Ah parent and toddler groups, a place to get your little ones socialised and sharing. A place to vent to like-minded Mombies about your lack of sleep. A place where you learn you’re not the only mammy that lets chef ‘Mike Rowave’ look after the kids dinner now and then or throws chocolate at your three year old BEFORE dinner because your friend called you with a bitta scandal.
A place that’s just like everywhere else, in that a little bit of judgement slips in and can cut through you as quick as it takes you to tell Tommy to let go of Isabelle’s pigtails.
I have five children, two of whom have profound special needs. I am their full time carer and I would never allow anyone to take my place (not that anyone is offering!!) It’s a privilege that is not afforded to all parents of children with special needs and I’m very thankful for it.
For the first time in long time, my carers allowance is getting a 100% Christmas bonus this year, along with many other social welfare payments. This was a topic of great interest to many over the past few weeks, particularly online.
I read the usual comments of ‘eh what do hard working tax payers get?!’ And ‘I bet they’ll walk into the post office with their iPhones in one hand and a cappuccino in the other’ and thought to myself… Trolls, keyboard warriors, and promptly rolled my eyes.
It was also a topic of great interest at mother and toddler group this week. As some of us chatted about the joy of a least, a small bit of financial relief at such an expensive time of the year and little bit of recognition for those of us who struggle because we can’t work or can’t find work or childcare, someone else took this time to snort in derision. ‘Isn’t it well for some, I’d love to get paid to sit around with my kids all day!’
This was in real-life, not a troll or a wind up merchant behind a keyboard. Do real people really feel like this?! If so, I’m going to assume this opinion is borne out of ignorance and not genuine contempt.
To help with that, here is a non-comprehensive list of things I would gladly swap my Christmas bonus for, read this and tell me is it still ‘well for some’
1. I would like to walk past a body of water, such as a river or lake without having to use all my physical strength to keep my two strong boys from jumping in, they are drawn towards water, bridges, heights and moving cars and have yet to develop any sense of danger.
2. I would love if they could tolerate the feeling of pressure on their bodies from the straps of a car seat. They can’t.
3. I would love if they could use language or words to describe their frustration, rather than violence. As much as a kick in the stomach or a slap in the face hurts me, I know their pain is a million times worse.
4. I wish they could tell me where it hurts. If I didn’t have to strip them off and scan their little bodies for signs of trauma or boo-boos.
5. I wish their sensory systems allowed their brains to switch off and sleep for more than three hours a night (or at the very least, those three hours each came simultaneously, giving me thee hours sleep! Imagine!
6. I wish they could tell me how their day was in school. Did they have fun? Learn anything? Did anyone hurt them? While we’re here, I wish I had time to read anything other than communication diaries from teachers!
7. I wish lights, sounds, textures and tastes didn’t physically hurt my boys. So much so, that they scream in agony many, many times a day. It’s true what they say, a mother is only as happy as their saddest child.
8. I wish I didn’t have to spend my time outside of the house, apologising to everyone my son feels compelled to touch, rub or climb up on.
9. I wish there was therapy available to help ease their pain and suffering.
10. I wish my husband and I didn’t have to sleep in shifts and share our bed with two frightened little boys.
11. I wish anyone else could calm my child down if he had a sensory overload. Then maybe I could get my hair done or have a cup of coffee, alone and peaceful. But only mammy will do, I am their constant. Their safe place.
12. I wish my last thought every single night, before I doze off, wasn’t ‘who will mind them when I’m gone’… Especially since the government’s compensation is so woefully inadequate, bonus or not!
I do what I do because I am mother bursting with love and pride and fear and anxiety and no one will ever take better care of those boys than me… NOT for ‘the money’.
This my story. And behind every social welfare payment, is a person with their own story. If you don’t receive a social welfare payment, instead of begrudging those who do, be thankful that you status doesn’t require one. It’s Christmas for feck sake, be kind!