As much as I love spending time with my girl, I’d be lying if I didn’t say she was hard work. The bigger she gets, the more development steps she makes, the more confident she becomes naturally equates to a very happy and proud mum – but also a more physically and mentally exhausted mum. Especially during the summer holidays. The long summer holidays!!!
Those of you lucky enough to have children will remember/be experiencing/be getting ready to go through the toddler stage where those troublesome tots have to be watched every minute of the day. If they’re not, they can get into all sorts of bother – think of all the photos shared on Facebook of kids (and entire rooms) smothered in Sudocreme, or standing amongst the debris of a smashed plate/ornament/cup. Or pulling every baby wipe out of it’s packet; or putting stones from the garden in their mouths; or dangling mummy’s bra (or as Tilly’s brother calls it, “Mummy’s boobies”) down the toilet that the other child in the house has just done a wee in. Or throwing things (a precious framed wedding photo for example) down the stairs because they want your attention. Or figuring out how to open the front door and taking themselves out for a walk to the pavement, and almost onto the road. Or throwing a glass lamp on the ground and smashing it.
You get the picture – toddlers can be hard work!!
Well, we have one of those in our house, only she’s in the body of a 7 year old – a body that is growing taller and increasingly stronger by the day. A body that can now reach things that most toddlers can’t, a body that is becoming incredibly difficult to lift when she decides she doesn’t want to go where Mummy tells her and plonks herself on the ground. Or who decides she doesn’t want to stand up to get dressed, or won’t compromise by standing up ready to be lifted out the bath when all the water has disappeared down the plughole (and instead finds it hilarious to lie down so that Mummy has to bend over and try to lift her out).
Add to this that our “7 year old toddler” hasn’t yet managed to use words to communicate, struggles to understand as many words as her Mummy would like (to make both their lives a bit easier) and can be knocked off balance if her sensory world becomes too much for her – and the result is a pretty knackered old mother with a rather dodgy back!
It is all part and parcel of living in ‘Tilly’s World’, a place I’ve grown to love – not the one I expected to be in when I became a mum, but over the years have enjoyed getting to know. But a world I need a break from now and again. My body and mind need to relax for a little while so they can recharge their batteries ready to tackle it all again with the full gusto it deserves the next day.
So I’m extremely lucky that, after a lengthy process, I was offered respite via our local authority and social work department. They provide the funding for someone to care for Tilly for a few hours each week to give me a break/catch up with things I find difficult to do with Tilly in tow/spend time doing things her brother enjoys but she doesn’t.
It has taken me a long time to get over the guilt of ‘sending’ my daughter away to be looked after by someone else – another thing to add to the sense of failure I used to feel in the early years when I evaluated my skills as a mum. But I now look forward to our respite days. And so does Tilly. In fact she is positively glowing when our favourite person (you know who you are!) turns up at the door to take her away for a few hours. I’m not going to pretend – but I am too!!
I now push away the guilt and enjoy the precious few hours I’ve been given – its a service not everyone is lucky enough to receive.
So if anyone out there reading this cares for someone in their lives who needs that extra bit of help, and is struggling with how much they have to manage by themselves, I would urge you to contact your local authority/health visitor/GP to talk about respite. If there’s a chance you could be offered it, fight for it. Go through the long process to apply for it and take what you deserve. We are all doing great jobs as carers but in order for us to do our jobs properly, we need support too.
I just wanted to write a final paragraph about the wonderful lady who provides our respite She also works with Tilly at school so they know each other really well. I trust her to not only look after Tilly but to interpret her signs and signals as well as I can, and to give her the right balance of affection/space/discipline/encouragement – whatever Tilly needs. As a family, we feel so blessed that she has come into our lives.