The other day someone in a group I’m part of on Facebook asked if it’s normal to feel completely drained and over emotional on a day where you have doctors visits, even if you actually get good results.
I related so very much to that question.
And it got me thinking about the emotional toll of parenting, particularly if you have a child that has additional needs, whatever they may be.
Today has been one of those days, where the emotional toll of parenting is, quite frankly, kicking my butt, even though there isn’t anything super negative in relation to results etc.
I guess it’s more obvious because I’m tired.
You see, I woke up at 3:30am because my daughter was having a seizure. Thankfully it only lasted 2 minutes so there was no need to provide any medical intervention or call an ambulance. In other words, it was actually a good result.
Meanwhile, when she came back to herself she was repeating something over and over again, but unfortunately her speech was still slurred from the seizure so it was difficult to understand.
As I rocked her in my lap and her worried twin paced at her side, I worked out that what she was saying over and over again was: “Blue zone, blue zone, blue zone”
Often when she has a seizure it not only impacts the ability of her mouth to speak clearly, but it also seems to affect her ability to access her words and express herself.
So I reassured her and let her know that I knew what she was trying to tell me. She was in the Blue Zone. She was feeling sad, tired, drained and upset.
I rubbed her back some more, reassured her twin that I had it all under control, that she was safe and it was time for him to go back to bed.
Daddy came and slept in the room with them, so that Mumma could try to get back to sleep. Unfortunately sleep eluded me for quite a while. I felt emotional and drained, even though this was a good result. Heck, I was in the Blue Zone!
Then this morning was the craziness that is most Wednesdays for me. Mr 4 goes to his regular kindy program, but Miss 4 goes to ECDP, a program for children with developmental delays and diagnosed disabilities.
These 2 programs happen to be a few suburbs apart, and I have a limited amount of time to get there, and when I don’t make it quite on time, the gate is locked and it just is something that causes me a little stress.
I was late by a minute or so and the gate was locked. I called the school and they sent one of Miss 4’s teacher aide’s over to come collect her. No big deal, right?
But the emotional load was still there for me, because I was worried about how my daughter would cope with the fact that there was this unexpected change to the routine.
Thankfully today was a busy day so I didn’t have much time to ponder over this. I headed straight to my next task, as a facilitator for a MyTime group.
MyTime is a wonderful initiative by the Australian Government that provides free support to parents or carers of children with developmental delays, chronic medical conditions or diagnosed disabilities.
Thankfully it was the one part of my day where I was able to take some time for myself, connect with other mums who have children with additional needs and be surrounded by people who just “get it”. We always have a laugh, no matter the activity planned and it truly helps to know that others are there for you and are on a similar journey.
Cut to my next task of the day: finalising plans for what next year will look like for my two munchkins.
I won’t labour over all the details but they are currently in a preschool program and technically should start “big school” next year. But, they’re just not there yet. I have been deliberating over exactly what to do and what this looks like for the past couple of months.
I’ve been fine with the solution of delaying their entry to Prep, but it has just been a long and drawn out process of really working out what will be the best fit for each of their individual needs, while still respecting the fact that they are very much part of a pair, and that is ingrained in their identity.
Long story short, I have been trying to find a program for my daughter that provides more structure and predictability in the hope that this will dial back her anxiety. I thought I had found something suitable, only to go through conversations with an additional 3 people to those I have already spoken to about this at length, and ultimately find out that the cost of the program that will best suit her needs would be $28, 266.72 per year for a 2 day per week program that operates 40 weeks per year.
Now, I am in no way diminishing the value of what this program offers. It would be a fantastic fit for my daughter and it incorporates some therapy, an individualised plan, a ratio of 1:2, all undertaken by people who are experts in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
On the other hand, that works out to $353.33 PER DAY.
Unfortunately it’s just not something that is feasible for our family right now, or many others I dare say.
So, again, it’s not really a bad test result yet it was really emotionally draining.
I could glimpse in my head what this program would mean for my daughter, and I’ll be honest, also for my sanity, but the reality is it just isn’t going to happen. Another program that we had been considering doesn’t have space. They have a massive waiting list, and it’s not really ideal anyway as it would mean putting her into a class/grade that everyone on our team agrees that she is just not ready for.
So, in my head I’m still trying to think about what the new year will look like. How will I be able to reduce her anxiety, when school for her is one of her triggers, particularly that she is in a larger group, and there is a level of unpredictability?
This is in no way a negative reflection on where she is at for Kindy as they have gone OVER & ABOVE and have a really great understanding of who she is as an individual and the scaffolding that she requires. It’s just one of those things.
As a Serious Mumma, I can sometimes be a little neurotic I guess when it comes to considering what environment will allow my children to thrive. I have gone over this again and again and again, and there just isn’t a clear cut answer. I mean, honestly even if I had the spare $28K, it still is not without its faults.
So let’s heap on some more of that emotional load of parenting, even though we’re not necessarily receiving bad news, or a bad result.
Then I look down at my watch, realise I have 2 minutes to go pick up my son, and his school is 5 minutes away. It’s a mad dash out the door and those stress hormones are keeping up nicely.
And of course, today when I arrived at school my poor son was just knackered. He had only just woken up from his nap and you could tell by his face, let alone his behaviour, that he was just tired and done. I felt bad for him and wanted to provide a lot of nurturing hugs and attention, but we needed to be in the car to pick up his sister and meet with her teacher to do her IEP (Individualised Education Plan).
When I arrived at school (5 minutes late) the parking lot was still jam packed with cars blocking the entrance and just chaos. Again, that emotional load is RIGHT UP THERE!
When I get in to my daughter’s classroom, she is asleep (as she is every time I go to pick her up from school). Thankfully this worked in my favour today because it meant that I could actually sit down with her teacher and have a frank discussion about where my daughter is at, improvements that have taken place, and goals for the future.
Again, I won’t bore you with all the details, and there certainly wasn’t anything in the meeting that shocked me in a negative way or was unexpected, but it was still very emotionally draining.
Sometimes it can be that I think of all the effort that has gone in to her development, and that we still have such a long way to go.
Sometimes it is thinking of all the different balls that are in the air and that need to be maintained like some upbeat juggling act.
Sometimes it is wondering what it would be like to just pick up my child and head home or to a park to do something fun, where I wasn’t constantly thinking about the developmental benefit and how to tie in our play to her current therapeutic goals.
My little girl woke up towards the end of my meeting and then it is that draining experience of trying to meet your children’s needs and give them the attention that they not only crave, but that they deserve, while also giving 100% of your attention to a meeting that is critical for her ongoing development.
I walked out of there feeling…… you guessed it…. emotionally drained.
Yet, it wasn’t in any way what I would call a negative result. In fact, overall it was a very positive meeting.
So, why did I feel like I’d been hit by a truck and that I desperately needed some chocolate to help me cope with everything that was spinning through my head, and the level of exhaustion I was feeling?
Of course, it’s that damn emotional load.
And with all my experience, I do tend to find it is mostly mothers who carry this.
So, I guess my message is this. If you are a mother that is feeling just completely wiped, emotionally drained and completely overwhelmed….
I see you! I feel you! I know just where you’re coming from!
The fact that you didn’t necessarily get any “bad results” today is not an accurate reflection of how you are supposed to feel.
As I say to my kids all the time, your feelings are your feelings and they are all ok. What’s important is how you cope with your feelings.
So, rather than reaching for that chocolate and avoiding these feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion and I honestly don’t even know what else, I called a friend. And I briefly explained my day and asked for her help about not eating my feelings.
And she told me: “The chocolate is not going to solve your problem, is it? You might feel better for a little while, but your problem is still going to be there.”
And you know what, that was JUST the thing I needed to hear. I think in my head I had been beating myself up that I was feeling the way that I was, particularly that I couldn’t pinpoint any “negative result” as such. I was just carrying the emotional load that goes along with being a mother, particularly given the children that I have.
And, I needed to give myself a break, and be compassionate and realise that even when we don’t get bad results, we can still feel just as drained, depleted and devastated as if we did receive that negative news.