I often feel like I’d like to have a nap in the afternoon, but I don’t often get one. Today things are pretty quiet, so I sneak away to my room with BabyR. I try to sleep, but my mind is busy.
Life in a family of eight is pretty hectic. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say it is at times chaotic. Getting us all out the door of a morning is a task that requires military precision. Especially on a morning when MissG starts the day in a state of sensory overload.... everything must be done just so and very slowly, quietly and calmly. Getting us all fed of an evening can be just as tricky. Especially if BabyR needs feeding just on meal preparation time.
We have had an especially full on 6 months just pass. On top of the usual housekeeping (minimum two loads of washing a day, dishes, cooking, etc.), food providing (3 kgs fruit, at least a loaf of bread and 2 or 3L of milk a day just to start!), dropping off and picking up of kids for school and after school activities, and the usual doctor and specialist appointments that are normal for us as we negotiate life with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and Bipolar...... we have also added a baby to the family (by unplanned caesarean), had 2 of the kids start at new schools (and done all the necessary preparation beforehand) and had one of the kids go through a diagnosis process. I think it is fair to say it has been one of the most stressful 6 months of my life.
Do you know what was great about it though? It gave me a chance to realise some things.
I realised I am stronger than I thought, and I can cope with more than I thought. This realisation has given me confidence that whatever else is coming up in life, I will be OK.
I realised how fortunate we are to have Hubby working so close to home, and to be in a position where we can afford for him to work part time. Having him home as much as he is gives me so much support as a primary caregiver for our kids. In fact, it means that he cares for them only slightly less than I do. He is available to come to appointments and meetings - so he knows what is going on first hand. He can come shopping with me (especially great post c-section) and plan and cook meals. He can be available to help with the night time routine most nights. And he does all these things, on top of going to his paid work and managing his own health issues, without complaint and with a smile on his face.
I realised how awesome my kids are. Honestly, my kids don’t always have it easy. Three of them are diagnosed with things that have life long implications for them. Living in a society that favours the “normal” majority is hard work when you are not part of that majority. And living with siblings who are different from you in many ways is not always simple, either. But for the most part all of my kids just get on with things, despite the tricky stuff. They are all persistent, resilient and strong people. And they are all kind and sensitive toward the needs of others. Of course they have their selfish moments and, yes, they do fight. They also forgive quickly. And they are friends to each other when it really counts, without fail.
I realised what a great community we live in. There were times I just disappeared from the social scene for days, or weeks. People checked up on us. Offered to mind the kids. Looked after them at short notice if I was late back from an appointment. Were always ready to catch up when I reappeared. Laughed with me. Cried with me. Waited with me. Just sat with me.
I realised I am not alone. I am surrounded by support and help. From Hubby, to friends, to professionals..... I have an amazing support network. This is definitely not a one woman show! I am immensely grateful for this. Being strong is OK. Being part of a great team is so much better!
Now, at the end of this huge six months, we are coming to a place of calm. The year has started well. Not without hiccups, but very well, all things considered. We are managing our extra challenges better than before. We are settling into a good, healthier routine. We are communicating better with each other as a family. We are becoming comfortable with our normal in a way that only time, experience and increasing insight can bring about. We are walking our journey, and becoming comfortable with who we are.
I am thinking about all this during my sneaky afternoon rest time. Lying here, beside the most beautiful baby boy in the universe, I can just listen to the sounds of my family. Oldest daughter is playing guitar. Youngest daughters are playing together, telling stories with their new magnet books and singing a song (the highlight of which seems to be the phrase “almost naked animals”!). I can hear Hubby moving around the kitchen preparing dinner while chatting with MasterL about the xbox repair project he has undertaken. Way in the background I can hear the soundtrack of the video game MasterI is trying to finish. And as I listen to the calm sounds of my life, including the happy coos and mumbles as BabyR gets ready to sleep, there is no stress in me.