It is a difficult balancing act for any working mother, to juggle taking care of children as well as focusing on the demands of a job, whatever the job might be. There is a need to find reliable childcare, that is affordable, and then there are the implications when either the carer or child should fall ill, which could result in last minute changes of arrangements, flexibility or time off work. I always envied those families who had willing grandparents close by who could step into the breach in an emergency, or better still, be part of the regular childcare solution.
However if you add into that difficult mix, having at least one child with special needs, then those demands become magnified : the child might be more susceptible to illness or complications of their condition, such as recovery time from seizures. Additionally they will potentially have endless appointments to attend during the weekdays and during the day : appointments with doctors, consultants, physiotherapists, podiatrists, orthotics, occupational therapists and social workers. Then they might also be unwell enough to have prolonged hospital stays too. All of this will take its toll on any compassionate leave or holiday entitlement that might be available, and so it might be necessary to take time off without pay, depending upon the employer.
I consider myself to be very fortunate as I have worked for the same family firm for almost thirty years now. I started my current job straight from university and in the 8 years I was there , before Joshua arrived, I worked full time and covered many business miles each year. I took 8 months maternity leave and then I returned to work for three days a week initially, and then it increased to 4 days a week once he went to school. I am lucky as when travelling I can work unusual hours and I am able to bank that time as lieu time, and then I can use it against time off for Joshua’s appointments and school events, so that it evens itself out. I am also lucky in that our company has always closed down over the festive season, so there is never any issue about being asked to cover during that Christmas school holiday.
So the flexibility that I have at work, enables me to be a working mother who can still attend harvest festival and open mornings and of course I have maintained my Fridays off, which are invaluable for school coffee mornings, daycare visits, appointments when possible and for extended weekends at respite time. But I am well aware that not all SEN parents are as fortunate with their employers or their jobs. I know that many of the parents from school are not in employment any more, they used to work, but it became too difficult to manage alongside the demands of parenting. That situation is not necessarily their choice, but their employer could not offer them the flexibility that they needed to go into work late if necessary or to take time off during the day, so everyone is missing out as these parents have a lot of skills to offer the workplace. It also helps the SEN parent to have another outlook on life, to integrate more with society and to find something that is more predictable than raising a child with special needs. My job enables me to be something other than ” Joshua’s mum”, something that is just for me.