I Feel You Maleficent
As I wrote in my previous post (5 September 2018) I made the choice to leave a full time job and to pursue a career as a writer and speaker http://amillionbeautifulpieces.co.za/2018/09/05/i-am-bravely-making-the-scary-choice/.
Making the transition from one career to another is quite daunting. Then to do something so different as working for myself and being based at home is another paradigm shift. To work from home where my adult daughter Savannah (autistic and has physical challenges) spends all her time, adds another dimension that requires planning and patience.
Before I made the choice to make this change I thought long and hard about this. Working from home means that I have to be unbelievably disciplined. Especially when as a mum, it is usually my job to make sure that everyone has everything they need all the time.
Part of the planning process meant that I had to decide what and who I had to do without. Meaning I would not be in a position to attend certain social events that would be beyond my new budget and it means that I had to forsake having a full time helper.
I am truly blessed to have a lovely lady who comes in one day a week to help me. I am in awe of her. She literally scrubs down everything and makes the effects of this one day very meaningful. However for a family of five there are many domestic chores that must be done consistently.
This was my first challenge: to have a plan of action on how I was going to get through the household chores and my work at the same time. I can’t function in chaos and am known to morph into Maleficent on a bad day when I feel out off control. Therein was the first challenge. How to control the external so that I could control the internal?
Challenge two is somewhat more complex. It requires that I must be emotionally wise and mentally strong. That makes me feel tired, even as I write it. Yes, challenge two is how to manage challenge one while I also have to be my daughter Savannah’s primary caregiver.
As an autistic person with physically complex needs and as someone who is struggling to come to terms with the reality of her life, Savannah largely lives within her own time zone. Some days she might wake up at seven o’ clock and the next day she might wake up at two o’clock. Sleep is a fluid thing for her. On a good night she will wake up twice. On a not so good night we may get four hours of sleep. Of course she recovers the lost sleep …in her own time. We don’t.
When she is wake she needs some physical help. She also tends to perseverate on certain topics and may ask me the same question a few dozen times or may tell me something a few dozen times. She has some medical issues for which neither her doctors or I have worked out as yet when to expect a flare up. Thus being flexible, patient and kind is the mountain I already knew I would have to climb all day and everyday from here on out.
That is not easy for me. I’d love to tell you that I follow some programme on how to maintain my peace but sadly I am still a work in progress. I am frustrated sometimes that I am limited by what I can do because my daughter has no options for her life. Oh, I’m sure that many people want to hear that it is fulfilling to look after one’s child when they are so vulnerable.
What is fulfilling about not being able to afford all the health care that your child needs? Or not being able to have care options for her that did not include and be limited to my aging mother. I’m human. Of course I want to be able to do something that is relaxing for myself more regularly (like not once a year). But yes, I’m a more than a little tense, when I have to leave Savannah specifically because she has been smacked and teased in the past by those who were trusted to care for her.
The perceived fulfillment of being a primary caregiver to your child in these circumstances is just a like fairytale…pretty story with scary undertones.
So here is what I did. I thought about what I can control and that addressed challenge number one. I can control how the house is cleaned and run. And the first step in that was to get rid of anything that we did not need. This resulted in several bags of clothing being donated to three families. We also gave away some pieces of furniture, toys and ornaments.
Basically anything that was just one more thing to clean but had no functional use had to go. I think I can write a whole series about decluttering……..and decluttering when you have a child that does not know how to cope with physical changes in their home. I won’t labour on this for now but I’ll share this story at another time.
As always my concern is that during these changes I want my husband and children to know that their experiences within this is important to me. Therefore underpinning my decision to work from home was several conversations with them about what it will be like to have me around all the time and what it will be like until I am earning a salary again.
Children can’t always think through all the layers that we adults can see. Sometimes as spouses we too don’t have the same view of our shared life. Therefore Michael and I had to talk through what working from home, and specifically working for one’s self in something as unusual as pursuing becoming a writer and being a paid motivational speaker, will mean for us.
We also extended this conversation in parts to our children. We had to talk through life without a helper and what that meant. It is always a struggle as a parent to know how much is too much for your child. I think in the area of being involved in chores it is especially difficult because in South African suburban households many families have full time domestic workers and many children do not have chores.
I also felt conflicted because Talisa and Eli help their sister with her needs everyday. How then does a parent know what is reasonable to expect from an almost sixteen year old and an all most eleven old with busy scholastic and sporting schedules?
Here is what I learnt:
- Talisa and Eli do not count what they do for their sister as a chore. They were a little taken aback that I would see it that way. Talisa annoyingly reminded me for the umpteenth time that whatever they do for Savannah is what siblings do. Lesson learnt again for this mama bear: my guilt has no place where love lives.
- The Super-mum title is not mine and I have to keep refusing that crown. As the weeks progressed everyone settled into having me around but they needed reminding that having me at home did not mean I was available to them as and when they wanted me. Hey, I’ve just clocked forty! I can’t do everything for everyone. So after more discussions I’ve negotiated a trade: a foot rub and cups of tea and coffee, and they can keep the Super-mum crown and all that goes with earning that title.
- Tears are a part of my story. Sometimes I will cry for all that I can’t be. Sometimes I will cry because life is unfair. Sometimes I will cry because the endless cycle of the same emotional roller coaster is unbearable. But mostly I will cry because I love. I count myself extremely blessed to know that.
These are the tears that make up my crown. I wear that one without any fuss.