When you struggle with balance, you need a re-design.
Since our kids’ needs shift so frequently, our expectations for balance must shift too. And sometimes that means a total revamp every time a major development leap is made (backwards OR forwards).
While I don’t work for a boss (except me!) or have to be at an office, like many moms (and dads) with special needs kids do, I still have to juggle a lot of responsibilities, make time sacrifices, and re-balance when things change. I’m trying to build an at-home business from scratch, manage a household as a single parent, and still maintain my relationships with family, friends, and myself. I’m at my wit’s end. But I know it’s temporary. Since I’m a super organized person (at least in theory), I have to plan for this.
Identify your obstacles.
Summer is upon us, which means the full day of school I relied on for my 6 yr old has ended. So his time needs have increased. And my teenager’s growing refusal to participate in anything at all besides gaming (as a result of many things, including anxiety and demand avoidance) makes it nearly impossible to get any work done when he’s awake.
Autism has taught me many things, but so far the most valuable is how to be flexible when my kids can’t be. So everything is changing. And that means I must also adapt, regroup, and rethink the way I’m running my business, household and trying to fulfill my own life goals.
Know what your needs are, and what the kids need from you.
For instance, I know my 6 yr old is a morning person, and his most active, and therefore most needy, hours are in the morning. Unfortunately that’s when I usually get work done, cause I’m most productive then too. But it will be good for me to spend the morning being active and learning with him.
My older son needs different things - to wake up a little later, have a good chunk of alone time, and have the option to join us on our trip of the day. He might never choose it, but he needs to feel like he has some control over what he does all day.
Make a plan of action, with lots of room for adjustment.
I started out with brainstorming ways I could meet the needs of each kid and myself, and map out best times of the day for each. It was more involved than it needed to be (I love lists too much) but it was a good place to start.
So for my 6 yr old early bird, I planned activities for several mornings a week, like beach and pool trips, nature walks and hikes, and a library or museum day. So far we’ve gone to one of the local pools twice, hiked Lynn Canyon (in Vancouver, BC), visited a park we’ve never been to, and we are planning a beach trip for Friday. I have a calendar full of possible trips to do each week, all before lunch time when he’s at his most active.
For my teen, I posted our trips for the week on the fridge (and what we were having for dinner). And I made up several containers full of healthy snack/meal stuff so he won’t get hungry (although there’s never a guarantee he will feed himself). This way he knows where we are, and can choose to come on some trips, and eat something, in theory.
For myself, I’ve hired one of my 6 yr old’s school aides to come one day a week. This is the day I can do some focused work. And I can adjust some of my work to smaller chunks for after bedtime, and any small times I find during any given day. And some of my work I can share with him - like going to the library, or doing household stuff and running errands. This part hasn’t been put into motion yet, but will be soon.
Take notes. Reassess. Above all, be FLEXIBLE.
I have already noticed that the amount of activities I planned weren’t all feasible in the heatwave we’ve been having. Even my dinner planning has gone out the window. And other unexpected things (FedEx, broken kitchen light) have derailed our plans. I also assumed that we would do these great morning things, and the afternoon might go smoothly enough to get some work done, run errands, etc. Nope, not so much. So I’ll be readjusting next week. And the week after we’ll be out of town, and who knows how much that will throw everything off.
Again, be really, really flexible with your expectations. And get some help too.
Balancing high needs kids with full time work means being flexible with your expectations, and learning how to adapt when things change. Planning, organizing, asking for help - these are all important things. And don’t forget to breathe.