soul, whether or not people are happy living the way they do. Our souls were suffering, we didn’t feel like a family.”
The strained situation began showing on the family’s relationships and also on the health of their children.
“I believe that many children’s illnesses and colds come from the mental state of the child and they’re often a reflection of the troubles their parents are having. During the time we had our family troubles, our children got sick a lot. I could feel that I’m not the only one who is unhappy and that our children also suffer. We began taking steps to try and change the situation. It lasted from February until August and we’ve tried many different approaches. I tried to find a job so my husband can work less and spend more time with the children.”
They visited a marriage counselor even though they weren’t thinking about a divorce.
“We were struggling with the same problems that just kept repeating over and over. Marriage counseling helped move us forward. We found out what it means to be in the role of a wife and a mother, a husband and father, and what role the children have in a family. These are the things that should be taught to children in school instead of other things that have no practical use in life. For example, they should know that marriage isn’t just about a wedding in a white dress. Many people get married without knowing what they’re going into.”
We discovered what we really need
A little later, the family made a big decision. It was time to see the world! They didn’t want to escape from their problems. Quite the opposite, the trip was meant to help them solve them. They wanted to eliminate the issues that come with money so they volunteered to help at an eco farm.
“The season for farming was in the summer but when we got this idea, the summer was already ending. So we thought that we could go to New Zealand. That was on the other side of the planet, though. It was an unrealistic goal because we didn’t have the money for airplane tickets for all four of us.”
Zuzka didn’t give up and she got an idea. She began writing articles for potential sponsors, which lead her to start the LifeReset Blog. She contacted partners, prepared presentations and eventually reached her goal. The whole family went off to help organic farmers in New Zealand. For 4 hours of help every day, they got a place to sleep and food.
“We made many important decisions there and, most importantly, we gained the courage to go and try things that we would never experience in Slovakia. At the end of the trip, my husband quit his job. He wanted to do it for about a year already, but he never had the courage. After that we decided to sell our house. In New Zealand we lived in various conditions – a classroom on a catholic school, a cabin without electricity or water, a luxurious house on the beach. The experience helped us realise what we really need and it prepared us for our new life in Slovakia. We realised that a person doesn’t need a house with four rooms in order to be happy but they need freedom which you can never have if you’re stuck with a mortgage. You pay for a mortgage with your life and the time you spend at work and in traffic jams instead of spending it with your family.”
After they sold their house, they used the money to pay off a large portion of their mortgage and bought an old orchard, lived in a rented home for a year and, in the end, they built their own mobile home and a permacultural garden.
Children learn that life doesn’t have limitations. It has opportunities!
According to Zuzka, an unusual lifestyle has a positive effect on their children.
“They way we live sets an example for our children. We’re showing them a lifestyle that’s different than the one they can see everywhere else. We can’t teach our children without living as an example. If we live as free souls, we’re also teaching them that it’s important to be responsible for ourselves, responsible for what we do. We show them that life doesn’t have limitations but it has opportunities. They’ve learned this lesson very quickly.”
The family also encountered difficulties on the road. This year, they went on a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. They were in a hurry and didn’t prepare the children well enough for the trip that was ahead of them. According to Zuzka, the stress made the children sick. Thailand was a real test, especially for Jakubko, the older of the two boys.
“It seemed like everything on that trip was just about Jakubko. He had toothaches, exotic fever, he was subjected to pain and stress. He even got bitten by bedbugs. It changed him and made him stronger. It was as if he went through some sort of transformation and changed into something new. That was because he had the chance to confront his fear and pain. I felt sorry for him but, as a mother, I’m not here to protect him from fear but to guide him through it. We both had to make it through.”
I’ve learned to trust my children
As all other families, the Matúš family isn’t always perfect. There are things that don’t work out for them and they make many mistakes which they write about on their blog. They believe, however, that children should be able to see all colors of life.
“Children these days aren’t confronted with real life. We unknowingly keep them in artificial environments, such as kindergartens, schools and playgrounds. They don’t have the chance to experience real life there. On our last trip to Thailand and Cambodia, they had a chance to encounter death, illnesses, complete poverty and fear. Even we, their parents, were afraid. It opened a new chapter where they understood that even parents can be afraid. It also taught them to overcome fear and try to solve the situation instead of panicking.”
The children are confronted with real life everywhere. Not only during the family’s trips but also in their home.
“We’ve built our house in a way that challenges our children with places to sit and climb. Our garden is also full of what other parents would, no doubt, see as hazards even though they weren’t thought of as dangerous in the past. For example, a pond and a small creek or a small forest where they boys have built a fort. We don’t make them live in comfort. Comfort may be safe, of course, but it doesn’t offer them any opportunities to grow. We try to keep their environment challenging.”
Some people might see this kind of lifestyle as insane. For the Matúš family, however, it works very well and it’s had a positive effect on the relationship they have with their children.
“I’ve learned to trust my children. They can make it and they prepared. They even know some things better than I do because they’re still spontaneous and natural. They’re not deformed by the ideals society forces upon us or the ideals I might be teaching them. I started listening to my children and respecting them. I learn from them and see that their view of the world is sometimes better than mine.”
Trust between parents and their children is very important. Zuzka thinks so, too.
“If you begin to trust your children, they will learn to be independent, trust in themselves, and grow.”
Whether or not you need a ‘life reset’, you should always let your children be children with everything that belongs to childhood, even if it’s a scraped knee or muddy hands.