98: A New Kind of Life

98: A New Kind of Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

A New Kind of Life

Being a mother is not about what you gave up to have a child, but what you’ve gained from having one.

~Sunny Gupta

When my son was grown, it was hard on me. I knew he would still need me, but not in the same way. It took me a long time to work through the fact that there would be no more babies. No more snuggling under a blanket, pretending to be bears in a cave. No more saving the day with clear tape and a hot glue gun. No more feeling the weight of my sleeping child in my arms. It felt like a part of me, the biggest part, was lost, and I grieved for that loss.

One morning, after I had finally come to terms with all this, I was driving to work. Suddenly, I was struck with a horrible case of the stomach flu. I went from singing along with the radio to nearly debilitating nausea. I couldn’t believe how sick I felt. I hadn’t felt so bad in… in… twenty years…. No way! That would be impossible. After all, my husband had undergone a vasectomy a few years earlier. I was in my mid-forties. He was nearly sixty. It was ridiculous to even imagine such a thing. Yet as the morning dragged on, along with my misery, I began to feel something else — hope.

Several months later, as my friends were welcoming grandchildren, I was waddling around. Throughout the entire pregnancy, one set of memories kept threatening my happiness. It was the memories of having to leave my sweet little boy at day care and crying all the way to work. I dreaded that more than anything. I was a college-educated career woman who had always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom. I knew the disappointment of missing a field trip or performance. I knew the agony of not being able to personally care for a sick child, and the sadness of not being together during holiday and summer vacations. I said to my husband, “I don’t know how we are going to survive, but I absolutely will not work full-time and go through that again.”

Twenty-one years and three days after the first time I became a mom, we welcomed our baby girl into the world. And just as I had promised, I cut my hours in half. At first, that seemed acceptable. It wasn’t the dream, but it was something. As she grew and became more active, my work-at-home husband began to find it impossible to work at home while watching her. Money became tighter. I battled my instinct to go back to work full-time. I have always been a provider, so for me to simply leave it to someone else felt unnatural. At one point my college-age son came to me and asked, “Mom, are we going to become homeless?” “I don’t know,” I told him honestly, “but I’m not leaving her.”

We struggled through six months of super low-budget life, and then my husband was offered a full-time job. It was demanding and high stress. “The only way I can accept this,” he said to me, “is if you quit your job and take care of her full-time.” We had less than twenty-four hours to make a decision. The next morning was surreal. After all those years of wishing, I gave my two-week notice and became a stay-at-home mom. For me, it was a miracle.

Making the transition from two incomes to one, especially without prior planning, was jolting. It meant sacrifices by everyone in our family. We lost our health insurance. Car repairs became terrifying. Indulgences like salon visits, expensive face creams, dining out and even the occasional cup of fancy coffee disappeared from our lives. My son wondered if he would be able to finish college. Sometimes, our situation looked so bleak, my family must have thought I had gone crazy. But I held on to our baby and the belief that the time for my dream had come. As the financial storm raged around us, I learned to sew the baby pants I had no money to buy. I discovered a food and household item salvage in my community. I learned to make bread, pizza dough and even homemade pretzels. I washed and reused sandwich bags. I stayed home and conserved gas. And I started to write, selling freelance copy where I could. My son began working between classes to help with the bills. Slowly, cautiously, life went on.

I would be lying if I said being a stay-at-home mom was everything I had imagined. It took a while to realize that we could have fun without funds. Holidays and birthdays were the biggest reality check. But the little things became causes for celebration, and the celebrations became organic rather than commercial.

In time, a new kind of homegrown happy, creative lifestyle developed for our whole family. We’re starting to realize that my being at home full-time is a luxury for all of us. When my husband needs to talk at 4:00 a.m., I’m available to listen. When my son texts me with an invitation to join him for a midnight snack in the kitchen, now I can accept. When our baby girl is fussy and just wants to be held all day, I do just that. It’s not glamorous, but it’s beautiful, this new life we share.

~Edie Schmidt

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