Something Typical
November 15, 2015
A New The Mighty Article
December 2, 2015

It Takes Its Toll

We adopted our first child when I was 28 years old. My plan had been to have at least one kid by the age of 25. We struggled with infertility and since I wasn’t having babies I instead focused on my career in early intervention. I worked my way up to my dream job and the same week I found out I got the job we also found out we were adopting a little boy. A little boy with big blue eyes and an endearing smile. Also a little boy that NEVER stopped moving and was constantly getting himself into trouble. I didn’t know it was going to be so exhausting day in and day out.

It wouldn’t have been as bad if we had known he had Autism and a whole other host of developmental and mental health disabilities. All I knew in those early months was that I could barely keep myself together. Going to the Ontario Early Years Drop In was embarrassing and none of the mothers seemed interested in getting to know me. After all I was the one with a kid that swore and smacked everyone and threw major tantrums.

In Ontario you get 9 months of parental leave when you adopt. By month seven I was dying for some adult company and to be honest I wanted time away from our home. I told work I was coming back early and set out to find a home based childcare. The Psychologist we had met with prior to the adoption had suggested that Corbin really needed to be out of daycare and rather be with one or two other kids where he would receive lots of attention, After an exhaustive search I found someone to care for him. It lasted 3 weeks and the woman called me and told me never to bring him to her house again. At the same time he was kicked off the school bus for chewing holes in the seats.

I was in a panic – I needed to be at work, what would I do? I exhausted all options and came up with reducing my hours at work. I would ask to work mornings while he was at school and twice a week we would have an in home worker (at our cost) come to the home and care for him. So I approached my work and I am so thankful they were more than willing to allow my schedule. What threw a wrench in the plans was that I worked on the county team meaning my visits took up to an hour to get to. I had time for one or two visits in the morning before having to race back to the city to pick him up from school. That is, if he made it through the morning without them calling to have me pick him up. I had a panic attack every time my phone rang. Working mornings lasted until he went to Grade 1 and my place of employment was very good about me continuing to only work part time (til 2:30) so I could pick him up at school after he got kicked out of the after school childcare. I loved my job but the gruelling pace of life was making it impossible to keep it up. It got to be too much and I handed in my resignation. Part of me was devastated while part of me was relieved.

I stayed home for 2 weeks and then took a job at a not for profit that supported families of those touched by disability. I was excited to work close to home and have an even more flexible schedule. That lasted about 2 years and I felt burned out. Helping families for so many years had taken its toll and I needed a break. I stayed home for a couple of years and then was lucky to have the opportunity to return to my original job, this time full time because Corbin was in a great space and had the right supports in place. I don’t want to sound negative and I know that many families have to have one parent stay home or parents are not able to stay home and just keep juggling everyone’s needs. Whatever our individual situations there are never enough supports to enable us to live our lives like other families and it takes a toll on us as parents.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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