A few years ago my husband realized that what he wanted to do, more than anything, was teach. This realization meant returning to college to get his degree. It also meant our world was about to get turned on its head.
At this point, I was a stayhome mom. What this meant to me was researching everything I could get my hands on to make sure that I was equipped to be my son’s advocate, diligently working with my son’s teachers and specialists in physical, occupational, and speech therapy during the school year, and creating a “Mommy Summer School” environment with home-schooling materials when school was out. When my son was originally diagnosed with autism, it’s as if I added specifics to what the definition of mom meant to me. This was who I was, and who I would be. Period. There was zero desire to not be this Mom. I lived and breathed this mental picture, and this was not a role to be stepped aside from. My child needed me, there was no other consideration. And at the beginning, that is exactly the attitude that was needed.
At first, there were long dry spells with just baby steps of progress. His needs were very apparent. My goal was to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child. The goal was for him to learn how to learn. And he did.
As time went by, he made significant gains. My little boy was becoming more independent. I had to keep reminding myself to step back and let him do things for himself. Slowly, I was learning how to do that.
Supporting my husband through college would mean a complete role reversal in our household. This was not a change that I accepted easily, but eventually I agreed. Everything in me wanted to continue to be as involved in their classes as I had been before, but that wasn’t possible. I felt like a failure.
On the day my husband returned to college and my children began school, I began work at the only full time employment I could find with insurance. My head understood that working outside the home did not diminish who I was as a mom, that this was vital to the season of life that we were entering. Many moms work outside the home and do a spectacular job, whether autism is an issue or not. My heart just wouldn’t accept that, though. There was a picture in my head of what I should be doing as a mom, and reality fell way short of that image. It didn’t help that I returned to an industry that I had completely burned out from when I last worked outside the home. It was the only job that I could find that offered benefits and made enough to be the sole source of income for our family.
In a terrible recession, I took a job in a high volume call center for a mortgage company. With my skill set, I primarily received calls from borrowers in foreclosure. I provided information on what options may or may not be available to them for assistance, and often explained what happens in the eviction process. These were not calls from happy people, to put it mildly. Attendance was paramount, missing days could get me fired. When my children were sick, Daddy had to stay home from classes and I went to work.
With every day that I worked, every call that I took, every ounce of my heart longed to go back to what I had been before. This was were my family needed me though, and I had to do a good job. Family need trumps my wants, any day. I had to be a steady, stable employee so that I didn’t have to worry about being fired, so that my family would have stable income in the interim.
During this very high stress job, my health deteriorated. Regardless, I got many certificates for perfect attendance, and continually worked on meeting the goals set for me by my supervisors. Sick or well, I was at work.
In order for my spouse to get his degree, I had to find some way to get through the next two and a half years. Art and music are the two outlets that I have, but at this point, they weren’t working. Attempting to blog about reality just made things worse. Panic attacks were a normal, daily occurrence, and my digestive system kept having spasms. I had to try something new, something that would fully engross my mind in order to stay sane.
I have chronic insomnia, but when I could sleep, I sometimes had very immersive dreams. When the alarm clock would shock me out of them, I’d start to cry as I realized it was just a dream and my workday was about to start.
Work Michelle, version 2.0, was a very responsible employee, who worked hard to meet the expectations required of her. A sliver of this very responsible being had to find some method of escape. If being home with the children was not an option, then finding a way to retrieve those elusive wisps of dreams had to be found, if sanity was to remain intact. I started to write a story. The story was called “Oubliette,” told from the viewpoint of a very quirky redhead named Renie.
In the story, Renie is a fairly oddball artist with some unusual memory issues. She leads a very solitary existence, until a strange encounter with the supernatural reveals that she isn’t as alone as she thinks she is. Each answer she finds reveals more questions, as her previously humdrum life spirals into chaos. The one point of stability is Michael, her unknown protector. This mystery man is willing to die for her,…and is trying very hard not to eat her.
“Oubliette” is complete, now, and I’ve enjoyed sharing it with some of my friends. There responses have been surprisingly favorable, and now I’m curious about self-publishing it as an eBook. Just some thoughts. 😀