mouse race
(MOWS rays) n. A lower-stress lifestyle that results from moving to a smaller community or taking a less demanding job. —adj.

Example Citations:
Glen and Phyllis Swank were looking to move from southern California two years ago.

"We wanted to leave the rat race and join the mouse race," said Phyllis, who among other jobs worked at a Jewish day school, a private high school, an affordable housing program and as a cake decorator.

Glen, who labored for 25 years as an applications engineer for the world's largest tool manufacturer, said retiring from that job was retirement number one. He is currently in what he calls retirement number two: serving bed and breakfast customers. He is looking forward to a third retirement, when he will actually vacation in bed and breakfasts.
—Tom Wharton, "Mouse Race Pace Suits Them Fine," Salt Lake Tribune, May 3, 2003, Saturday

Modern education has been described as "the mouse race that trains our children for the rat race."
—Mariam McCain, "Term-time holidays," The Independent (London), January 1, 1999

Earliest Citation:
More people have moved out of Los Angeles County than moved in for each of the past five years. The people who moved out of Los Angeles in the last year alone outnumber the populations of 39 other California counties. Thousands more have packed up and left the high-cost housing and slow-paced traffic of the San Francisco Bay area.

And in those suburban communities that routinely become the landing place for many of the urban refugees, demographics experts say there is a new phenomenon: "The mouse race," a scaled-down version of the urban rat race that has long-time residents heading for even smaller towns and for other states. ...

Mendocino is another "mouse race" county.
—James M. Sweeney, "The Joads go home — Has the Golden State lost its luster?," California Journal, March 1, 1992

Notes:
Mouse race is a play on rat race, a phrase that has been used since at least the 1950s as a disparaging metaphor for the daily struggle to survive and get ahead in a competitive world. Mouse racers haven't dropped out of society; they still work and they still live among the people, but they've just dialed everything down a few notches in an attempt to take all or most of the struggle and stress out of their lives.

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