On the Cusp of Change

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The girls and I woke to a freezing cold house, the two of them snuggled in my bed. The cold was making them agitated and restless, but their childish exuberance always wins and they giggle with faces pressed together making plans for play. My gloom is like a rock that can not be shifted and so I throw back the bed covers and scoot them out. “Off you two go, you are disturbing my peace.” I said firmly. Which was not quite true, because my peace has nothing to do with their noise.

The girls do what I say, like a pair of well trained puppies they bound out of bed and down the stairs. All happiness and joy, the beat of feet and talk down the stairs is beautiful and free. I listen to their conversation of who wants to do what, which is somehow already decided in the twenty steps that take them to reach their play space.

I lay in bed only a moment. Funny how  even a minute of quiet is enough. I don’t really want to be alone, and so I head downstairs too. Downstairs is even colder, and I shiver and pull my sweater closed over my chest. I wonder if Cam has turned the heat off? Checking the thermostat I see that it was not off, and that the house should be a little warmer. Instinctually I know that we are out of oil and so walk down another flight of stairs to the boiler. The mighty black belly in our basement that holds the fossil fuels that we burn to stay warm. There resting on empty the boiler gauge confirms my knowing. Yes, we are out of oil.

Yesterday in the kitchen Cam and I had a conversation about just how broke we are. We stay light hearted with money conversations, because it just does not pay to let it eat you. “You don’t even want to know…” he said shaking his head and laughing. He is right too when he says this, because I do not want to know. I grew up worrying about money more than a child should, and while I am good at living frugal, I am best not dwelling on it. I feel so fortunate to have a partner to share the various roles in a family, and in our family, Cam makes the money and so he assumes the responsibility of finances. We made this choice together so that I could be a stay at home mother. It might not always be the case, but while I am in the role of early childhood mothering, that is the case for us.

Returning from the basement and into the kitchen, I saw the girls were sitting on the pair of red stools at the kitchen bench. This is the sign that they are ready to eat. The kitchen needed warming and so before they gave me their breakfast oder I told them I was going to bake muffins. Without another word they skipped off back to play. Closing the kitchen door to keep in the heat, I lit the oven and  boiled water on the stove. The stream from the kettle heats the room so quickly, I could feel the cold being engulfed by the humidity. Feeling slightly distracted by having to tell Cam we were out of oil, I made the motions of baking muffins. A recipe I know off by heart for having made them weekly since Maya’s birth. I was present only when I relaised I was out of bran, and had to think of a substitute, and then again as I emptied the bottle of cooking oil. I  made a mental note to put these things on the list for next week, feeling the tightening in my stomach over the cost of organic canola oil. The process of making the muffins was reverberating to me we are in fact, running on empty.

Placing the muffins into the oven I hopped that my batter was fine with substitutes and that I had not just waisted ingredients, because that I would take as a personal failure! There is something rewarding about being able to make things stretch, and there is reward in being a resourceful and skilled worker in the home. It is life affirming to know that one can make the best of a situation.

With a built in timer of a natural born cook, Maya appeared in the kitchen, to open the oven door and tell me the muffins were ready. Drawn from my daydream out the window the oven was opened again and I pressed the tops of the muffins to see that they were fluffy. “Another minute more.” I deducted and closed the oven and picked up my phone. Maya set her gaze on me watching me closely, her body twisted in the seat, her eyes darting from the clock above the stove top, back and forth to me. Maya knows that a minute can be a lot longer once I am lost in my phone and so she was acting as guard to her breakfast getting burnt, making sure that my distraction did not take us from the best possible pleasure of our meal. Perhaps it was her voice chiming in, or I noticed her watching me with unease. “Maya” I snapped. “Instead of sitting there watching me, you could help by getting the plates and the jam out!” Despite my stern voice, a smile spread across Maya’s face like I had helped her. Oh she is so much like me I thought to myself. If Maya is worried about something, she  just can’t sit there. While Maya set their places with all that they needed to eat breakfast, I removed  the perfect golden topped muffins from the oven. Sitting the steaming muffins on the bench before the girls. Like little critics they discussed that the ingredient modifications had worked, and that the muffins were very good.

There I stood, in a kitchen heated by the kettle and muffins made in a scrape, listening to the girls talk about how delicious breakfast was. In that moment it did not matter that we had no money, because my content suddenly became so large. We are living and learning in what seems like the best possible way. This spark is enough and I am reassured that this can not last forever. Soon the cold will lift, and with it will come change.

11 thoughts on “On the Cusp of Change

  1. Thank you for that post. My family and I are going through the same thing right now. I stay at home with my 17 month-old son and run my own small business. It is so difficult to wait, but it’s all you can do sometimes, I guess.

  2. I fell in love with your ethereal images on instagram but your blog is soothing to my soul. I often find myself struggling to be present while the external variables of life are picking away at me. Thank you for sharing your struggles. It reminds me that even the most enlightened mamas have their moments.

  3. I read your blog post yesterday but didn’t have the chance to comment before it was time to make dinner or some domestic activity I don’t remember. Today I wanted to come back to your blog through your link on IG to my surprise and confusion I couldn’t find you because I wasn’t following you, bizarre…Anyway, I just wanted to say you are an incredible, amazingly creative, kind person and have the most wonderful little family and I hope things work out for you and soon this storm is over. I send you lots of love and warm thoughts from Montreal.

  4. A lot of this resonates with me. It’s funny because it made me think of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder so often and the way she describes the ups and downs of life without judement or shame. Their are highs and lows, and hardship is something that is normal not something to be hidden. It’s too bad that it seems we have gotten away from that. We often hide things that are part of many people’s lives but don’t share. So thanks for sharing. I often have many women who tell me I’m lucky to be able to stay home with my kids, because they don’t have that choice. I don’t know how to respond becuase I know their are many people who don’t have that choice but the ones who say it aren’t usually them. Staying home and mothering young children isn’t without sacrifice, especially money wise. We must live more frugally because of our choice but that’s ok. I’m like you, I don’t mind getting by on little but I certainly have issues about money from my own childhood. Sorry to ramble, but I was thinking a lot about this post as I put Tessa to sleep tonight.

  5. Yes Cary, my thoughts exactly, highs and lows are a part of life, not something to be hidden with shame. Very well put. I also loved how you said… “I often have many women who tell me I’m lucky to be able to stay home with my kids, because they don’t have that choice. I don’t know how to respond because I know their are many people who don’t have that choice but the ones who say it aren’t usually them. Staying home and mothering young children isn’t without sacrifice, especially money wise”. I know many of your life choices have been about being a mother, and not about having more money, and it is very admirable. You are an inspiration Cary! Thank you!

  6. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words, it means a lot to me to reach out and connect and share, and to know that amazing Women are on the same journey.

  7. Yes, I feel grateful that my desire to be at home with my children is so strong, and that I am able to sit through not having money. I am glad that my compromises are to go without things money can buy (beyond necessities) and not giving up time with my babies. It’s funny you know, children are such a gift, and childhood is over so quickly…

  8. Oh Kirsten! I do wish money – and lack of it – was talked about more freely in our society. I’m sure the credit card debt in USA is as bad (worse?) as in Aust and people don’t take notice of the way they live. I think it’s humbling to live with little money, from week to week – it really does bring us back to what’s important.
    Thank you for your words – we chose to leave the city and my husbands full time job to live in the country and no job (we make our own job making and selling our skate jewellery). We don’t have a regular weekly income and don’t know what each month will bring. But being home when our children are here is so much more important that a regular pay check.
    We live frugally, but don’t feel guilty if we splurge occasionally. Cooking from the last of the pantry is a specialty of mine – lentils and rice and whatever veges we have left! I don’t buy new clothes, and we don’t go on holidays. But we give our children what we can and I don’t think they feel poor.
    I grew up without money and I never felt poor, though I knew we were. But it didn’t matter because my life was richer in more ways that could be counted (and us kids knew we were gaining different experiences than our wealthier cousins).
    In the past years we had to sell our house because we couldn’t afford the mortgage, and live in a horrible rental for years, but things change. I think we always find the cash we need when we really need it – and we are lucky that our family helps us out of we get to extreme desperate moments.
    Sending you warmth and thoughts. It’s hard with the stress of a mortgage and the cold of no heating – but stress doesn’t help…your beautiful positive attitude will outlast anything. xxxx
    Ellie {Petalplum}

  9. Hello Sweet Ellie,
    Thank you for such a lovely response to my blog post. You are a wonderful example of making choices to have wealth in your lives beyond money. I admire your journey so much, I too would be glad you trade life in the city for your slice of paradise. Really you have a dream. We could not afford to buy on the North Coast, you are so very lucky, even if sometimes your cupboard is empty! Cam starts work in the city next week for 10 weeks…we know what we want, we just have to wait, and at some point we will sell this house, when the time is right. I look forward to meeting you one of these days! Kirsten xo

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