Five years ago we had to move from our trendy walkable neighborhood in Portland, OR, to a neighborhood on the outskirts that was not our top pick.
Due to a chain of events we had to pare down our lifestyle, one step at a time, until we were at the base of what I would call livable. First to go were the lattes. They were hard. Lattes are good. But we did it like soldiers; faces to the wind. Next came eating out. Then came outings that cost money. Then good groceries. We had the ‘we can’t afford organics anymore’ talk in front of the refrigerator, both in solemn agreement. Purchasing kids clothes stopped. We used to by mostly used cute clothing; now we took only freebies. We had to stop all but one of our monthly charitable donations.
We still paid about $400 a month for health insurance. However, this didn’t buy coverage for all of our family members. And these expensive plans didn’t cover most of our doctors appointments either. It didn’t cover dental care or eye care. No glasses, no teeth cleanings or cavities filled. We tried a variety of insurance companies, they all seemed about the same. My diabetes medications were not fully covered and often would cost an additional $500 a month on top of our cost of insurance.
I didn’t buy gardening supplies. We couldn’t fix our cars.
We made all these choices so that I could be a homemaker and full time mom. My husband and I both felt it was very important for one of River’s parents to be home with her in her first years. But we sacrificed to maintain this ideal.
I WAS able to cook a whole lot of homemade food during this time. My family has never eaten so much homemade bread, biscuits and muffins. So many casseroles and home canned pickles. Home canned jam, applesauce, salsa and pickled veggies of all kinds. We slept under blankets I sewed and ate vegetables I grew. We ate eggs our chickens laid, and bought the rest from a neighbor. River and I walked everywhere, even to get groceries (a half hour walk, partially uphill with a stroller- then back down). And a ‘big trip’ was to the library on the bus.
I bartered (traded) everything. Childcare, canned goods, fresh produce, home repair, you name it.
Some parts of this journey were wonderful, with me living my ideals. Others were so hard that I would stand at the dish sink gripping on and crying.
I don’t regret it, but if I ever have another child I don’t know that I would make all the same choices again. My soul, and my body, felt so strained when we needed more fresh produce in the winter, but ate mostly potatoes carrots apples and bread. Or when one of the adults needed to see a doctor but toughed it out at home until they felt kind of better. I don’t know that I want to sacrifice so much again in order to live an ideal. Maybe ideals are not ideal if they degrade our life.
River is now in school, and I have started doing natural house cleaning for work. It is amazing what a difference it makes. I can feel our family lifting up. We are entering a new chapter.
I am hopeful and I am tired. But I am growing less tired. I am filling up again.