One of the most awkward parts of early retirement is being asked “what do you do?” My wife and I don’t like to tell people we’re retired, and we don’t want to call ourselves stay-at-home parents either. Neither of those statements really sum up who we are. That’s why I’ve changed my official position to “Domestic Engineer.”
It’s the less lucrative but wildly more fulfilling part of our part-time work gig.
I know it sounds cool to just be home all day with no one bugging you, and no responsibilities or obligations. All of those things are true… But only in our daydreams – which get regularly interrupted by duct-cleaner telemarketers. (We put our kids on the phone for those.)
If you walked into our home, you wouldn’t assume it’s run by two adults with too much time on their hands. In fact, you may find a trail of (clean) laundry while we look for the perfect towel-capes for everyone or a bowl full of fruit… with a single bite taken out of each apple. (Toddlers, right?)
The reality of what we do is much more involved. It’s actually a lot more about “big picture” than the “nitty-gritty.” A lot more “How can I support you as a future architect” than “How can I get that lego piece out of the vacuum hose?” You get it. That’s why we need the fancy “domestic engineer” title.
What is a domestic engineer?
A domestic engineer is the CEO of the family.
A family has a lot of personalities with their own goals, dreams, and aspirations. As the CEO, you have to keep track of these, help the team learn the right lessons, guide them to the right opportunities, keep them motivated, and step aside as they make their own dreams come true.
That’s the big picture stuff and where you want to spend the most of your efforts.
A household has a lot of moving parts, and you have to be the one to make sure the gears are moving smoothly but from above.
A domestic engineer IS NOT
A domestic engineer is not someone who washes dishes and vacuums all day. For that I have a dishwasher, a Roomba, and a washing machine. (I also bring in the occasional cleaning lady, because I’m fancy like that.)
A good CEO occasionally has to get into the nitty-gritty but spends most of their time on the things that make the biggest impact. That’s how I feel about my domestic engineer role too.
If you left your job just to focus on chores, you’ve kind of missed the mark.
And don’t come at me with “well some people love to do renos and stuff like that” I get it. But if you love that stuff, you’re still upgrading how you spend your time instead of using all your time for basic maintenance. (You can still call yourself a domestic engineer though 😉 )
We take this job very seriously 😉
The reality is, a domestic engineer can’t always be “big picture.” Eventually, someone has to scrub the playdough off the walls, refill the Jet Dry dispenser, and empty the diaper genie. That someone is you.
But things have a way of coming together, as long as you’re intentional.
Our one kid has aspirations to be a gymnast/astronaut. I don’t know how it will work out for her, but we try to keep her excited with little workout routines, space training, and educational videos.
I’m pretty sure our toddler wants to become a stunt double. That, or a crash-test dummy. In any case, he wants to test every single safety measure in our home. His dreams are no less important, so we have to be just as supportive.
All of this takes planning. From finding the right library books to preloading good videos to arranging your couches just right for the mighty cannonball and a graceful tumble routine.
Sure, it’s fun to do things on the fly too, but then we risk letting our kids binge watch spongebob square pants clips instead of Simone Biles at the Olympics or Chris Hadfield at the Space Station.
As domestic engineers, we support each others’ dreams by making space and time for them. (This goes for the adults too.)
Fun domestic engineer career facts:
Domestic Engineer: Job Description
As a domestic engineer, you will work your way up to becoming the CEO (or co-CEO) of your household. You will be held accountable by your team and other stakeholders for several decades.
You will manage a team, keeping track of their goals and helping them find opportunities to pursue these.
Be prepared to learn on the job and be flexible.
Domestic Engineer Salary
Currently, there is no salary budget for the domestic engineer position, but with excellent organization skills you will be able to pursue additional sources of income such as part-time work or entrepreneurship.
This position is best suited for early retirees with investment income who like to live on a small budget.
Domestic Engineer Perks
Perks of a domestic engineer include
- Being there for the important people in your life when they need you most
- Option to travel anytime.
- Time to pursue personal projects.
Domestic Engineer Location
This is a work-from-home position with the option of performing your domestic engineer duties while abroad.
Domestic Engineer Qualifications
- Great listener
- Excellent organization skills
- Prior knowledge of coloring may be required
Roles and Responsibilities of a Domestic Engineer
As a domestic engineer you will
- Understand the goals and needs of your team and facilitate their growth
- Research necessary training opportunities for them (such as classes, videos, books, etc.)
- Maintain or arrange for a suitable environment for your team
- Teach your team to be independent, financially responsible, and how to pursue their own goals.
Team Size and Structure of a Domestic Engineer
You will likely start with a team of two with the option to build your team at your own pace. Keep in mind that your team’s needs and skills will vary over time, so flexibility and patience are a huge asset for your role as a domestic engineer.