How an Autism Diagnosis Should Go

[Editor’s Note: We cannot explain why there are no spaces between paragraphs in this blog post. The formatting is inexplicably not working properly.]
Okay, this is a long post, but now that I consider myself a veteran autism parent, I have a few ideas to share about how the world could be a better place for autistic people and their families.
The journey to getting my son’s autism diagnosis was hard, for two main reasons. (And I think many people have a similarly difficult time, though of course everyone’s experience is different!) First, I was coming to terms with the fact that my child is “atypical.”. When I had my son, I started reading those Baby Center newsletters.  They always discuss milestones and then say, “But don’t worry, every kid is different! Never compare your child to another child.”  Then all of a sudden, as you start down the path to the diagnosis, everyone is saying, “Well actually, your child is too different. He doesn’t talk enough or say the right things. It’s wrong that he likes to play with the same toy for 30 minutes. It’s wrong that he doesn’t do pretend play. It’s wrong that he doesn’t look at people.” (To be fair, no one used the word “wrong.”. But just by the fact that your child is being diagnosed with a “disorder” it’s hard to avoid the implication that the behavior is wrong.) I felt sad and guilty for not realizing earlier how “wrong” my child’s behavior had been, but at the same time angry at all these “experts” who didn’t have a single good thing to say about my beautiful, intelligent, amazing child.  No one cared that he could take any set of objects (e.g. a bunch of pencils) and form them into the shapes of letters.  No one liked the way he played – drawing letters over and over in the sand with a stick is “wrong,” but building a sand castle is OK.  Learning the sign language alphabet was an “unusual hobby.”  (Of course now, in hindsight, I can certainly agree that that was a somewhat unusual hobby.  But when that came up during our diagnosis I bristled because I felt that the word “unusual” did not literally mean “not usual” but in fact “bad.”
Second, my husband and I essentially had a ton of extra work dumped in our laps.  Speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA, developmental preschool.  There were assessments and SO MUCH PAPERWORK for each of those things. And “homework.”  The speech therapist would say “work on XYZ” and the OT would say “have him practice XYZ” etc., and I felt like I could never fit it all in, not to mention that it was stuff that my son didn’t *want* to practice. Oh, and by the way, I had a newborn baby! And given that half of his childhood was being taken up by therapy, I didn’t want everything for him to be work, work, work all the time.  I tried to tell myself that letting him line up letters for 30 minutes was not a *wasted* half hour, that was just him being a kid and playing how he plays, but I was never quite sure if I was doing the right thing! (For the record, we are four years post-diagnosis and Tuffy is doing incredibly well with making friends, keeping up at school, and just being amazingly well-behaved to the point that people who meet him now literally don’t believe me when I tell them about his meltdowns, so clearly I did execute everything perfectly despite all my fears! Or just maybe, autistic kids are super resilient just like all kids. But I definitely had some part in it!)
Given how hard the diagnosis process and early post-diagnosis months are, how could it be better?  How should this process go?  I believe that some of the first steps should be about supporting the parent(s).  For one thing, many autistic children do NOT sleep well, so not only do the parents have to deal with the issues I just described but they’re doing it on very little sleep.  It is SO HARD to do anything other than just survive when you’re not getting even close to enough sleep (and the sleep you do get is fragmented!).  It takes energy to work on goals with your child, especially behavioral goals.  Not to mention the fact that you’re also probably emotionally exhausted if your child has big meltdowns.  It’s just hard when someone regularly screams at you (and in some cases physically attacks you – my son didn’t do this but I hear this from a lot of autism parents).  It doesn’t matter that the person is a small child and you know not to “take it personally.” It is still just hard.  So you spend a lot of energy walking on eggshells to avoid the meltdowns.  For example, Tuffy used to have a very strict routine around opening his yogurt in the morning.  If my husband started opening the yogurt (not permissible – Tuffy had to open it himself) I’d dive across the room in slow motion yelling “Nooooooooo.”  (I didn’t really do this, but you get my point.) And God forbid the lid ripped while Tuffy was opening it, because if we couldn’t get every visible molecule of foil off of the plastic yogurt cup, the scream-fest was about to begin.  (By the way, if you’re reading this and thinking that we were just coddling him with his yogurt whims, please, please believe me that that is not how autism works.)
So, after years of raising an autistic child that you didn’t realize was autistic, sleepless nights, endless paperwork, judge-y stares and comments from parents or others who don’t get why you won’t take your child to the grocery store, why you can’t get him to wear his coat, etc., you finally get to the diagnosis, at which point things are supposed to get better.  But what actually happens is that you get to hear a whole bunch of stuff about how earlier diagnosis is better and then feel guilty for getting your child diagnosed “too late,” even though you probably had multiple doctors dismiss your early concerns anyway! (Of course, it’s more and more common for kids to get diagnosed quite early, but in our case Tuffy was over 3 and I got to hear a non-stop stream of praise for “birth to 3” intervention and how AMAZING it is if you can start services in that “critical window of brain development.”) Then you’re given a list of ABA providers that are covered by your insurance (if you’re lucky) and sent on your way! Never mind that most of those providers have long waiting lists so that critical time is ticking away as you frantically sign up for waiting lists as fast as you can fill out 30-page intake packets!
Here’s what should happen.  First, support from other parents is SO CRITICAL.  One of the first things I asked after we got Tuffy’s diagnosis was, “Is there a support group?” and the psychiatrist said, “Oh, I think XYZ has one.” So, I looked online and found that that group is only for people who receive their diagnosis through XYZ (which we didn’t.)  This is just ridiculous. Providers don’t necessarily need to facilitate these kind of groups, but it should absolutely be part of their job to know as much as possible about what supports are out there (including stuff like local Facebook groups!) to educate parents. Autism is not just a medical issue, it is a life issue.  There is SO MUCH that you cannot learn from therapists and doctors (unless they happen to have autistic children themselves!)  I mean, just imagine raising a neurotypical child with only the information you get from your pediatrician. Never having a mom-friend or family member who is also in the midst of raising a neurotypical child, who you call and say, “Hey, he won’t take the bottle,” or “Do you let your kid nap in the car?” or just commiserate about anything and everything! You probably won’t come into an autism diagnosis knowing that some parents do a TON of ABA and some choose not to do any.  You won’t know that you’re not the only parent who plans their day around not using public bathrooms, because your child can’t handle the noises from the hand dryers, or that you’re not the only parents who has lost your child and that some parents get GPS trackers for their kids. You won’t know what places are good for autistic kids to take swimming lessons. You only know what providers are telling you, and let’s face it – they are almost all wonderful, caring, hard-working people, but they don’t live autism 24/7. (Sorry for being super cynical, and I’m not directing this at anyone personally, but on some level I do believe that the fact that they are also trying to stay in business shapes their views on therapy to some extent.)
Second, the parents should go to at least one session with a therapist who specializes in autism.  Let’s face it, no two people on earth have the *exact* same ideas about parenting, but it gets compounded when you start throwing in all these interventions.  Some parents are more “pro-therapy” than others. Some are more skeptical about autism than others. Most are struggling with some level of grief as they figure out how to revise the (often subconscious) expectations they had had for how their child’s life was going to go. (Not to mention revising expectations about how our careers would go and weighing whether or not to quit our jobs and/or give up on other ambitions! Ahem, this was me.) This stuff is hard, and getting the parents to a place where they can be united would probably do at least as much for the child than many hours of therapy!
Finally, sleep issues need to be HIGH priority. We didn’t start Tuffy on melatonin right away because providers were pretty wishy-washy about it.  I wish they had made it more clear that it’s not harmful to try and that it’s worth trying if your child has trouble sleeping, because getting more sleep is really, really good for your child and yourself. You need extra patience to raise an autistic child, and patience is so hard to come by when you’re sleep deprived.  By the way, your child needs sleep, too! I believe that starting melatonin improved Tuffy’s behavior more than any therapy we did.
One last thing – before all of this, newly diagnosed parents should just get a spa day to rejuvenate for the work ahead!  ; )  I’m not sure our health insurance system can cover that, but if you have a friend whose child gets a diagnosis and you are able to pamper them a little bit, please do! It’s going to be an emotional time no matter what, but if society’s reaction was to celebrate the fact that the parent had put a lot of time and effort into getting that diagnosis and was really invested in learning and doing what’s best for their child, I think that would be cool.
Law-Mom: 
Econ-Mom, my heart really goes out to you hearing all of this.  I know that SC1 is not autistic, but between severe speech delay, poor speech articulation, daily temper tantrums, sensory processing issues, seven severe food allergies, and 5 hours of chopped up sleep per night while also taking care of a newborn, I really do appreciate how hard it can be.  (I was so sleep-deprived that I was on high blood pressure medication for about a year after having severe preeclampsia with SC2.)
I was constantly asking specialists if SC1 was on the autism spectrum and constantly being told she was not (basically because she made eye-contact). But there is also this really difficult parenting-space to exist in when your child is not developing the way you expect (based on the development you see in her peers), but you also can’t get a clear diagnosis. (We only finally got some answers after a neuropsych evaluation in third grade.)
If it had been any harder, I would have needed a support group. So, I 100% agree that specialists and providers should be offering and providing that kind of information to parents struggling to get through the maze and the days (daze) of parenting special needs children. In the end, I survived because I made friends with a mom in my neighborhood who had a child on the autism spectrum, and she and I could relate to each other’s struggles.

The Special Ed Coverage Gap

I had an IEP (individual education plan) meeting for my younger son, Peanut, today, and it did not go well. After up-ending our schedules to bring him into the district’s special ed preschool for SIX DAYS (note: DH did 5 of these days so I have to give him a big shout out for pulling much more of this weight while I’m still very new at my job), the conclusion was basically that Peanut has some things he needs to work on, but he’s not eligible for special education services.

Apparently, he was a little angel during these six days, which is usually what you want to hear about your child, but not in this case!  So, I asked about putting him in our local developmental preschool (there is one at the school my older son attends) as a typical peer, and they said, “Well, the typical peers need to be really good role models.”  So, he’s too disabled to be a typical peer, but not disabled enough to be in special ed.  Great. Thanks for nothing public school system!

Build Better Bathrooms

(The above should say “waiting in a shorter line,” but I still found it amusing.)

I was talking to a mom of (two) boys the other day, and we were discussing gender differences. She was saying how some moms will tell her that “girls are harder,” but she disagrees for various reasons. Then we proceeded to discuss the “pros” and “cons” of parenting both genders.

At some point in the conversation I said, “You know what I always resented? Going on road trips, and feeling annoyed because The Hub could not help me with two girls. So, I’d be stuck in the restroom changing two sets of diapers.”

And she responded:

“But that happens with us, too, because the men’s rooms don’t have diaper changers!”

To which I was momentarily speechless. And then I gasped and got rather excited and high-pitched: “OMG, I can’t believe I never thought about that before!! Ohmygosh, of course, they don’t! Omg, they need to do something about that! OMG, I’m sure Econ-Mom will talk about how men need to be more involved in child-rearing again!!”

Right, Econ-Mom!?!

My friend and I discussed the pitfalls and perils of gender-separated bathrooms for quite some time, including other, even more important reasons for having more family bathrooms aside from the fact that child-rearing should be a gender-neutral activity. For example, it’s awkward for moms of boys to be taking their boys-of-a-certain-age into the women’s bathroom with them, but equally dangerous for them to be sending said boys into the men’s bathroom on their own.

Tricky.

Seriously, people. Two words: family bathrooms. More of them. Please.

This reminds me of a point I have been complaining about for 15 years now, ever since my first debut as a litigator at the Daley Center courthouse: poorly designed women’s bathrooms. The women’s bathrooms at the Daley Center were clearly designed by men because they do not even have counters! So, you have no where to put down a purse,  an attache, a briefcase, or a coat.

Do the men’s rooms have counters? Don’t men have briefcases and coats? Where do they put them? The floor? And if so….gross!

This is why we need more women in the fields of architecture, design, and engineering.  (Why we need more women in all fields.) I’m personally sorry I didn’t pursue that career path, because I think it would be more rewarding than law. I’d love to take charge of a new nationwide movement to build better bathrooms!

In short, in order to be a better, more functioning, and more sanitary society, we need (1) more family bathrooms with (2) diaper changing stations, and (3) counters.

Econ-Mom: Oh gosh, bathrooms.  Having recently lived in Seattle, where there is a bigger push for gender-neutral bathrooms, part of me does feel like it’s a bit weird.  For a while I was working in a building with a gender-neutral bathroom. I rarely used it (because there were also men/women bathrooms) but the few times I did, I was always kind of worried that I would walk in on a man using the urinal.  (Yes, there was a urinal, and yes it was a multi-person bathroom.)

But a much bigger part of me is all for gender neutral bathrooms!  This is an issue where the disability community is very much in line with the transgender community, for obvious reasons.  I still take my 7-year-old (who is super tall and looks like he’s about 10) into women’s bathrooms with me on occasion, depending on how comfortable I am with the situation.  I was somewhere recently where I had him in the bathroom and a lady walked in and said something like, “Oh my gosh.” I thought that was probably directed at me/my son but I just ignored it.  (BTW, if she had asked me why I had him in the bathroom, I would have happily told her that he is autistic and I don’t feel comfortable letting him go in strange bathrooms alone.)  Of course, people with more severe autism or other disabilities go with a caretaker for their entire life (and just to be pedantic, I will point out that most caretakers are women.)

All that being said, my number one biggest issue with bathrooms is that they are quite often sensory nightmares.  I was cracking up recently because someone in one of my autism mom groups called those high-powered air dryers some really dramatic name like “death machines”, and everyone in the group was like, “Preach, sister!”  There are honestly tons of ASD parents out there who do not take their kids to certain places because the bathrooms are just not an option for their child.

Law-Mom: I get that.  I think I’ve mentioned on this blog that The Hub and I were convinced for the first few years of SC1’s life that she was autistic for many reasons, including the fact that loud bathroom hand-dryers would make her cry.

Also note: I don’t think they need to build more family bathrooms to the exclusion of gender separate bathrooms. Maybe that would be not be economically feasible? But would it really be that expensive to just have one family bathroom for families to use (not necessarily with multiple stalls)?

Finally, in this campaign to Build Better Bathrooms: when they build women’s rooms, they should just build them two to three times the size of men’s bathrooms (i.e., with two to three times more stalls). Surely that would make everyone happier, including the men who would spend less time waiting for their female companions.

We Respond To Each Other’s Podcasts

Law-Mom:  I really enjoyed your conversation with Conan Tanner on “Barbarian Noetics,” Econ-Mom. I particularly appreciated your comments about changing the paradigm so that all parents – moms and dads – spend more time with their children. I also appreciated Tanner’s comment about making the world a more “child-friendly” place to be. Shouldn’t that ultimately be the goal of our society? A more child-friendly world is a more human-friendly world.

I did want to respond to two things that I believe Tanner said during your discussion. The first was Tanner’s comment,”What’s so bad about being lazy?” or, “What’s wrong with lazy people?” At that point, I wanted to barge into the conversation and say: “Ummm…everything.”

I don’t know what that says about me, but I truly have a deep-seated bias against lazy people and laziness in general. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in relaxing and rewarding oneself after a long day, or a long week, of being productive. But I truly abhor general slothfulness. I get mildly ragey when I perceive lazy behavior in my own children. I think some of this is because I have an understanding of just how hard you really have to work to enjoy the finer pleasures of life. And I think most people have to work super hard in life to get where they are. (Not all, of course, but most.)  So, while I do not consider myself very conservative in political matters, I do understand the viewpoint of: “Hey, look: I’ve worked my tail off, so I’m not super interested in being taxed out the ying-yang so that someone else can sit on their duff and enjoy the fruits of my hard labor.” It’s the story of “The Little Red Hen”: I’m not interested in sharing all of my hard work with you ungrateful, lazy, jerks.

Is that selfish? Maybe. But I think it’s understandable. On the flip side, I do believe in cooperation (as I talked about with Tanner). But cooperation is a two-way street: it means everyone is working and  being productive. You only get to be lazy, IMHO, if you are younger than the age of six and/or an invalid. Otherwise, you don’t get a pass in my book. I’ll share with you, but you need to uphold your end of the bargain.

Last but not least, Tanner asked: Why don’t we allow jurors to do their own research? Because the judge has already carefully ruled on what the law is that governs the case and what evidence can and will be admitted. And, if jurors were to “go rogue” and find that different law applies, or different evidence is relevant, it could very-well jeopardize the defendant’s constitutional rights. Of course, the judge may have gotten everything wrong and violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, anyway…but at least there is a record of it. Since no one knows what is going on in the jury room, it is extremely important that the jury follow the judge’s instructions and not do their own research — on the facts or the law — so that everyone knows exactly what evidence and law the jury heard, received, and deliberated over.

That being said (a perfect use of the phrase, I might add), I agreed with both of you that: (1) it was an abysmal use of resources to try that poor transient man over a $20 meth exchange; and (2) that he very likely was not tried by a true “jury of his peers.”  The first point is easily solved: Stop prosecuting and jailing harmless homeless people for non-violent offenses and offer rehab and resources instead. The second point, however, is a bit more problematic and difficult to solve. I agreed with the points you made about finding a way to include more caretakers on juries. Still (and this is coming from someone who skipped out on jury duty, because I was the full-time caretaker of my 10-ish month old), I’m not sure I’d be super keen on leaving my child with government-paid daycare workers whom I’d never met or seen in action. So, I think there would need to be some choice involved on the part of caretakers, because otherwise it might feel a bit like forced child-napping. Not all young children are easily separated from their parents (SC1 being one of them) and it could be traumatic for some children to be away from their caretaker for days, or sometimes weeks, on end.

Econ-Mom:  I also really enjoyed listening to Law-Mom on Barbarian Noetics! Law-Mom and I have a lot to say, people!  It’s now already been a crazy week-ish since I listened, so I don’t remember all the brilliant points I had here, but as someone who has taught Introductory Economics, I feel compelled to say something about bartering. Law-Mom and Conan talk a lot about a more cooperative society and end up talking about bartering.  I’m not against bartering, I think it’s great when it works!  And for what it’s worth, I believe it should be studied more (for example, how and why people revert to bartering in economic crises, such as what’s going on in Venezuela right now).  But it can’t scale up that well because if you have N goods, it means you have to somehow keep track of N*(N-1) prices.  [Law-Mom: I do not understand this at all, Econ-Mom. Please do elaborate in another post.] For example, if you have apples, oranges, and pears, you must have some kind of going rate for apples in terms of pears, apples in terms of oranges, and oranges in terms of pairs, and vice versa. More importantly, when you get to the point where you have thousands of goods (which we do currently have – if not millions!) you run into almost zero chance of finding someone to make a mutually agreeable trade with.

And regarding Law-Mom’s point above about making jury duty optional for parents of young children I absolutely agree!  For sure neither of my kids could have gone with a strange caretaker, and that goes double (or times 100) for kids with more severe autism or other conditions.  But it’s just sort of food for thought.  And I do think that people abuse the chance to get out of jury duty to some extent.  I just had someone tell me that she was still using the ‘caretaker’ excuse even though her daughter was now 16.

Finally, regarding laziness…. Well, I think I’m just going to have to write a separate post about universal basic income because it’s a very interesting topic that economists are really getting into these days!

Be Careful What You Wish For…

So, now this song is stuck in my head. Because in one day, I did two mini yoga sessions with SC2:

 

and

And then I was voted on to join a Board of Directors (on a volunteer basis) for a Foundation with a mission to support young dancers pursuing dance careers.  So, I guess I am volunteering now, too. It’s not the exact type of volunteering I had in mind (I want to do something to help children at the border) but at least it is meaningful and something I can easily do from home.

Amazing what can change in just two days.

And to our MOE Readers who celebrate: Happy Rosh Hashanah!

What Being on Mountain Time Has Taught Me

Hi MOE Readers! Law-Mom here. I know I’ve been  a bit absentee for awhile, learning the lay of the land in my new state out west. We’ve all been adjusting to a new rhythm out here which, by and large, is a pretty pleasant rhythm, if I must tell you. I am working 7 to 3 from home now. I knew, as an Early Bird, that I’d love the schedule. And I do!

It’s funny, though: you would think working those hours I’d have so much more time during the day to get things done. I do. And I don’t. I do seem to have more time to clean my home (what are lunch breaks for, ‘eh?) and to take care of the kids and the new puppy. (Did I mention we got a puppy, too, in the past month?) What I don’t seem to have much time for still is myself.

I was just saying to The Hub that I’d really like to incorporate yoga into my day. But honest-to-goodness, I cannot tell you when I’d find the time (when I was actually functioning) to do it.

For example, while I was writing this, I just got significantly waylaid to help SC1 with a math homework problem (that she conveniently forgot she was supposed to do until right before bedtime).

I could try to do it in the morning, but even waking up early (between 4 and 5 most days) I can barely find the time to go for walk or bike ride. Could I squeeze in some yoga? Maybe. But I’d have to forego my daily morning talk with my parents; taking the puppy out to go to the bathroom a few times; chasing the puppy around the house to stop him from chewing on things;  brushing the girls’ unbelievably tangled hair; reminding the children 100 times to brush their teeth; picking up shoes and hairbands off the floor to prevent the puppy from chewing on them (am I getting repetitive?); hanging up wet laundry to dry (yay, solar power!), cleaning up the kitchen from the night before (because I don’t do dishes after 7pm)….all before starting work at 7am. Am I making excuses? Maybe.

[I just had to tell my child to stop doing her homework on the floor, where the puppy was trying to chew her pencil and paper, and to move to a desk. Because. Problem-solving. Is. Hard.]

The afternoons/evenings are also quickly filled with the girls’ activities, picking up the house (it is always a mess now that we only have a great room — everything pretty much collects there), taking care of the puppy, helping with homework, making dinner (I have time to cook now, so I have been actually cooking and grilling!), and…our nightly pool swim. I gotta tell you: I love our nightly pool swim.

But, when to do yoga?

“You could be doing it now!” you say. But, if you bother listening to Conan Tanner’s podcast, you will understand that after 8pm, this body does very little other than read. After 4am wake ups, I’m pretty sure, you’d say the same. That’s like doing yoga at 10pm, after waking up at 6. Maybe there are some MOEs out there who enjoy working out at 10pm after a 15 or 16 hour day. More power to you! (And, what are you taking, by the way? Can I have the name of that supplement?)

Anyway — I might sound like I am complaining. I’m not. I’m just sharing that even when working what are, quite frankly, ideal work hours from home, there is still not  a lot of time to do everything that I want to do. This may sound like common sense. I guess I’m always mildly surprised by how little time there is in the day.

I’m also not volunteering right now. I feel a bit (okay, a lot) guilty about this. (The Hub tells me I’d make an excellent Catholic.) But, much like doing yoga: I cannot force myself to jam anything more into my already full schedule. I’m enjoying my down time (nightly family pool swim) just too much to change anything.

[SC2 is asking me how many minutes she should put in her reading log, because she spent some of the time looking at the pictures.]

[Now I have to sign the homework, to indicate that she completed it.]

I cannot

[That sentence was interrupted by the puppy vomiting and my needing to call the vet to make sure he was not having a bad reaction to his vaccine today. Yes, really.]

I was going to say, I cannot tell you how many times per day my thoughts are completely interrupted. I have oft said that parenting is quite a bit like that short story, “Harrison Bergeron” that I remember reading in 8th grade. It’s so bad that now my speech patterns frequently imitate my thought patterns: I will begin a sentence, only to then repeat “um, um, um” quite a few times before I am finally able to complete my train of thought.  I think Econ-Mom can attest to this from the last time we spoke on the phone.

Anyway, should I feel badly about not doing yoga and not volunteering and enjoying my relaxing family swim time? I am thinking no.

I am thinking that it is really okay to just be a “Mom on 9” for a change. I feel the shift in the time zone has also slightly adjusted my feelings about “doing everything” all the time. For now, not doing yoga and not volunteering is fine. Because someday, I WILL have time for those things again. My kids will be grown, and I will miss them like crazy. But I will have the time. For now, I think I will just swim with them.

Econ-Mom: First of all, LOL to your Hub’s comment about making a good Catholic.  I was raised Catholic and decided to go back to the church a couple years ago, and there really is a decent amount of guilt messaging.  Even some of the songs are like “we’re all sinners, etc.”  One time I was filling out a questionnaire and it was asking if I had experienced different moods/etc, and one of them was “excessive guilt.” I was like… I’m sorry, is that a thing? How could any amount of guilt possibly be excessive?

But seriously, yes, of course, just enjoy your swim time!  And also be more like me and just don’t clean your house!  I should honestly take a picture of our ‘great’ room right now. The floor is literally covered with dinosaurs and coloring books. That being said,** I do totally feel this post.  I really like to go to jazzercise twice a week, but between jury duty and DH being out of town, I haven’t been able to go in weeks.  (So now I get to feel guilty about not exercising AND about paying the monthly jazzercise fee!) I do feel compelled to share one tiny “life hack” I have recently figured out: I have noticed that I am super inflexible and it ends up causing lower back pain for me, so I’ve gotten into the habit of stretching on the floor next to Peanut’s bed as I sing lullabies to him. We have a routine where I sing him 5 songs, and usually during the first 4 I am lying next to him on his bed, but for the last song I’ll move to the floor and stretch. I feel semi-ridiculous sharing this because it sounds like one of those satirical ManWhoHasItAll tweets about how working men need to squeeze more into their day, but hey.

P.S. Thank you for reminding me why getting a dog is NOT on the table in my life right now.  Luckily we’re renting so I have a built-in excuse!

P.P.S. Volunteering?!?!? Thanks for mentioning that, because now I feel guilty for not feeling guilty about not volunteering!  (That is, except for not volunteering at my son’s school.  Of course I feel guilty about that!)

 

**Note the perfectly correct use of the phrase “that being said.” This little aside will only make sense to those who listen to the podcast. LOL.  -L.M.

The Big Transition

Finally, after a long, stressful job search I got a job! I just started last week – and in typical crazy Econ-Mom style, I started the day after we got back from a family vacation.  My younger son, Peanut (4), doesn’t handle travel super well, so in hindsight, I should have negotiated for a little more time before I started. But I figured it’s going to be a big transition no matter what, so why not approach it like a cold pool and just jump in the deep end?

Thankfully, we had a wonderful sitter for Tuffy (7) who was able to go to full-time for the rest of the summer, and Peanut was already in daycare.  So our new routine is that DH handles the morning routine so that I can leave home by 8, and then I leave work at 5 to pick up the kids.  As far as extracurriculars, Tuffy’s sitter is able to bring him to his gymnastics class, and on Thursdays, when he has his social skills class, she’s able to bring him there and I meet them there.  (Peanut was also doing gymnastics, so we moved his class to Saturday.)
My first day of work was a Wednesday, but DH has an 8am teleconference every Wednesday. Normally I would never ask him to take the kids on a Wednesday morning, but I had to meet with HR at 8:30, so…. I just left! DH said “I’ll have the phone on mute for the teleconference and the kids can watch tv, and it’ll be fine.”  And guess what? It was actually fine.
Of course not everything was fine.  Peanut had a HUGE tantrum when he was dropped off at daycare. His teacher even told me about it after school, because she had to bring him back to the classroom early (they spend the entire morning out a a park). I have to say, I’m not *happy* that this happened, but a little part of me was happy that DH got to experience the screaming and clinging. I could hear the worry in DH’s voice when I talked to him, and I was thinking “Hi, welcome to the anxiety and stress that I have been dealing with for YEARS.” Of course, Peanut did live to tell about it, although he’s still gradually adjusting. When I picked him up after my first day he said “Mommy, is your job done now?”
Tuffy on the other hand is having a blast with his sitter.  Last Friday she sent me pictures from a playdate with two of Tuffy’s friends. I felt a little bit sad that I wasn’t there, but honestly overall I am feeling really good about my new job. The thing I am loving the most is that I don’t have to expend a bunch of mental energy to try and carve out time to work. It’s just 8:30-5 every day, period. If something is happening during that time, I won’t be there. I am realizing now how much brain space that effort took up for me, and despite spending more hours a day away from home, I’m actually more relaxed. (Of course, I’m still ramping up in the new job so we’ll see in a few months how relaxed I am!)
Law-Mom: Econ-Mom, this all sounds so strangely familiar. : ) That is how The Hub and I used to divide and conquer: He did mornings, and I did afternoons/evenings. (Now that we are both working at home, we just share everything, which is nice after single-parenting through years of home improvement projects.) Also, I 100% agree with you: I found life got so much easier (in many aspects, anyway) when I went back to work full-time. There will still be some big-time hassles and challenges (mainly related to school-related activities and childcare) but the day-to-day mental-load is easier if you like to, and are good at, compartmentalizing, which it sounds like you are. Good luck, and congratulations on the new job!!

Something to Make You Laugh and Something to Make You Cry

Hello “Moms on 11” Readers! Econ-Mom and I have been busy not blogging, because I have been busy moving with my family across the country (goodbye Illinois taxes!) and Econ-Mom has been busy applying for jobs and/or otherwise planning her future. (At least, I think that’s what she has been up to. 😉 )

Today, I present you with a video and a blog. 

This video made me laugh out loud.

Probably because I can relate to it a little too well. (What parent does not have a similar vomit story?) Also, I really like the Holderness Family. They have a lot of very funny, very relatable material. Thank you, Holderness Family, for always making me laugh.

The second link is a blog post, courtesy of Econ-Mom, who found this (doing goodness knows what!) in her free time. (Just kidding, Econ-Mom. I know you don’t have any free time. 😉 ) This woman did not make me laugh; and likely, neither will you.

I hope you “enjoy” both links. Feel free to share in the comments what you find either funny or horrific about both. Cheers!

Law-Mom