My name is Carolyn and I have a confession – I’m a working mother to a SN child. And I love my job. I also love my family; if Sam was a typical child, no-one would bat an eyelid at me working full time – they would simply assume that he was in school and had a child minder and/or clubs to keep him occupied and safe while Mummy and Daddy are at work. Change that to a SN child and suddenly people’s opinions are quite different. This is a post for all the working parents out there of SN children….
Since I left uni I've always worked, I’m lucky enough to have a job that I love doing and I always assumed I’d return to work after Sam arrived. We needed the income from both our jobs to keep a roof over our heads and to pay the bills; so when Sams additional issues were identified we had to take stock and look at things a little differently.
To us, Sam is a very typical little boy – it’s just that in addition to the usual run of colds, tummy upsets and Dr’s visits that every parents has with their child, we also have appointments with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, neurologists, epileptologists, dieticians, orthopaedic specialists, neurodevelopmental therapists, othoptics, ophthalmology and orthotics. And that’s just for the routine stuff. Naturally, all these appointments makes life feel like a mad juggling act most of the time, and one in which, frequently, I may drop a clanger. For the most part, my employer has been very supportive but there comes a point when life needs re-evaluating.
In 2014, I reduced my hours to part time and absolutely LOVED it! For the first time since Sam was born I actually had time to do mundane things like housework, I loved doing the school run because it was what any other Mum did. The Great Laundry Mountain of North Staffordshire was finally conquered. And I was able to spend precious time with my little boy. When Sam started at school full time I made my employer aware that I intended to return to full time hours, as per my contract. When I’d gone part time it was written in that I would automatically return to my original full time contract as of 1st September 2014.
However, I was called into a formal meeting and it was put very plainly – I needed to prove to them that Sams issues would not impact on my ability to do my job. Because he has special needs I had to run the gauntlet of proving that I could handle working full time with a medically interesting child – it was all I could do not to punch someone! I’d managed this perfectly well for over 2 years even when Sam was an inpatient on the childrens ward – his Dad and I took turns to stay with him overnight so we could each get a bit of sleep. But despite all this, it was up to me to prove to them that I could do it. I’ll be honest, it was a slap in the face – after almost a decade of service in the same role, I felt like I was being pushed out as I had suddenly become ‘unreliable’.
After two grueling and quite frankly insulting meetings it was agreed that I would indeed return to full time hours – but I still had to prove myself. More than once I was asked by a colleague if I shouldn't be concentrating on my son, instead of working full time. Now I’m a SN mum, life is very different to what I expected but in ways I never imagined would change. Under my new line manager I have a clear plan of how to develop my job role AND fit work around Sams appointments etc. Things are getting better.
Work allows me to be ME, not just Sams Mum (admit it folks, you know *exactly* what I’m talking about); I have interactions with adults who aren't assessing how flexible my sons joints are, or how wonky his brain is. And it’s a life-line. There is a lot of legislation aimed at making life easier for working parents, especially those who are carers... in my experience, getting back to work or arranging flexible working is not only do-able but essential, and the majority of the issues employers raise are actually done out of concern for us and our well-being.
Sure, employers need to protect their assets and ensure that their employees are capable of doing the job, but its not in their interests for us to work ourselves into an early grave either. Sometimes, juggling life with work is a battle, but if its what’s best for you then go for it x
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