I didn’t set out to have a large family. For my first few decades, I doubted if I’d have kids at all. I was 26 when my boyfriend was diagnosed with leukemia. Caring for him and paying bills over the next five years consumed me and eclipsed any thoughts of family. Occasionally, I dreamed of adopting, but how I’d support another life was a question I couldn’t answer. My days and nights were a blur of exertion until my boyfriend turned thirtyfive. He knew he had little time left anddecided to move across the country, ending our relationship. I was thirty three but felt very old.
Meeting my life partner Eric Best and his two year old daughter Stella transformed both me and my life. Together they showed me I could move on from loss into a new kind of joy. They also revealed to me how much I wanted to be a mom. Theymoved into my cabin in Vermont when I was 34, and within a year I was pregnant with my first child, Drew, and two years later, Gracie.
Becoming a mom was the most magical and important experience of my life. The miracle of their growing bodies and evolving personalities enchanted me, and all I wanted was to devote myself to their care. Leaving them on a daily basis to goto work shredded my heart. I was a college professor and had been extremely ambitious before becoming a mom. Suddenly, though, work seemed like distraction. All I wanted was to inspire, nurture and be with my children.
I continued to work full time until Drew was 8 and Gracie almost 6. By that point, I had begun to feel like a failure in every way: I wasn’t mothering my children as I wished, my scholarship had waned, and romance with my life partner hadbecome thin and brittle. I still remember a snowy day in May (yes, in VT it can snow in May!) when I dressed in a business suit to meet with the College President and request a full year’s leave. When asked for my reasons, I stated that I needed to be home with my children to have more of an impact on their development. What wonder and gratitude I felt as he reached across the desk between us to shake my hand and say, “A noble cause.”
I relished the relief and freedom of parenting without the pressure of daily work responsibilities. I loved focusing on Drew and Grace, their dad and our home. My joy tripled when I discovered I was pregnant. Family life had never felt sweeter. I was 43 and felt healthier and happier than ever before. Mikah was born in our own home right into his dad’s arms just as the sun set. Within the following year, I officially resigned from my full professorship and prepared to teach a small class once or twice a year.
I have all I ever wished for now – three vibrant children, health, a home, and a loving partner but my life is not sustainable. I am living off of savings. Part time work is not enough to support our family. I have about a year left to live raising my toddler, volunteering in my kids’ school, teaching part time and writing freelance. I don’t ever want to say goodbye to this life design. I hope to discover a way to support myself without compromising my mothering.
People argue that raising babies in one’s later forties can be tiring, but I find motherhood infinitely less taxing than full time work. Age doesn’t create fatigue as much as lifestyle. Moms of any age need support so – along with nurturing their children – they can exercise, connect to friends, and enjoy romance with their partner. Work too often eclipses these moments.
As I look ahead, seeking to envision how I will provide for as well as care for my children in the future, one truth emerges: I will be connecting to other moms like me. Sharing how we live vibrantly and creatively will bring forth ideas and resources that can help us all. Huge gratitude to Carolyn, who created this forum where we can meet and unite.
www.left of pluto/sarahsilbert.com