Fifty Dollars Can Change Your Life

$50 is how much it cost to get our marriage license 10 years ago. The license that held the legality to all my hopes and dreams. The paper that went along with the promises that we would love each other, support each other and see each other through the hard times. $50 to start the journey of having a home, a family and a bright financial future with someone always by my side. It would cost much more than $50 to get divorce but that is a whole other story.

$50 was the co-pay when I took my daughter to be evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. I knew that she was not progressing as she should and this was the first step to get answers and the help that she needed. When the diagnosis of Autism was given I was not shocked but I was shook. At the time I had no idea how that would shape our lives. The struggles she and I would endure in finding ways for her to cope with sensory issues, social issues, behavioral issues, sleep problems. The triumphs we would celebrate in her learning how to speak in full sentences, being invited to a Birthday party for the first time, moving into a higher level class, eating new foods, and making lasting relationships with family.  It was a $50 well spent but a life changing $50 for sure.

After my divorce, $50 was how much it cost to fill my tank with gas and embark on our adventure moving from the Bay Area which I had called home all my life, to a little suburban town right outside of Sacramento. This town held promises of a better life. A family friendly town with low crime and high spirits. Little did I know at the time that in my new city “family” meant more than just one parent and a child and it would cost a small fortune to even have an apartment on one income. Sometimes I wish I could get that $50 back.  

$50 is the average amount people ask for from me on a semi-regular basis. Grown men who only have to care for themselves (one of which doesn’t even work but has mommy pay all his bills) will come to me, a single mom, and ask for money. Money for them to get cigarettes, money for them to go to a bar etc.  I don’t give them money anymore, instead they get a lecture and the offer that I will take the $50 they need and put it in a fund to save for their early funeral because their lifestyles are so unhealthy! Of course I don’t actually do that because they aren’t worth my $50!

$50 is how short I came up on an application for an apartment for my daughter and I. I make a decent income compared to others in the area, I get a little bit of child support from my daughters paternal grandmother and some additional money for her having Autism. Do we struggle every month? Absolutely. I have to think extra hard and plan where every dollar goes. But we have never gone hungry, and I have never missed or been late with a rent payment. So I applied for this apartment and show all of my income and I am $50 short of making 2.5 times the rent. I offered to go without Starbucks to save $50 a month but the leasing agent didn’t see my humor. I reached out to several city, county and state level council members and not one could offer me any advice. I could go on a political rant here about how other people who are less hard working get more from the Government but I will leave that alone. $50! $50 means they would rather my daughter and I be on the street! $50 means they can tell me that I don’t qualify to live there and give me an attitude that I am not good enough. This is the most frustrating $50 out of them all.

I really never gave much thought to an amount of money under a thousand dollars possibly changing your life. I am now here to tell you that just $50 can make all the difference in the world!

Lost in a Moment Without Autism

Sometimes I get lost in the moments and forget that Hailey has autism. It is something that I never thought would happen. When she was diagnosed, as strong as I seemed to be about it I was sad and scared for the future. I had to grieve the child I thought I was going to have and adapt life to the situation we were in. I grieved for the friends she wouldn’t have, the vacations we wouldn’t  go on, the songs we wouldn’t sing together and the games we wouldn’t play. I felt like this heavy stone of autism would forever sit on my shoulders and on my heart. A cloud of hard situations and missed opportunities would hang over my head for a lifetime. I thought I would always be aware of the differences.

We are 5 years after the diagnosis and I am so happy to say I was wrong. SO WRONG! Today I realize I did not have to grieve all of those things, I just had to adapt the expectations. Hailey has been to Disneyland, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and many of the other places I ventured as a child. We do these things a little differently, we get a special pass to not wait in line (BONUS) and we have to be a little more careful with where we pick to eat, and take more breaks but other than that, we have a blast every time!

Recently her and I took a camping trip together, just the two of us. She was in awe of staying in an air-stream (an adjustment I would have assumed years ago would be hard). We laughed and played and went to the beach and made s’mores. We did everything I would have done with her if she were typically developing. We connected and bonded and made lifetime memories. Nothing about the autism got in the way of it being a joyous experience. When it was just the two of us, I often forget she even had autism, it seemed all she had was fun!

A few weeks prior to the camping trip we attended a classmates Birthday party. Yes, the little girl also has autism and they did not interact much at the party but she was invited and was sooooo excited. I cried when we got the invitation. Another life experience my mind had robbed her of at an earlier stage in the diagnosis. It was amazing to watch her sing Happy Birthday to the little girl with the other kids, to watch her eat cake and laugh when her peers did.

Speaking of singing. Hailey and I sing Happy Birthday probably more times in a day than most people do in a year. She loves to sing, and dance. Our Whitney Houston dance party in the living room is always a hit. We even sing songs she has made up. Her creativity is truly one of a kind. 

This past weekend we were at the pool and she was playing in the water with her dolls and splashing and kicking, just like I would of at her age. Nothing seemed weird, different, overwhelming. I wasn’t at the pool with my autistic daughter, I was just at the pool with my daughter. What a relief!

It is so refreshing to have this new view, five years out. To see that things work out and that adaptations are just a part of life but that doesn’t make the life any less memorable or enjoyable. The moments when I forget about the autism are coming more and more frequently. That is not to say that some situations aren’t still hard. . . . (sooo hard) but they are becoming less and less. My worries fade a little more each day as my heart and our bond grows.

For all those mamas new in the diagnosis stage, I know what I am saying it hard to believe. You can’t see it now but your life will not be consumed by Autism forever. Everyone important in your life will learn to adapt with you and one day you will be in a moment with your child and it will just be that. . . . your child, having fun, just the way they are supposed to be.

Why Are We Celebrating You and Not Me?

So this is one of those topics that some people get REALLY mad about. When a single mom gets celebrated on Father’s Day. What’s the big deal? We do twice the work so why can’t we get twice the celebration? I was reminded of this recently when my child’s father actually expected to see her this weekend (we won’t even get into where he located at the moment) even though he never sees her any other time or does anything to benefit her life. I want to know why? Why do you want to take a picture with your daughter once a year? Why do you think that you DESERVE to even be titled a father. Lets recap her life:

Who has gotten up with her in the night since the first day she was born? ME

Who has planned every Birthday and Holiday celebration for her? ME

Who has actually bought her gifts for those special occasions? ME

Who has stayed up at night worrying about her development and diagnosis? ME

Who took the first step to get her evaluated for Autism? ME

Who signed her up for all the right therapies and advocates for her still? ME

Who left an abusive marriage (with you) to protect her tiny soul from seeing and hearing all the hatred and be scarred from it?? ME

Who has full physical and legal custody? ME

Who works full time (shit, who works at all) to support her? ME

Who pays for EVERYTHING that the child needs including clothes, toys, food, etc.? ME

Who makes sure that she has wonderful childhood memories, even when you told me she couldn’t handle it? ME

Who plans, pays for and takes her on vacations? ME

Who is with her 24/7 when she is sick, staying up all night, fighting with her about medications, taking her to Doctors appointments, hospitals etc? ME

Who makes sure she has medical benefits? ME

Who goes to every school function, every IEP meeting, teacher conference, or  first and last day of school? ME

Who deals with the day to day meltdowns and temper tantrums (sometimes even in public)? ME

Who has never laid a hand on her? ME

Who makes every meal, snack and treat? ME

Who reads her stories every night and tucks her in? ME

Who tells her how special she is, how smart and beautiful, and how much she is loved? ME

Who kills the bugs, scares away the lizards, kisses her ouchies? ME

So again, why are we celebrating you? Oh yeah. . .thanks for the sperm and unsolicited opinions on my parenting !

Dear Single Parent, I Get You. . .

Dear Single Parent,

I get you. I am there with you. I know how exhausted you are. I know your routine. I could probably step in and live it moment for moment like I had been there all along. The morning rush, drop kids off, off to work, work hard for 8 hours while part of your mind is still on your kids, your drive home thinking about all you have to do once you get there. You need to cook dinner, clean up, be present with your child , keep your patience and temper under control when you are getting stressed, showers, prep for the next day, attend to a pet, do a bedtime routine, get the kids to bed and finally pass out just to do it again the next day. In between if you find a free second you need to schedule doctors and dentist appointments (that you will attend with them alone), school meetings (that you will attend alone), sign them up for extracurricular activities, plan vacations or playdates, pay the bills, figure out HOW To pay the bills on one income, try to stay in contact with important friends even though you can maybe one send a text every once in a while, try to remember who you were and who you are. It is overwhelming. I get you. I am overwhelmed too.

Sometimes it feels like it can’t get done. Sometimes you feel like a superhuman and other days like you aren’t even keeping up with any humans. You feel proud of all you can do on your own, but at the same time so jealous and angry of your friends and people on social media who always share about their spouse and how much help they are blah blah blah.  You feel like you are everything to everyone and yet you feel like you aren’t 100% in anything you do for anyone. I get you. I feel these same emotions.

The stress . . . oh the stress. Sometimes the clock ticks so fast it is like a ticking bomb in your ear. It starts sounding like an anthem “you will never get it all done, you will never get it all done”. The pressure to be successful at work, loving at home, happy at all times, it feels like giant man sitting on your chest. The weight and pressure of him literally hurts. Sometimes you can’t breathe. It is just too much! You want to cry out GET OFF ME! But you would just be screaming at life in general. GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME, LIFE OF MINE! THROW ME A GOD DAMN BONE!! I get you. I hear you. I join you in those cries.

Sometimes when an unexpected emergency comes up and you have to rearrange your preplanned day, week, etc. it feels like you are in a tornado and you cannot hold on to anything. It is a full on panic and you feel your insides shaking with anxiety like an inner earthquake. Yet you have to stay, calm, cool and collected on the outside. I get you. I am shaking and hanging on with you.

When an unexpected financial cost comes up that you didn’t plan for, because as a single parent we have to budget down to every penny, it feels like you are being choked. The air can’t get in or out. It is tightening so quickly, just like your bank account is tightening. You wonder how you will ever get out of this mess. Will you ever catch a breath? Why do you even bother to work as hard as you do? Will you ever get ahead?? I get you. I hear your fears.  I fear them with you.

When you finally get a break from your children and get to have some adult time but you crash out at home alone because you are too exhausted to look nice, or walk out the front door, or put on a brave happy face. You just need to self soothe and sleep. I get you. But then when you do that and in turn feel even lonelier because you do not have much adult interaction besides co-workers or teachers and doctors. I get you. When you wonder how on earth you could EVER find a special someone who will accept what a fast paced shit show your life is. I get you, I wonder it too.

When your child is away and it feels like your right arm has been cut off and you miss them soooo much. You spend time planning how much you will do with them when you see them and how happy and loving you are going to be. You are done losing your temper and being stressed around them…. but then life happens and you feel guilty that it all didn’t work that way. I get you. I feel that guilt daily.

When it has been a REALLY long week and you do get that break from your kids and on the way to pick them up, as much as you love them and they are your whole life, you wish the drive could take just a little longer because you were just starting to feel human again. I get you. I feel that. I drive slowly too.

I don’t have all the answers for us. Shit, I don’t even have some of them. I do have the confidence that we will get through all this, that we are doing the best we can, and that is it so worth it. I know that we will get it all done, we will raise happy healthy children, and we will survive. I know that we will be stronger than many of our counterparts. I know that we can handle much more than most people, even when we don’t want to. I also know that no matter what I am feeling or what you are feeling. Someone else gets it. Just like I do.

Can I Trade in Men for an Older Model?

I am driving my commute home from work and I start to look at the people in the cars all around me. They are 90% women, also coming home from a hard day’s work.

I am not sure what has happened to our generation and gender roles. Before everyone gets up in arms, I am not talking about equal working rights etc. for men and woman. I am talking about the newer generation of weak and lazy men! Where did y’all come from? Can we return you? Exchange you for some real men? For men like my dad and his generation?

Exhibit A: My ex-husband has not had a job in over 3 years. This is based purely on choice. He prefers to sleep in, watch TV, go to a bar around 2pm and stay there until late at night so he can repeat the same routine the next day. Well doesn’t that sound easy? Isn’t there something else we would all rather do with our time than work? Don’t worry about him though, he still manages to have his own place, brand name clothes and the ability to drink and eat out daily. How does he does this you ask?? MOMMY! She also bails him out of any trouble he gets into and always makes excuses for him. For example, when he came into my home many years after our divorce and stole all of my jewelry and pawned it, she did not hold him accountable and blamed me for pressing charges.

Exhibit B: I have 2 male friends who make significantly less than their wives, which is fine. However, after work they go to the bars and stay there for hours spending the little money they have made instead of going home to their wife and kids. This, leaving their married wife basically living the life of a single mom. Picking up the kids, dinner, homework, baths, playtime, bedtime etc. all after being the breadwinner all day.

Exhibit C: Another ex who can’t hold down a job. He gets one and then gets tired and decides he doesn’t want to go anymore and literally stops going until they fire him. Then he will give a poor me story and expect a woman to take him in, in which we do because. . . well for many reasons I won’t get into.

Meanwhile women are taking a huge leap in the work force. There are more women entrepreneurs than ever. The unemployment rate of men and women has done a flip flop in the past twenty years, and especially the last ten when my shameful generation of men entered the real world.

Yet have we told women to stop taking care of children, to not clean the house, to not make meals, not be a good daughter, sister or friend? Have we told them that they no longer need to be present with their kids or at school events? Did we give them any reduction of their assumed tasks because they have entered the work force in higher numbers out of necessity? NO! We expect women to do it all because little by little, the men are doing less and less.

My dad is from the older generation. He worked 8 hours a day, on his feet no less, and still came home right after work to interact with me, have dinner as a family etc. On weekends he was just as hard working always doing projects around the house or going on getaways with us. No matter what sacrifice he had to make, family was always a priority and we were always taken care of.

So while men are out there thinking about trading their wives and girlfriends in for a newer model, I am left begging for a receipt to return the men who come from my generation and trade in for an older more dependable model.