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It’s two and a half years later, but it feels like just yesterday I was facing my second episode of pulmonary embolism (PE), a condition I’ll have to battle my entire life, where the arteries in my lungs can become blocked by a blood clot. Life has changed a lot since then — including my day-to-day physical and emotional health, my relationship with my husband, my life as a mom, and the ease of our family finances.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve struggled a lot with finding time for myself and feeling motivated for self-care. When this second episode of PE blood clots occurred, I felt like giving up. I was already struggling with my identity outside of being a mother, and then, I was suddenly unable to do anything for myself. I felt like a failure, not only as a mom and wife, but also as a person. I could barely walk up the stairs, much less carry my two-year-old daughter. When you’re 40 years old and your mom has to come over and help you brush your teeth, something shakes inside of you.

Throughout the recovery process, my husband and I had some hard conversations. These talks were difficult — not because of the compromises and tension that financial conversations can bring, but because somewhere inside me, I didn’t feel like an equal to my partner — I felt like a burden. While I did understand that this wasn’t true, it was how I felt. PE brought my thriving platform and contract work with private clients to a complete halt, and with two children, but only one income for our family, we needed a strategy in place.

I’m the “planner” when it comes to money, and my husband is more of the “I’ll make it happen” type. As with many families, budgeting wasn’t new to us, but we decided to tackle our new challenges with fresh eyes and a plan.

Our Family Plan

Together, we decided no matter what, all bills needed to be paid on time, therapy was a must, and a monthly spending limit needed to be followed. We both agreed having regular time together without the kids was important, but decided to cut back in certain areas, like dining out and cable TV.

I wrote down everything we spent money on, noting all our bills and miscellaneous expenses. Then, I took the time to call our credit card companies to see if we could get a better interest rate, called our utility providers for flat rate plans for gas and electricity, and cancelled all but one streaming service. I even reduced our internet plan, because, at the time, I wasn’t working online anymore.

I also became the coupon lady. Paper coupons, coupon and savings apps, you name it! I refused to skimp on quality groceries, but I certainly used any and all discounts to buy them. I also went back to shopping in bulk for more frequently used household items.

And even though it was a rare treat, I stopped going to the nail salon. The level of compliments I now get on my nails makes me laugh. I’ve learned to paint my nails perfectly. They look salon-quality for a fraction of the cost. I’m still working on perfecting my at-home hair styles!

As for our kids, we committed to keeping them in a few activities, but scrapped everything else that was more about luxury than anything. My kids were three and five at the time, so while we had to stop activities like soccer, they were unfazed. That’s the great thing about kids. They bounce back much easier than we adults do. Not to mention they got a lot more playtime with Mommy.

And, if you have kids, you know how fast they outgrow things. I started listing our gently used clothing and toys in resale and exchange groups. I’d also find quality items for well over 80% off in these same groups, often scoring items with tags still intact.

Related: How to Prepare For (and Get Through) Money Emergencies

Getting up Is What Counts

One of my biggest takeaways from our new family dynamic is talking is important. Although talking about how therapy is a necessity can get uncomfortable, we need to be honest about where we are in the emotional journey that comes along with illness, in order to tackle the more practical things, like finances.

It’s been two and a half years since my second PE episode, and my emotional healing is continually in progress. Some days I feel ok, but other days, I’m not. When you go through a life-changing illness, it triggers something inside you to appreciate what you have and to start experiencing life to the fullest.

I have specific goals I want to accomplish. Why should I wait? Just recently I professed I want to be a runner again, and I’ve been cleared to resume a regular exercise routine, modifying as needed. I also want to learn to make pottery — vases, to be specific. I haven’t started these parts of my journey yet, but I’m vocalizing them as a way to hold myself accountable.

I’m happy to say I’m rebuilding my clientele and platform. And, in true budgeting fashion, I will be utilizing the $10 parent drop-in rate for kickboxing classes at my kid’s martial arts center. And I’m even more proud of the fact that we have established a good safety net, laid aside additional savings, and now have a better outlook on our spending.

Through all of this, I hope I’m setting the right example for our kids. You may get knocked down in life, but getting back up is what counts.

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Headshot of MJ JacksMJ Jacks is a passionate motherhood blogger, dedicated to sharing her experiences and challenges in an insightful way. As a mother of two, she allows others into her world while providing experiences on health, family life, and her business.