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The Harder Parts About Taking a Break From Motherhood

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I've written a lot about how beneficial mom sabbaticals can be. But I also want to be clear about how hard it is, too.

My mom sabbatical has been just what I've needed to reboot my life. After eight years of freelancing and various part-time jobs, my financial life was in shambles. My car was breaking down and too old to keep repairing, only to have another thing die. I was usually worried about paying rent and having to inform my landlord of when she could expect my full rent. The stress around money was enough to make me crazy. And then there were my son's needs. Like most parents, I needed to pay attention to what was happening at his school and his IEP (Individual Educational Plan).

For years I had been managing to stay afloat mentally, emotionally and physically. I started this stay-at-home working-mom journey knowing it would not be easy. I also knew caring for me would be primary if I planned to give my son what he needed. I always felt like I was juggling one too many things, and all of it could come crashing down at any minute. It took a while, seven years to be exact, before I started dropping things and breaking them, but when my emotional state of mind started cracking I had to make some changes for sure.

RELATED: 7 Questions Not to Ask a Mom on Sabbatical

It's been three months since and things are looking up. I've managed to get a new car that I can rely on. I'm no longer scared of driving in bumper to bumper traffic and fearing my car will overheat. I've been able to get caught up with my rent and house expenses. And after several years, I'm no longer qualified for social services. I'm very grateful states can provide a source of money and food assistance to families in need when the shit hits the fan. These resources and services carried me through the darkest of times. It took years before I went to the welfare office to apply for assistance. My pride and ego tricked me into believing I was too good to receive help. Today I know there is no such thing as being "too good" to receive support.

The daily experience of caring for my son gave me a sense of meaning and reason for being. I find that I'm having to reframe who I am without him.

Yes things are better, but there are still days when things are hard. I didn't go into this mom sabbatical thinking it would be easy living without my son. I see him here and there when I can squeeze some time in and speak to him on evenings between jobs. Sometimes being away from my son is just excruciating—the "I can't catch my breath" type of excruciating.

The other morning he called at 7 a.m. to wish me happy birthday. I love how connected he is to me. His little voice sounded like sweet love to my ears. He sang happy birthday and even asked me how my birthday was a few days later when we spoke again. Times like these are bittersweet because on one hand I'm no longer depressed and in a state of fear of the bottom falling out, and on the other hand not seeing my son and working so much can be difficult. When I do see him, the first things I notice are changes that I don't get to participate in.

Times like these also make me wish his father and I had been able to work it out. Honestly there are days when I ask myself, could we have figured out a way to stay together? I've even shared these thoughts with a couple of my closest friends and they have all given me the side-eye. Each of them in their own way have come to check my emotional temperature to see if I'm just sick from being without my son for an extended period of time.

Being a co-parent is difficult, but being a single woman without her child is an exceptional feeling that leaves me scratching my head. I honestly find myself feeling like I have no purpose. On most days I go into the refrigerator and realize I don't have enough food to prepare a full meal. When my son was home, my cabinets where stocked with food for us both. I prepared a meal every day. Now, I'm eating out (and my butt shows it). The daily experience of caring for my son gave me a sense of meaning and reason for being. I find that I'm having to reframe who I am without him.

RELATED: 4 Tips for a Peaceful Divorce

Being away from your child for an extended period of time can be hard on your psyche. On the hard days, I'm grateful for my new emotional stability, but I'm also acutely aware of missing my son and what I created for our life together. On the hard days I fantasize that his father and I could have made it. Sometimes I even cry about feeling like a failure as mother and a wife. While I'm grateful I'm not also worrying about my car breaking down or being evicted, the hard days are real and they really suck.

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