4 Signs Your Gazelle Intensity Is Hurting Your Relationships

GazelleEmbracing Dave Ramsey’s principle of gazelle intensity, beginning last fall I increased my work substantially while also caring for my children at home.  While I love what I am doing, it is becoming increasingly hard to balance my work commitments with my family commitments.

On one hand, gazelle intensity has been great for our family.  In a little over 3 months, we have paid down $7,262.44 on our credit card and student loan debt.  The credit card debt especially troubles me, so I am excited to see that our gazelle intensity has reduced it by 33%, dropping it from a high of $20,316.33 on October 20, 2011 to $13,582 as of February 2, 2012.  Still, in addition to the remaining credit card debt, we have  $37,121.37 in student loan debt, so it will be some time, even with gazelle intensity, before we are completely out of debt.

On the other hand, Dave Ramsey never addresses the fact that a gazelle cannot be intense 24/7.  Even a gazelle must rest.  While I want to get out of debt as quickly as possible, I also must temper it with the fact that I want to appreciate and enjoy my life now also.  My children will only be small and at home with me during the day for a few more years.  In fact, my middle child starts preschool in August, and our “baby” follows behind her one year later.  There are only 18 more months I will have children at home with me during the mornings.  Do I want to spend those months bleary-eyed and exhausted all in a quest to pay down debt as quickly as possible?

If you are in the midst of gazelle intensity and struggling to balance your extra workload with family life, here are four ways to determine if gazelle intensity is affecting your personal relationships:

1.  You experience lifestyle creep to keep working as hard as you are.  Because I can no longer fit in all my work during naps, at night, and on the weekend, I have had to hire a babysitter two mornings a week so I can work, which adds an expense of $300 a month to our budget.  We also sometimes go to a place where the kids can play and I can get work done while staying on site.  This is another $34 a week, or $140 a month.  Now, out of pocket I am paying $300 to $440 just to work more.

In addition, now that I am earning more, I am having to set aside a portion of my earnings to pay taxes, which wasn’t an issue previously.  Between paying for a babysitter and having to set aside money for taxes, I don’t think I am actually making much more than I was before my workload grew so much.

 2.  Your children’s behavior is changing negatively.  My middle child, who is usually fairly independent, has become clingy.  She cries now when I am away from her for any amount of time, and she is always afraid I am going to leave here.  While she likes playing with the babysitter, she would prefer that I sit with her; she sometimes cries when I go in the other room to work.

3.  You have no time for yourself or for basic household chores.  I am so busy that I have trouble finding time to pay the bills or clean the house.  I do still pay the bills (of course!) and clean, but I never feel that I can give my time and concentration to one activity because I have so many more vying for my attention.  In addition, I would love to have just a bit of time to relax.

4.  You spouse suggests a post “3 Reasons Why Gazelle Intensity Isn’t Working for Your Family.”  Yes, this post, while an important one to write, was the brain child of my husband, who is clearly feeling the effects of our gazelle intensity.  We have very little time to spend together, and we are both feeling the effects of that.

We are not giving up gazelle intensity, but we are finding that it may be time to become a little less gazelle intense.  I am paring down some of my work to get a bit more balance in my life, but we will still be snowflaking.  In addition, I plan to ramp up my work efforts when my girls are in preschool.  For now, I am going to slow down just a bit so I can enjoy my children when they are small.  My son is proof of how quickly this time goes.

Photo courtesy of rexboggs5



  1. I think that is a great idea. While I love making money, my big goal these days is to find a way to have more free time without sacrificing a huge pay cut. It will definitely be worth it in my eyes.

    • Yes, I think it is best to work smarter, not harder, as the saying goes. I know you are in the midst of working very hard right now, so you understand. I am impressed by all you are doing right now!

  2. This post hit home for me. I am experiencing many of the same “symptoms” as a result of working full time – plus extra odd jobs here and there. I don’t have the debt issue but I just work because it is expected of me… and I am getting tired. 🙂 (The bills and laundry bit really hit home for me.) You initially quit your job to stay home with your kids. Now your side hustle has become a successful full time job and you are feeling the effects. Same as any of us with full time jobs face. I think you are doing the right thing to cut back a little. You didn’t want to work full time while your kids were little, so don’t. You can be just as gazelle intense on a part-time schedule.

    • I am amazed by all of you bloggers who work full-time and then do all your blogging duties on the weekend and evenings. It is a difficult balancing act to be sure.

  3. As a full-time working mom, I have mixed feelings about this post. What you’re experiencing is what I’ve been dealing with since I went back to work when my daughter was 3 months old. I had to work because my family needed the money, much like you’re doing now. On the other hand, you do need to strike a balance and cannot be consumed too much by any one thing. If you feel that you’re working too much, then take a step back. I know I’ve had to let certain things go in order to spend as much time with my daughter as possible. If my house isn’t as clean as it should be or the laundry had to wait another day but we had a good time baking cookies or playing, then that’s fine with me.

    • I worked full-time for the first four years of my son’s life, so I know what a balancing act it can be. Still, when I worked full-time, our family had time together on the weekends and in the evenings a bit. Now, because I work when my husband is home, we have NO family time together. Either dad is with the kids or I am. While this is fine for a few months, over the long term, it is taking a toll on all of us. While I want to pay off debt quickly, I don’t want to do it at the expense of my family and spending a little bit of time with them.

  4. I appreciate this post a lot. As personal finance bloggers, we always feel guilty for enjoying simple things just because we have debt. And if we’re not working to pay it off, we should be!

    Honestly, it’s exhausting. On April 1st, all our debt except student loans will be gone. And we’re moving into a bigger place this weekend which will eat up a bigger portion of our income, but most importantly, we are SO happy for a bigger home. It is about BALANCE. Maybe it will take a little longer to pay off our debt, but we will be so much happier. We have a plan, it’s just not gazelle intense, and we’re a-okay with that : )
    Don’t focus so much on paying off your debt that you let life pass you by

    • Exactly. I want to be out of debt and don’t plan to ever just pay the minimum payments, but I do want to also enjoy my life, especially since our level of debt will take awhile to eradicate. I hope you like the new place!

  5. You have accomplished a great deal Melissa in terms of paying off your debt and building up your freelance business.

    But it is difficult to keep working all the time, especially when you have a young family to care for.

    In our house it is just my husband and I, but we both work 10 hours a day online because we have so much debt to pay off. At the same time I like a clean organized house, and I do laundry every second day. So I find myself jumping back and forth between working at the computer and dusting and vacuuming. Even on the days that we try to take off we still end up doing a million things related to either work or the house, and if we don’t, we feel guilty about it.

    • I love working at home, but sometimes it can be hard to focus on work when there are so many things around the house to do. Your days sound a lot like mine, juggling home and work. Still, I am very thankful that I am working at home for myself rather than at my former job.

  6. Gazelle intensity is a good concept, and certainly has it’s place. It can probably be highly effective.

    However, we can’t ignore balance. Everyone is different, and some can handle the focus of meeting a goal at the exclusion of other aspects of life. But many others don’t want to do that, and would rather have a more balanced approach to things.

    Ultimately, what’s the point: financial success, or happiness? If it’s happiness, then balance is probably essential. It seems like you’re going for balance of practicality and emotions, which I respect. I hate not spending time with my kids, which I’ve noticed some people don’t understand coming from a father, but it doesn’t matter to me what other people think 🙂

    • I don’t mind giving up “things” and sacrificing that way, but it is sacrificing the time with my family that I find increasingly difficult.

  7. This post reminds me of when my own kids were small. I’m an artist, and I recall trying to find time to work on my art with my young children around. More often than not it just wouldn’t work out — little children needing my attention and no time at all for the art studio. I would find myself getting so frustrated! But then one day I simply realized…that I would always have my artwork, that it would always be there for me, but I woudn’t always have my kids. That realization allowed me to let go in so many ways. And I was right — flashing forward a number of years here as my kids grew, my art did wait for me 🙂

  8. Melissa, my heart is breaking for you! I have three small kiddos and am in a similar situation which I will have my youngest kids in preschool over the next two years. While we were paying off all of our debt, being gazelle meant really cutting our expenses. I felt like all I was doing was running my young kids from one store to another to grab all the deals of the week.

    I too had to take a step back for balance. And while we were gazelle in many senses, by taking a small step back, we were able to keep going and finish the race! 🙂 Maybe you can continue most but not all of your extra work. And that is ok!!!!

    Something that I am trying to work on right now with my 3&4 year olds (as well as my 6 year old) is to take a “timeout” of my work and sit and play/read/snuggle for 15 min a few times per day. I literally have been writing this “task” on my to do list! I want to make sure that I spend good time with them before they are grown. Hang in there and let us know what changes you decide to make.

    • Thank you for sharing. Your experience sounds much like mine; it is hard to step away from work sometimes, but I don’t want to miss the time when my kids are little.

  9. Just came across your blog the first time tonight, and I LOVE this post. I’m glad to see someone say it.
    My husband and I have a large amount of student loan debt. In addition, my husband opened his own business about 5 years ago, which he only started taking an income from this year, despite the fact that he works 60-70+ hour weeks (so really no time for side jobs). We have a young child now (that we waited 7 years to have because of our financial issues) and it’s very important to me to be home with him at least part time. Anyway- what I’m trying to say is that no matter how hard we are working, the truth is it’s just going to take time to pay off this debt. It’s one thing to be gazelle intense when you can pay it off in a year or less, but when you’re looking at 10 years (or more) you have to realize you have a life to live too. We could pay our debt off quicker if I worked full time, but then we’d all be more stressed, we’d eat more fast food, I’d be paying more in daycare costs, and I’d miss out on that time with my son. I hate debt, but that’s not worth it to me. We’re just plugging away, slow and steady. But I guess you can still win the race that way too 🙂

    • I love your last sentence. Slow and steady does win the race, especially if you are no longer accruing new debt. If you would like, feel free to join my snowflake challenge every Friday. That is another way to speed up debt repayment without working yourself endlessly.

  10. Undertand your idea as my hubby and I are doing FPU right now. I think we’ve taken Gazelle Intensity and put our own definition around it in that we have made a decision to NOT CONTINUE THE SAME bad financial habits we were doing before. Just with this change in our behaviour, we work together to attack our debt but still leave money for recreation, eating decent meals and not changing our lifestyle to the point that we don’t even have a date night anymore. Although many are in situations that they can, or want to, live off of rice and beans to a year….that’s not the majority of us and we’ll still finish our goals in due time. It’s just doing it at another level of intensity that what one was previously running at. But first come health, proper sleep, and family time and oneself!

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