“I just want to be a stay-at-home mom and spend all my time with my kids. I don’t know how you guys are doing it, but whatever you are doing keep it up.”
This was from a tearful conversation I had with a friend a few weeks back. I didn’t know how to respond because I had never thought of my situation that way. What is being done so I can stay home? Is this a luxury? Oh my gosh, it is. I don’t want to loose this.
I am able to stay home because we sacrifice a lot. We don’t go out shopping just for fun and we eat very few meals out. We rarely give each other gifts. I stopped buying new clothing for myself a year ago, forgo fancy beauty products, keep a grocery budget, never enter a store without a list and more. All of this and we are barely breaking even, BUT I get to stay home with Sabine.
Which is amazing.
Our barely making ends meet lifestyle is getting harder, though, and we need to seriously consider saving for retirement and college. Bottom line is we need more income.
Or do we need more?
Enter a minimalism class by Joshua Becker and his new book The More of Less. In this book, he talks about getting rid of the clutter in our lives to make room for what really matters, and then changing our consumption habits to continue living that way.
The course walks through your space one room at a time discussing new ways to view your possessions. Do you own this, or does it own you? Do these things distract from what you would rather be doing? Does this clutter take time that should be spent with your family?
Through this new lens, I have been able to step back and detach from my possessions. In the last seven weeks, we have seen our closets thin out, an entire dresser sits empty and many shelves are bare. It is an exhilarating experience and at the core of it sits my desire to live more and work less.
As I work through our home I see thousands of dollars of stuff that we did not need. Piles of fabric, books, clothing, kitchen gadgets and toys sit unused, stealing our time, energy and ultimately our hard earned dollars.
I want us to live with less stuff so we can live more. We can do this by editing out the unnecessary and changing how we consume. I can continue to stay home with Sabine until she starts kindergarten if we make changes today. When I do return to work, I can choose the work based on passion and not a salary figure.
So to my friend, that is how we are doing it.
My name is Belle and I am becoming a minimalist.
Sabine finished her first year of nursery school last week. I felt unexpectedly emotional about this. I can’t believe how much she has grown in one year. She started school not being able to run, jump or climb the monkey bars. She can do all three like a boss now. She started school painfully shy and rarely used words with peers or teachers. By the end of the year you couldn’t stop her chattering. She made adorable little girlfriends who would flock to her every morning cheering that Sabine is here. Saying Sabine “blossomed” seems so cliche, but it really is the truth.
Looking at the daily photos makes me burst with pride and then choke back tears. Sabine is not a baby anymore. She is a big kid with big kid requests, emotions and thoughts. She fills a room with her personality and rarely meets a stranger, except for the crazy old lady in the building with the stinky dog. But she scares the bejesus out of me, too, so that is totally ok!
The end of the year symbolizes the end of something bigger. It is the end of our time in NYC. The next month will be a flurry of packing, planning and seeing as much of the city as we can.
It took a while to feel like NYC is home. There is a steep learning curve to this city, along with the challenging situations of being a new mom and dealing with PPD and anxiety. It was not until this year that NYC felt like home. Our apartment is cozy and comfortable. We have friends that we hang out with as a family and not just the occasional playground playdate. I know my way around pretty well and am not afraid to venture to new areas just Sabine and I.
And now we are leaving. Again.
It seems like I do this a lot. Wait, I do do this a lot! I’m ready to settle down and make a forever home. I am ready to use our extra cash to travel, not to pay for boxes and U-Haul trucks. I am ready to make friends that I know I can grow old with and not have to hop a plane to see once a year. I’m ready to be an activist in my community, something that is really hard to do when you move every three to four years.
I believe Durham will be that place. But I’m still sad to say goodbye to NYC.
I guess that is the way to leave though – as a goodbye rather than just bye.
Google “only child” and you get more than 31 million hits.
This strikes me as completely ridiculous. Why is our society so obsessed with only children and the good or bad aspects of being one?
I am often asked if Sabine is an only child and up until recently I would always give my very canned response with downcast eyes.
“Yes. She is, and will continue to be, an only child. It took years and a lot of medical intervention for us to have Sabine. She is very special.”
While this response was not bad in the sense that it brought to light our struggle with infertility, it was not particularly good. You see, I don’t like the negative edge that “only child” has. The word only implies “not enough” and that is not fair when it comes to a human being. We are all enough. We are all amazing creatures with cool thoughts and awesome abilities. Why on earth would we refer to ourselves as an “only.” We might be one, but we are far from only.
It is with this in mind that I have changed my canned response. When someone asks me if Sabine is an only child I now respond with, “Sabine is our one amazing child. It took a long time and a lot of medical intervention to have her. She is very special.”
I want to change the way we speak about families with one child. One is awesome. One is perfect. One is exactly what we all longed for when we were neck deep in injections, transvaginal ultrasounds, pregnancy tests and tears. One is amazing.