As I sit here in the middle of the afternoon, chaos reigns around me. On the table beside me sits a stack of bills that I'm trying to juggle payment on -- I have to decide which ones need to be paid now and which ones can wait until next payday. In the living room Stitch is playing, happily throwing blocks around and laughing madly as they bounce off the furniture. Down the hall Bear, who should actually be at school right now, is playing his Leapster, the fact that it's an "educational" game allowing me to fool myself into believing it can be classed as "work."
I stare at the bills, willing them to just disappear. Disappearing in a puff of smoke would be preferable, since then there'd be no trace left of them. Money gets a little tight in the ODD household because, even though TheODDDad has a pretty decent job, and for that I'm grateful, I work from home part-time and currently bring in about half of what I would be earning if I worked full-time. We manage to pay the mortgage and the bills, but there's not a whole lot extra (if any) left at the end of the month. We'd cut back on our spending, except there's really nothing left to cut. We have basic cable and neither of us owns a cell phone. We have friends over instead of going out. When we do go out, we've been known to ask my niece to babysit for free because we can't afford to go out and pay her. (For the record, my almost-16-year-old niece is one of the most important members of our support network. She has been on the receiving end of Bear's behaviour more than a few times and knows how to deal with him and laugh it off like a pro. Because she's seen it firsthand, she's one of the few people who truly "gets it," so she's always happy to help if it means we get out of the house.)
The fact of the matter is that we really need to be a two-income family. We need to be, but we aren't. We need to be, but we can't be. I realize there are a lot of families in the same boat given the state of the economy, but the economy isn't our problem.
So why then, you ask, aren't I out bringing in more money? Well, if you must know (you're so nosey!), we have a child with special needs, and just about any mom with a special needs child will tell you how difficult it is to hold a full-time job AND do everything you need to do for your child. Something, somewhere, has to give, and it's very often the ability to hold a full-time job.
Think I'm exaggerating? A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics revealed that overall earnings of mothers with a child with autism are 56% lower than mothers whose children don't have any health limitations. This is likely due to the fact that mothers of children with autism often have to leave the workforce altogether or take lower-paying jobs in order to properly care for their children. Interestingly enough, the study showed that only the mother's income was affected, not the father's.
Granted, the study looked at mothers of autistic children, not children with ADHD. But while autism and ADHD are two completely unrelated conditions, they can be very similar in their outward manifestations. In fact, a proper diagnosis of ADHD often involves ruling out autism. Both can cause behavioural problems, problems in school, difficulties in social interactions...etc, etc...and necessitate all kinds of interventions and specialists. Based on my own experiences and those of other mothers I know whose children have ADHD (especially when there's an accompanying diagnosis of ODD, anxiety, or any of the other conditions that often go hand-in-hand with it), I would say we're in the same boat.
Bear's challenges mean that he rarely gets to school before 10:00 a.m., if he gets there at all. His anxiety means that summer programs and daycares are out of the question. Phone calls from the school come weekly, although at one point they were almost daily. When he does make it to school, I don't know from one minute to the next when I'll be called to come get him. Suspensions are fairly rare now, but they were a rather frequent occurrence at one point. Until last week, we met weekly with a counsellor to work on his anxiety issues. Although that's over for now, there will be more behavioural interventions as he gets older that will require meetings and appointments. Add in appointments with doctors/specialists and meetings at the school and you suddenly find that you are almost unemployable at a traditional 9-to-5 job. You are an employer's worst nightmare -- someone who may or may not show up for work on time (or at all), who may leave in the middle of the day on a moment's notice, who receives personal phone calls at work on a regular basis, and whose mind isn't on her job...ever.
I'm fortunate in that I have skills that allow me to work from home and to bring in enough money to makes ends meet, but let's just say that Freedom 55 isn't exactly in our future.