Wednesday, September 10, 2008

See my heels? I AM a working mother

This year, we have decided to try enrolling Sayer in after school care run by our school district, rather than private care givers. One important reason for this is that the husband is working from home more than he did last year. I work from home, too, writing grants among other things. So, its helpful to not have Sayer underfoot during our "working" hours.

Nervous are we putting Sayer into a care situation without a "one-one-one." The first two days "Miss Heather" was there to get him used to schedules, create visuals, give the staff some tips. While Sayer was there I worked on a grant deadline from the comfort of my home office. I didn't wear pajamas - I've never been able to work in those - but I did dress, let's say, casually.

But, when it came time to pick up Sayer I felt compelled to change into a skirt, to demonstrate that I am a BUSY WORKING MOTHER, not a slouch passing off her special needs kid. And I spruced up the next day, too. I have felt a need to say, "I am VERY BUSY WORKING ON A DEADLINE (which is true!) so need this child care, thank you very much.

Now, would I be doing this is Sayer didn't have autism? I have looked at the other parents picking up their kids; yes, some are in suits but others hardly look like they were enmeshed in corporate America. Maybe they have jobs that are informal, or also work at home. Or maybe playing mah jong - it's their prerogative.

Deep inside I know it isn't any one's business what I do when my child is in child care, as long as I pay my bill and he fits in reasonably well. But that other part of me feels a need to justify my actions. Does anyone else feel they have to "prove" they are worthy of services and treatment that others without "special" kids do not? Is it part of the 'ole "mommy wars" thing? Do you think that being a stay-at-home mom is more "virtuous" when you have a child who has disabilities??

Sayer doesn't go to child care on Wednesdays, but he will on Thursday. That day I actually DO have a meeting in Portland. When I get home, I won't change into a shorts and t-shirt; I plan to wait until after I get Sayer. I know I can't keep this up - for one thing I'll run out of clothes. Any ideas to help me "snap out of it"?


Susan said...

I feel this way too. It's gotten better with Son now that he's been in school a few years, but with Princess who's only two, I do feel self-conscious taking her to playschool, where she's the only special-needs child.

For some reason I feel like it looks as though I'm not trying hard enough for her, if I'm dropping her off somewhere. So I scrub her til she's shining and dress her to the nines as if it shows that I do SO care about her LOL.

And I change into presentable clothes too, to pick her up. I'm not sure if I really care what others think of me, or if I'm still coming to terms with what *I* think of me...should I be dedicating more hours to helping her, teaching her, encouraging her, cuddling her, anything-her? Neither ONE of us could stand that for long, though---we do play together and work together every day.

Or, maybe I am worried that the others who don't understand autism think that somehow she's not speaking or playing 'right' because of some neglect at home, some hereditary mental problem that I could do something about if only I tried harder. So instead of defending myself with words, I defend myself with Image. (and now that I've come out and said this, I want to smack myself in the head!)

I'm so glad you posted this...I sometimes as if I was the only one biting her nails over this subject! I just might pick them up tomorrow in my pyjamas! LOL

Anonymous said...

Carol...when we went to Disneyland, in order to get a special needs pass, I had to describe the worst case scenario to the lady...I am sure lots of people get notes from their doctors saying they have autism and I was not the only one 'proving' I needed that pass!

When I had B it was working mom v. stay at home mom (yes, I do have a job, I just do it at me, hubby would fail at my job, he has tried it). Now, it is special needs parent v. typical parent. We all have to play in the same sandbox...I wouldn't put him in a situation that would make others' experiences miserable, but you know what? If the rates of autism continue to rise, our kids are going to be entering society at record rates and they'll have to deal with our kids daily. They are going to have to get used to our kids...just my opinion, of course.

I think you are fine putting him in after school care and with Heather on your side, you are golden :)


babs m said...

You pay for day care just like anyone else....why should anyone care how you look when you show up? Your money isn't greener because you're wearing heels! Frankly I bet the day care folk are happier to turn the child over to a parent who looks comfortable and relaxed than one who looks uptight and exhausted; don't you think that kid will have a better evening at home? Hurrah for comfortable shoes!!

Sylvie said...

Interesting point... my experience was always a little different because my son was never seen as having special needs, just a horrible brat who evidently had pathetic parents who couldn't "control" him. By the time we developed a more sophisticated insight into what made him tick, he was past the daycare stage. Everyone at daycare knew that my husband and I worked, but owing to my profession, where hardly anyone dresses up anymore, I always slouched in looking like I'd just come in from the garden. I do wonder whether the disapproval would have been any more or less if I'd marched in in full office battle mode. I think that aside from communicating that the wearer is a "serious worker," you should also bear in mind that business suits are an intimidating uniform as well. It says that this person literally "means business." So there are some pretty complex messages being transmitted here.

Carol said...

It's interesting we are having this discussion, since today I am literally weighing whether or not to wear a casual skirt - which I am washing as I write - or shorts to pick up Sayer.

I might just wear shorts -although that is partly because it is Friday and that tends to be "casual day" in general. And that way I can wear the skirt when I pick him up Monday---

Another point is gender - I recall that when either of our kids were in child care or day camp, the staff seemed less likely to complain or raise issues with Dan than with me - irregardless of if he came in dress slacks or jeans and a t-shirt.

Surely I am not the only woman to detect this phenomenon--have you?

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol, I have had the same experience with staff sharing information with me (especially complaints about behavior) but not with Dad (my husband). Or, the school leaving message for me rather than talk with him. It is unfair how much our society judges people by appearance: hence, geoffrey goes to a day spa for haircuts rather than have dad do it, I shop used clothing stores for brand names for him, etc. etc. And a good friend told me I am beautiful but boring......some days we just can't win. Hang in there, everyone. Pam

Twenty Four At Heart said...

This is really a good post. I am currently not working as I rehab from a car accident. Outwardly I look normal. Sometimes I feel I have to explain to people why I'm not dressed up for work. Or why I look fine, but can't volunteer to be the mom baking for the class. (I've lost the use of my right/dominant arm.) I guess there are a lot of us out there not wanting to appear to be a slacker, for whatever reason. Nice writing.