The Mama Sacrifice

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“Are you and Eliot going to dress up for Halloween with Bella?”, my mama friend asked me on our morning walk this weekend.  “I wanted to,” she said, “but a new costume is the same price as a case of diapers!”  She almost answered her own question for me.

Not happening this year, not at all.

This blog post is a detailed account of the mommy sacrifices, the ones made day after day, paycheck after paycheck – and is inspired 1000% by my own life, MY sacrifices, and the ones made by the friends and coworkers I spend my time with.  Therefore, it is 1,000,000% dedicated to the people who will read this and immediately connect with what I’m trying to convey – and to the woman who taught me most about sacrifice – my own mom.

That being said – let’s talk money.  I have spent my whole life (pre-baby) spending frivolously – always assuming that if I ran out of money, there’d be more out there somewhere!  Silly, silly me.  This could probably explain why the entire second floor of Nordstrom knows me by name, why I have a closet full of BCBG dresses (each worn only once) and why my minimum credit card payment is probably more than your car payments.  Just saying.

Now I have a child.  And for the first 6 months of her life, I did not have a job, by choice… and only a minimal savings account and my husbands salary to rely on.  This was terrifying – and this was the first real experience with finding out that, there isn’t always more money “somewhere”.  Also, I found out that it isn’t so fun to have to explain to your husband why there are more shopping bags in the trash and why your 2 month old child is wearing a Burberry dress to a pretty informal family dinner.  Whoops.

And all of a sudden, shit gets real –  really real, REALLY fast.

I have been back to work now for almost two months at a school that I love.  In fact, I chose this school simply for the fact that I loved the sense of community it provided for my daughter and I.  She gets to attend their amazing (but costly) baby program, while I teach just a few doors away – making just about enough money to pay her tuition, our insurance costs and (some) of our bills.  To me, it’s worth it though – the smile on her face each time I pick her up at her classroom.  The way every other staff member in the building already knows both of us by name, greets us with a smile and sincerely asks how we’re doing.  This is exactly what I wanted for both of us – so much more than a new dress or pair of shoes.  So.much.more.

Consider this sacrifice numero uno.

I knew in choosing this profession that I’d never be making the big bucks.  The good news is, I am FOR SURE paid in other ways – any teacher will tell you, the rewarding aspect of our profession really is worth all of the hard work, and lack of funds.  But before I had a child to worry about – the lack of funds really didn’t exist.  I had no one to think about but me! Now, however,  factor in the cost of day care, health insurance, baby formula, diapers, wipes, pediatrician co-pays, and you’re EASILY out an entire paycheck and a half, each and every month.

Consider this sacrifice number 2 through 2,000. Literally.

These last few weeks have been harder than usual.  We’ve had unexpected financial responsibilities that we’ve had to attend to, leaving us WAY too tight in between pay periods.

Blah, blah, blah – I’m preaching to the choir, right?

But also, these last two weeks – while our money was tighter than my pre-pregnancy jeans – the world kept spinning, and my baby kept needing things.. More things than usual – a few extra doctor appointments, a medication that was not cheap, some new items for school, a birthday present for a friend.

And then you realize you’re doing the dance that countless other women are doing all day, every day, all around you – though you’d never know it, because any good mama, does this dance with a smile, hardly breaking a sweat.  It’s called the mama sacrifice – and for each sacrifice I make for this child of mine, the happier I am to “do without” so that my baby can have all that she needs. It makes me feel like more of a woman, and even more of a mother.

I was joking around with a fellow coworker today, about living the mama sacrifice life.  She had made an incredible decision to bring her children to the school  that we teach at, and of course, this comes at a price.  We joked about the struggle (although sometimes it feels like no laughing matter), since she too, gives ALL of herself , emotionally and financially to her children.. We had a good laugh and then we said it, almost in unison – “it is SO worth it.”

Birthday gift for a birthday party = no manicure for mommy this week.  WORTH IT – I love giving nice gifts to deserving people.

Our playgroup membership = no gym membership for mommy.  WORTH IT – I love watching Bella crawl around with all the other cute babies at MyGym – plus I burn plenty of calories chasing after her anyway!

Diapers/Formula/Wipes/Organic baby food = well, no more organic Whole Foods goodies for Mommy (at least not this month, anyway).  WORTH IT – to never have to worry about my daughter not having what she needs, and to make sure I’m feeding her only the best of foods.

I can tell you with all honesty that the list goes on and on.  And with each example, I still find it totally worth it to give up what I want for what my daughter NEEDS. This month, for the first time in years, I have cut back financially in ways I never thought possible. And it feels good… actually, really good. My husband and I may have to forego date nights, fixing up the house, trips with friends and spending frivolously on unnecessary luxuries – but as parents, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The sacrifice may be new to us – but it certainly is not new to the 99% of Americans struggling to make ends meet.  It’s what good parents do – it’s what keeps our children happy, healthy, and well taken care of.

Until you can find me a mama who wouldn’t sacrifice the shirt off her back for her child, I will continue doing this dance – my mama sacrifice dance – with pleasure.

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