My husband is on his way home from work right now. He's planning to pick up some clothes, turn around, and drive back across the city so he can take care of his father while his mother is in the hospital. She's had another bad fall (the last one landed her in hospital for a month) and his father isn't able to live on his own. My mother-in-law, who is in her early 80s, is the sole caregiver for my father-in-law, who suffers from dementia and other serious health problems.
My husband is stressed to the max.
My stress level is on its way down, as of the past few days. (It's almost as if I, being finished with the stress baton, was kind enough to pass it along to him.)
I've spent the past 10 weeks trying to figure out what to do about our youngest son's school situation: a situation that went from bad to worse to untenable during this past semester. It's tough enough changing schools at the best of times, but when you're trying to find a school that is a good fit for a child on the autism spectrum, the search is that much more difficult because your options (or at least the options that you are willing to consider for your child) are more limited, particularly if you live in a medium-sized city.
Sometimes it can feel like there are no options at all: that you and your child will never find a school that can accommodate (let alone understand or appreciate) what your child has to offer. But it can happen. And when it does happen, you may be astounded by your willingness to put your trust in another school once again. (Where does this endless reservoir of hope come from, I wonder?)
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What a strange day it has been. In addition to fielding a call from a television reporter who had wanted me to be a guest on a TV segment discussing the latest study about time-crunched Canadians (I had to decline because I don't have time to make it to a TV studio today), I've had to (1) fill out paperwork related to an upcoming hospital visit for one of my kids; and (2) go grocery shopping so that I'd have food to serve the guests attending a fund-raising event I'm hosting tonight.
Are all days like this? Thankfully not. If they were, I'd have waved the white flag long ago. But enough days involve dealing with issues related to my youngest child's special needs or meeting the needs of other family members that I can never count on clocking 40 hours of work in a standard work week. It's taken me a while to figure this out: to realize that I need to adjust the too-high goals I have been setting for myself. Those goals might be attainable if I didn't have four kids; a husband who works long and unpredictable hours, and who is the sole caregiver to two aging parents with complex health needs. But given the choice between being able to be there for my family when they need me or knocking a few items off my to do list a little more quickly, well, there really is no choice to be made.
I do, however, wish that the system (educational, health care, social services – you name it) was more in synch with the needs of real families: that families didn't have to fight the same battles over and over in order to obtain badly needed services for their children or their aging parents. That would make advocating for a child with special needs and caring for aging parents a whole lot easier. And it would leave those of us who get stamped with that generic "caregiver" label with a little more time to nurture our relationships and ourselves.
Those are some of the issues that Caught in the Time Crunch (report) talks about (the report the television reporter wanted to interview me about). And that's what many of us who are living in the Land of Perpetual Time Crunch about talk about – and wish for – every day: a society that truly valued the work that parents and other caregivers do. The report has a lot of terrific recommendations and resources. And it's only 32 pages long. I hope you'll read it – when you can find the time.