I recently gave up my job. I had thought about it for a long time. I think I thought about it ever since I went back to work a year and a half ago after being a stay-at-home mum for five and a half years. Not because I’m lazy or don’t want to work, but because sometimes we have to change our priorities in life.
Before we moved to England 7 years ago we lived in Sweden, where I worked as a nurse. But when we moved we decided that I would stay home as long as needed for the boys to acclimatise to their new country. But then the boys got their autism diagnosis and our life changed. Harry was three, Joshua was four.
Things didn’t turn out the way we’d planned.
So I ended up staying home for over 5 years because our boys needed it and because it is so hard finding something that would suit us as a family. I knew I didn’t want to go back to nursing. It’s not what I really want and realistically a nursing job would require a lot more both in time and energy than I can give. I want to do something positive and now was the time to follow my passion so I became a Personal Trainer. Now, that’s still what I want to do eventually, but at that moment it didn’t quite workout the way I’d planned, for reasons I’ll cover at another time.
Then I found a job working in a school kitchen. Great! All hours while the kids were at school, all the holidays off, it seemed perfect on paper. Not so much in reality.
Here’s the thing. Having children with autism and ADHD is not easy. It’s never easy, and it will never be easy.
Our children don’t socialise. Not like other children do.
After school clubs barely exist in our world.
Play dates don’t exist in our world
We have no grandparents near by to help us out.
Our boys are now 11 and 9. But they are not like other children their age:
Harry is quite a social boy, but he doesn’t have the communication or social skills to play independently with his peers, not for very long at least. And even though he has a few friends, most with autism themselves, I could never leave him in the hands of another parent, they would have enough on their plate without having to look after Harry as well:
He is a flight risk, he has escaped several times and is very good at working out escape routes from any given situation.
He has very little sense of danger.
He might act aggressively and violently if things don’t go his way
He doesn’t understand ‘common sense’
For all these reasons and more he can not do any activities after school, unless I am there too. (Apart from once a week when he does an after school club for one hour at his school which is a special needs school, so it is of course catered for children like him)
Joshua goes to a mainstream school, but he doesn’t socialise. He doesn’t have friends. He never plays with children after school. Even though he’s now 11 we still don’t feel he’s mature enough to walk to school by himself. School is very hard for him. Not academically, but because of all the pressures of the day to ‘keep it together’, stay focused, not be bothered by other children, noises, events, and so on.
When he comes home in the afternoon, he’s exhausted. Trying to get him to do homework can be like World War III!
The boy is the laziest child I’ve ever known. He will not voluntarily move all day unless we make him. He is not overweight by any means but all that sitting all day is not healthy. Walking to and from school is his only exercise, apart from PE, or the occasional bike ride at the weekend with us.
So everything we do as a family is a struggle. Very rarely something goes smoothly. And when I came home from work, I was tired, but like all working mothers I still had more work to do. Their whole life depends on us. And if we didn’t have the energy or time to play, do homework, cook, encourage (lets face it, NAG, haha) battle every. single. thing. Then who would?
Now add everything else that needs to be done as a special needs parent:
Parent – Teacher meetings
Form filling (There’s a lot!)
Dentist appointments (our kids go more often than regular kids)
Doctors appointments (again, more often than regular kids!)
Countless workshops for parents of children with special needs
And the occasional playdate, because, like I said, they can’t go without me
and so on…
This is why I gave up my day job.
To be able to be there for the boys wholeheartedly. So I can go to that workshop. So I don’t have to hoover, do the laundry, have my dentist appointment, or workout when I should be with them.
Now when they come home from school, I can focus on them and their needs. I don’t snap “What?” the tenth time Harry calls “Muuum!” Well… not as much anyway 😉
It wasn’t an easy decision.
It was nice to go to work, distract my mind and not just be an autism mum. BUT in the big picture:
1) We are very fortunate that I don’t have to work. We’re not rich by any means, but we can survive on one salary. Ok, so we can’t go on a big family holiday every year, but I get to spend quality time with my boys every day!
2) What matters in life? Money, or your family? Is anything more important than the wellbeing of you children? And since our children are different, we have had to adapt around them.
3) Nursing or working in a school kitchen weren’t my dream jobs. Now I can spend time figuring out what I actually want to do with my time. Again, I know this is a luxury most people can afford, but I see it as a pleasant side effect of 1)
We all have to make sure we make the choices in life that suit us and our families and not what other people think we should do. It is Your life, so live it on purpose!