Had a little car trouble this morning and it occurred to me that I’ve been through this problem by myself a few times now and I’m getting better at it! Its not nearly as frightening as it used to be. I have to do something to learn it. Gosh it makes life hard, but I usually don’t forget something after I’ve been through the troubled waters and learned how to get out again. My poor middle child, Ash, learns this way as well. When he was two he saw a carton of white balls sitting on the counter and was so excited to pick one up and throw it on the floor to watch it bounce. The look of shock on his face when that egg did not bounce. I couldn’t even be mad at him – he really did think that egg was going to bounce and just was dumbfounded to see it splattered all over the kitchen floor. I get it, I really do.
So, in a previous blog post, see Doing What Works, I mentioned various little bumps in the road that occur due to our work / home arrangement and the whole Monday through Thursday “Married Single Mom” situation, and how I am learning to put fail-safes in place for myself for minor emergencies etc. I also have had to learn to build up support with the people around me so that when I do need support, I’m not floundering about where to turn. This whole idea of community support that was not family, was really foreign to me. It was difficult. I was home, DH was traveling all week and there I was, by myself with 3 littles at home. To top it off, I have an anxiety disorder that is mostly under control, but does flare up occasionally. I remember when one of Miss S’s baby class teachers asked me about support when I first began being a SAHM. I had nothing in place. Literally nothing. I had no glass to break in case of emergency!! Where was my glass?! Our “emergency contacts” were friends who lived close to an hour away from us! Still, it was a place to start. I knew if my children (or me) were to find ourselves in a dire situation, our good friends would do whatever they could to help and would indeed drive in to pick up our children from school if there was just no other way. This was my step 1. My starting point four years ago. I was worried about trying to build a support network for myself. I had never done anything like that before and I am not good at asking friends for help. To make it worse, some of my personal “baggage” is that I always worry that no one will like me, even my friends. This problem sat at the back of my mind, simmering, and I very gradually began to work on it and sort through friends and acquaintances. Eventually I began to actually talk to neighbors about my situation to just “let them know” that often it would just be me with the kiddos in case I got myself into a pickle and needed some assistance (ie. I’m sick, the car won’t start, I need a babysitter for 15 minutes right NOW, running to the ER with a sick child or I’ve been locked out of my home or car). This was my step 2. To be honest, some of them were maybe a little concerned that I was talking to them about helping me. I believe in “modern” society, we just don’t see ourselves as a village, helping one another as often as maybe we used to a few decades ago. Nevertheless, I’m staging a comeback for the “village” idea because I need it. Once folks around me got over the shock, most of my friends and neighbors were very open to being an emergency contact, responding to help when I asked, and checking in now and again or just checking to see how I am doing. I try to ask for help when I need it which is not an easy task for me, but I find that if I ask in advance of a difficult situation, it makes everything go much more smoothly. My step 3 was getting myself organized in advance of a hairy situation. Here are some things that work for me for SAHM and/or anxiety crisis management:
1) sticking to my schedule. I literally have a binder with printed schedules in it and an electronic version on my phone.
2) professional (ie. paid) services listed and ready in my phone in case friends aren’t available to help. Nanny services, AAA, cab service, therapist, town play group (yes, this is a paid group and I believe its worth it, but that is another post!) and a few unpaid but invaluable supports: mom support group, autism support group, my church.
3) being honest about who my friends are. I know that I’m a bit hard to categorize and maybe I don’t really fit a mold. I wear frog hats and have young-ish(?) type hair-dos. I have a very dry sense of humor and I like bad tv. I digress. It helps me to have a list of people to call in an emergency (or panic attack) on my phone. When you can’t think straight – you certainly aren’t going to be able to decide who to call to help you!
4) when anxiety or life turbulence hits, follow schedule very closely and try to do “normal” activities. Even brushing my teeth helps or watching a tv show (that I’ve seen before). Anything to slow down and take a breath.
5) playing Tetris. I think I have mentioned this before, but did you know that you can’t have an anxiety attack and play Tetris at the same time because the area of your brain that is required to play the game can’t process the memory of anxiety and play the game at the same time. Yup. Its on my phone, iPad, and computer.
Anyway, that is just what works for me. Your mileage may vary.