What does normal look like?
For me, it changes all the time. Life stuff happens and you have to deal with it. Not always easy when you’re autistic and unexpected change can send you into a shutdown.
Luckily, most of the changes in my life recently have been ones that I can control or at least plan a little bit for.
This time last year I was working full time, my daughter was in breakfast club, then school, then after school club. I’d just learnt to drive so we were taking advantage of having a shiny new car to go adventuring in. I was on a decent (to me) salary of £22k a year, plus child benefit and tax credits, some of which were specifically towards the cost of childcare (which is really bloody expensive).
And now? Now I’m unemployed. I don’t have to pay for childcare. Petrol is expensive and the benefits that I do get (ESA) don’t allow for long road trips and family days out.
You’d think that I’d see more of my daughter now she’s only at school from 9-3:15. I’ve actually never seen less of her! Why?
Because I worked full time I had the perfect excuse to not have to do the mum in the playground thing. Whenever I did, I never spoke to any of the other parents waiting to collect their child. As a typical aspie, I can’t do small talk. Well, I can, I have a script for it. But it just seems so pointless and unnatural. I never felt like I had anything in common with the other parents and eavesdropping on their conversations only served to demonstrate how true that was.
This meant that my daughter never had friends round to play, never got invited to other kids houses and got a party invitation once in a blue moon. This is something I felt so guilty about but just couldn’t bring myself to be fake nice to someone and invite their kid round. Having someone else in my house feels like a personal attack, as it’s my sanctuary. Like a fortress being invaded. The thought of a house full of 9 year olds filled me with dread.
But now? Being the NT extrovert that she is, my daughter sorted her social life out on her own. One day announcing that she would be walking herself home from school. Now her friends knew where she lived. The day that one of them knocked on the door to ask her out to play was wierd but strangely exciting. A very novel experience for me!
Letting her out to play for the first time was horrific for me, as it probably is for most parents. What if she gets lost, or hurt, or bullied? I won’t be there to help her. She’s got a mobile but what if it gets lost or stolen and she has no way of letting me know she needs help? All common worries I assume.
Now, I don’t even think about that, I just relish the peace and quiet and the chance to tidy up without her following me round like a mini tornado.
Her ability to forget friendships outside of school has strengthened her ability to maintain friendships in the classroom and on the playground. She’s out on her bike until the very last minute before bedtime so she’s eating less and moving more. Her self esteem is also improving as a result.
And what do I do with this new found freedom? I watch TV, read books and hang out with my #neurosiblings on twitter. Oh, and apply for Masters degrees haha.
Me taking redundancy is one of the best things I have ever done. I used to love my job but after suffering burnout last year just couldn’t handle it anymore. Burnout was the result of so many years making so much effort to pass. I think I did a pretty good job. I was well liked by most of my colleagues, managers requested me to be seconded to work on new projects with them. I was know for my strengths and given opportunities to develop. But in the end I just couldn’t do the social thing anymore.
I’d get home at 6 and go straight to bed. I started to withdraw and become incapable and maybe even incompetent at things I’d excelled at months before. I started dreading going to work whereas before, I’d been excited to get up everyday and go to a job I loved.
Taking redundancy was the perfect way out at the perfect time. Just weeks after the suggestion of me being autistic and it becoming my special interest, I could now take time to focus on rebuilding my relationship with my daughter (during a severe depression she had gone to live with my mum as I couldn’t cope), learning more about myself and recovering from mental illness.
So now? Normal looks like a happier me, a happier daughter and a future that I’m passionate about.
Unplanned, unexpected change is terrifying. But when you have some control over it? It’s empowering and life changing.
The Aspie Mermaid x