You know, every once in awhile you just hit a real bump in the road.
So many of us “manage,” we do the best we can every day as spouses, as parents, to try to keep our fingers in the old dyck for as long as possible. But sooner or later, the water just gets too high, and your carefully-balanced house of cards is in danger of being washed away. When that happens, it’s time to stop and re-assess priorities before you lose touch with your life altogether.
Priorities in this house are: 1) safety and well-being of each person; 2) roof over head; 3) food on table. These are the same priorities I often share with my clients who are panicking about what to do. These three things you MUST have–the rest can come when they will.
No question here that everyone is safe. They have a home, a bed, their clothing, a wide selection of toys. (Grownups too.) The clothing is not always new. We buy, I’d guess, two-thirds of our clothes from Ebay, consignment and thrift shops for two reasons: the first, because they cost less, and second, because it conserves world resources. This is why we also donate our gently-used items back to the thrift shops as well. This may horrify some of my colleagues, whose children prefer to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. Well, get over it.
We don’t drive new cars, though we each have a vehicle, because we work in different cities. Our house is over 100 years old and isn’t in a spiffy new subdivision. We may have eight computers in the house; all but one are recycled and repaired from someone else’s use. The adults can’t afford health insurance (the best quote we got was $800/month). We don’t vacation in the islands. For an attorney and a teacher, actually, the scope of our lifestyle is pretty narrow. The only real “luxuries” we enjoy, to rate ourselves against the news stories these days, is the privilege of dining out a couple of nights a week. That’s more to deal with the exhaustion of work and child care than the joy of something fabulous.
So the bills get paid, not much else, while both adults work out of the home, me about 5 hours a day, the Cabana Boy an average of 10 hours a day, Monday through Friday. (Even at that, my pay scale dictates I bring home about twice what he does.) He drives 70 miles a day to work–hello gas pump! Weekends are usually a blur, trying to catch up on all we didn’t get done through the week.
Now this is probably no different than many other two-career families in this “more, faster, now” society. But here’s the bump: we’re losing each other. The adults have almost no time together because of work hours and kid commitments, and resentments build over time when one or the other of us feels like we’re being neglected or put-upon– although we know the other is trying so hard just to keep up that we suck it down and try not to complain.
So what do we do? Someone has to be available to make sure all the therapy and appointments are made, prescriptions are refilled, kids everywhere they need to be. We can’t both work full-time, unless we had a nanny who lived in. Our needs are minimal; maybe we should both work part-time. It would put a pinch on, but we could deal with it. With summer coming on, there will be a lot of garden work to be done, again to save money and promote health, and kids out of school. Can we both keep up this schedule and still make it?
Where is the point at which life balances–enough time, enough love, enough resources? What can you give up and still survive? Who takes care of the ones who care for everyone else? Where do you get answers to these kind of questions?
I never thought I’d be quoting Martha Stewart, but this is apropos: “When I got married and had a child and went to work, my day was all day, all night. You lose your sense of balance. That was in the late ’60s, ’70s, women went to work, they went crazy. They thought the workplace was much more exciting than the home. They thought the family could wait. And you know what? The family can’t wait.”
So we’ll be talking about those priorities. We’ll see you on the other side.
What they say is true: parents, too are casualties of their child’s autism.