Having 3 children at home with different abilities and needs and no sleep is difficult to juggle. I’ve made some choices over the years that people haven’t agreed with but they don’t live my life. When Max was little he stopped sleeping. 2 hours a night was his maximum. We moved house so Emily would have her own room and not be disturbed by Max. Once he was diagnosed, we got assigned a social worker (they don’t do that round here now) who talked about various respite possibilities if that was something we wanted to look at. I thought about it a lot. Emily had been put in second place while all the diagnostics were taking place and it didn’t seem fair to her. She needed to know she was important too. So we chose a “Home from Home” scheme where he would stay with another family and we got 28 days a year which we took as weekends. Fortunately we got an amazing family. Mr and Mrs F had 6 children (one still at home), lots of grandchildren and had been doing this for 15 years. Max did whatever they were doing whether it be a family party, trip to the beach or just lounging around the house. One of their grandchildren was a similar age and they were close for a good few years until he outgrew Max but by then Mrs. F’s youngest had a daughter and Max transferred his friendship to her.
Making the decision was not easy. I should be able to look after my own kids. What would people think? Would social services look at me as an unfit parent? But if he had grandparents who could have had him the odd weekend we wouldn’t have had to go down this route. So Emily got some designated time to do whatever she wanted. We could go shopping, she could have a sleepover, we got some sleep, we could do stuff that we couldn’t do with Max. I tried to always keep him involved and we went out a lot but he had a habit of being in clothes shops and stripping off which didn’t make shopping fun for her. Max still goes to his respite, he got a personalised budget at 18 so he could employ his own people and he’s been going there almost 20 years so why change something that’s not broken?
Obviously Emily got to an age where she wanted to start hanging with her mates so I had some me time finally. Weird feeling when you’ve never really had it, but I got back into reading and found friends on line and discovered the game Runescape so I filled my time. We took her on one holiday without her brother too, just so we could reconnect and she could choose, you know not everyone wants to ride camels, Max!
Now I have 2 young kids and Max still at home and juggling time is so tricky. They all have homework to be done, the boys have speech therapy, I have to cook and do housework and have very little sleep. We went to Butlins, which turned out not to be a family holiday as such but we still got to spend time with each of the kids. I was a single parent when Max and Em were growing up which made it tricky. Max hasn’t had a holiday for a couple of years (I’ve written about his troubles before) but this year it felt like he was ready to maybe try something new again. Instead of spending our anniversary weekend just me and the hubs, we decided to take Max for a weekend away. Cadbury land and a theme park, 2 nights in a hotel, the hotel did food, and accommodated 3 adults in one room. He did really well. There was a couple of squeaky children at breakfast the first morning, so the next morning we were breakfasting as soon as it opened (very early) so he could relax a bit more. He chose his own food from the menu, they catered to his separation of peas from his fish with no bother and he got free chocolate at Cadbury land. It was a success. But that was our anniversary weekend.
Hubs took off the week after Max’s holiday. He did the school run for me while I dropped Max off and we spent the week together. Some of it was shopping and Christmas shopping but we had time to sit together and talk and read and have hot drinks and I got to garden and he got to do his records thing with no one going “mummy, I need a drink” “Carry me” or stopping squabbles. It was only a few hours a day but it was nice having some us time. Time that we don’t get in an evening because of aforementioned children “NO BEDTIME!” “mummy I need some water” “poo poo mummy” “I’m not tired” etc etc. I counted how many times we have shared the same bed and in the last 2 years we have shared it 3 nights. 2 of those were on Max’s weekend away and once at home. Well one and a half as Oliver woke up at 3 and had a meltdown because he was alone, we’d fallen asleep watching a film- won’t make that mistake again.
We try to take the kids so one of us can have some down time. I ran a bath and sneaked upstairs and was just about to sink into the bubbles when Oliver was stripped and in the bath like lightening. Hubs got a book out when I set up craft time but funnily enough as soon as they saw him sat there they wanted him and no one else would do. So now we have kind of accepted that our time together will be him taking days off work so we have the days (all 5 hours) together. Me time- well I think that’s for other people really. Not that we will stop trying to give each other some breathing space and recharge time but the children are formidable opponents 🙂
I think that having 2 of us makes things easier in a way, no one is left like Emily was when she was younger, so we don’t have to look at respite for Olly. His grandparents have no kids at home now like they did when Em was little so we can always book them in for a day to do something special for one of them, and Em helps out too. Our needs have to be put on the back burner in some ways, but that’s the same for any parent isn’t it? It just means we have to find new and more interesting ways to keep our relationship going. On the plus side, I don’t think we will ever get complacent with each other, we don’t get enough time together to take each other for granted. It’s funny how what people see as odd becomes just part of life to you, something you don’t think about until you come to tell someone and see their face change.
I think as soon as you become a parent you get an extra guilt gene. It doesn’t matter what you do you always have a twinge of guilt- are you doing the right thing? Are you being selfish? At the end of the day, it’s what works for the family. I felt so guilty sending Max to respite but Emily needed a mum who wasn’t permanently exhausted, who did things with her and made memories and put her first. I would have had guilt either way. I swear it’s the extra guilt gene. Obviously what worked for me and what works for us doesn’t work for everyone, but I carry enough and I am not going to let anyone else make me feel guilty. I may not always get it right but I’m always trying to make it fair for all the children and I’m sure they will be the first to tell me when I get it so wrong, and then I’ll try again. It won’t be like this forever, but while it is we just work around it and make the best home life we can…..for everyone.