Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oxygen Mask

I made a decision to go back to work because I was going mad at home.

It was a selfish decision. It was irresponsible. It was probably shallow too but it was also the best thing that could have happened to our family.

Taking this step was like grabbing the oxygen mask that falls down on your head when there is turbulence during a flight. I don't know about you, but I have always questioned the instructions of the flight attendants. In case of an emergency, you are supposed to wear your oxygen mask FIRST and then assist others under your care with theirs. What??? It never made sense to me that I would put MY needs before the needs of any of my children. After grabbing the "oxygen mask" that literally bumped my head at the beginning of this year, I will never question airline policies again!

Autism was and continues to be a part of who we are as a family but it has stopped being everything we are. The truth is that it has been a slow process to work through, especially for me, since I am, without a doubt, the "soul," and not the head of this family. I did have to work through ALL the stages of grief and realized that after that first diagnosis, this journey will have a beginning, a middle, but not necessarily an end. I like happy endings; I always have. There is no happy ending or a sad one for this story - I have finally learned there is no end. For a long time I kept on hoping for an end of any kind but I know now that there is none and that's OK. In order to keep my sanity, something had to happen - I had to reclaim my own identity so I could help everyone else in this family to find theirs. Working has always done that for me. I am a working woman - it gives me a purpose and helps me get balance.

As it turns out, getting a balanced, stable, mother was all our family needed - It was all that Frankie needed. During the past few months, as things got tougher in school with Frankie, my world kept on getting bleaker and bleaker. Working hard was not paying off and I was falling apart....our family was falling apart. I was really scared to let go but once I did, everyone grew up a little and stepped up to the plate. Once I was out of the picture, everything fell into place - everyone fell into place. It was like stepping back and looking at a work in progress, like a painter might do - sometimes you have to see the big picture from afar and get a new perspective so you can finish your masterpiece - some times you need to get some oxygen first to stay alive and help those who count on you.

I'm grateful for those who encouraged me and told me everything was going to be fine if I did this for myself. I'm grateful for those who told me things would fall into place once I let go. Most of all, I'm grateful for all the positive changes this decision has brought into our lives and for the breath of fresh air that now fills our lungs. There is a way to live with Autism as part of your life, once you HAVE a life - struggling to make sense of it is not the answer, the answer we have found lies in keeping our identities strong for the journey and taking the time to breath along the way. Frankie will find his identity in due time and he will be strong to fight his own battles - he has a few examples to follow...more like FOUR of the them!


Anonymous said...

Good for you! I too am thinking about going back to work, once our kids our in school full time. I do feel fortunate that I am able to stay home and with our son having autism it has made getting to therapies less challenging. Now I feel like we are coming to a point where is could be ok for me to work outside the home. I know it will be good for me and the family.

ORFA said...

It sure is, Brandy. Thanks for your comment. I compromised and chose to work for the school system so I get a lot of time off. I am now off for the summer (six weeks) and although I am not a teacher but support staff, I still get the perks of the holidays and time off with the kids. We were all looking forward to this time together and it has made it the more special to plan our summer activities. I hope you find what works for YOUR family and your special kiddo; you know they are all unique and we just have to follow their lead. Good luck to you.