I’ve had a really hectic week. Make that a really hectic month! We had multiple appointments almost every day for four weeks straight. We even had appointments to get to on some weekends. I’m not trying to get any sympathy, just stating the facts. Last month was BUSY with a capital B. It was also difficult. Lately, I’ve been a little bit overwhelmed with my family’s very full schedule. I know something’s got to give, but trying to eliminate one appointment or therapy visit isn’t the answer. That won’t work because whatever we miss will likely have to be rescheduled for another day on another busy week. That isn’t a relief and just prolongs the busy and the difficult.
I’ve finally committed to remembering to take care of me after putting myself and my needs on the back burner for too many years. After neglecting some of my own health needs, I carved out time to finally catch up. I now have weekly appointments to schedule, to remember and to get to. Trying to squeeze everyone’s stuff on our calendar takes careful planning. Inevitably, everything we need to get to doesn’t fit. I don’t like to be the one who has to chose who’s getting shoved to the bottom of our list. In the past it used to be my stuff that had to go. I’d be okay with that now if I were spending time doing activities that didn’t matter—like trips to the salon, meeting up with friends at the coffee shop or doing some retail therapy. But, my appointments have become just as important as everyone else’s.
Our entire family is so busy right now that I have had to schedule when I can get to the grocery store. That happens in the only 2-hour time block I have open on Mondays. I know at some point I need to slow down and open some more time on our calendar, but “slow” is not an accurate word to use to describe my five on-the-go children. To keep track of everything we’ve got to do, I carry our schedule with me electronically. It’s the only way I can make sure I know which child should be by my side, to remember where we need to go and to also know when we have to be there. Using my cell phone, I check the calendar on it several times a day. I do this to make sure I haven’t forgotten anyone or anything. If I’m not picking up or dropping off one child one day I’m picking up and dropping off two children to back-to-back appointments another day. Sometimes the appointment locations are close to each other, but other days I’m driving across town through traffic hoping to arrive at the next destination on time. We usually get where we need to as close to on-time as possible, but we have had some tight squeezes.
The clinic or groups we see are very aware of our situation and of how many things I’m currently juggling. Thankfully they don’t fuss when we walk in late. It helps that we’ve had a chance to create good relationships with all of our providers and with people I am advocating with in our community. They all understand the pressure of raising kids and give me a simple nod and smile letting me know they get it, and to relax, Mom, it’ll all work out. I appreciate that because I’ve messed up their schedule by being really late other times or when I’ve shown up to an appointment on the wrong day altogether. For the first time ever last month, I triple booked myself! I was truly embarrassed and disappointed that I messed up. I quickly apologized to the two providers I had to cancel with and headed to what I considered to be the most important of those three appointments: the one where I was interviewed about autism, vaccine injury and Ronan’s journey.
Of course, after I reassessed when I could reschedule the two other appointments I had planned at the same time, my list of things to do was very full again. Nothing can give right now—we all need to do what we’re currently doing. It’s no wonder that the frequent alerts on my phone announcing someone’s impending appointment have started to make me cringe.
I’ve tried to reduce our appointments, but then I’m left with who goes without? If I keep everything as is, how do I continue to manage everything? Both are impossible situations. Unless a clone of me miraculously appears I just have to carry on. My kids’ therapy, my meetings, my appointments, and the typical errands I run to keep us fed, clothed and taken care of are supposed to ease some of our troubles. Without therapy Ronan regresses. Without the school meeting, I have limited knowledge of what my non-verbal son faces academically. Everything I do is worthy of that spot on the calendar. Nothing right now is an extra event or a special occasion or a splurge. It’s all do, get done and sometimes do all over again. Reducing or removing completely what is on our schedule could jeopardize not just my family’s well being but also mine.
So, I arrange, and I rearrange. I schedule, and I reschedule. I race from here to there and back again and sometimes twice a day. Then I collapse. After taking a five-minute nap on the couch one afternoon after getting the kids home from school, my oldest said to me, “MOM! You did NOT just take a nap, did you? How did you fall asleep SO fast?! Seriously, you were just awake.” Naps are sacred in my house and have gotten me through many a hectic day. I know when I need to ‘catch five’ and am very glad when I can literally fall on the couch, sleep for a little bit and get up somewhat refreshed to face whatever is next on our schedule.
Some days I don’t want to finish the massive to-do list full of chores, errands and appointments I have. It’s all so overwhelming. But, as I look at what my children have accomplished because of the pace we’ve kept, I can see that it’s been worth it to keep at it. Ronan is doing more now than he’s done in years past. My typical children are learning a great deal, too and have created life-long skills in the process. I’m slowly feeling better in all that I’ve gotten to do for myself, too. Sure, we’ve lost some down time in the process, but that loss doesn’t compare to what we’ve gained.
Ronan needs me on the top of my game. My typical kids need me to be the goofy Mommy that they love. My husband needs me to keep it together so our house can run smoothly. It takes time to make sure all of that can get done. I don’t have time to slow down just yet, so I’ll continue to hold on tightly just a little bit longer.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.