I am not a big fan of reality TV despite the fact I am actually quite an avid people watcher at times. Sitting on a park bench watching people walk dogs, have a romantic stroll or push a toddler on a swing is much less intrusive than watching their every meal, their every move and listening to their every word.
‘Intrusive’ is a word often used about reality TV but it could just as easily be used to describe my life as a mum to two children with autism.
Since my children were young my life, my home, my children, my lifestyle, and even my marriage seems to have been laid open for so many people. Some weeks, even now four years since my son was diagnosed, my front door feels like a conveyer belt for professionals.
Just like a reality tv star I feel sometimes like my every move is being watched.
I have had occupational therapists, social workers, speech and language therapists and mental health nurses in my home when I have been making tea for my children or playing with them and some have even went as far as to watch my children eat. I signed up for support but my children never signed up to be watched like that. I don’t t believe it is healthy for them but sometimes it just can’t be helped. While professionals have been visiting my children have required their personal needs to be met as well. Although I remove my children from the room for this it is still embarrassing and upsetting for my children and disturbing for us all.
Just like a person on a reality TV show I know I am talked about lots.
While I get invited to many meetings I am also very aware that there are many meetings, emails and discussions between professionals that I am not privy too. People form opinions of me and even have a right to record these opinions in reports. Parents are ‘fair game’ simply because our children need extra support.
Like reality shows for the entertainment of others I am often given extra challenges and problems to face.
New forms to fill in, problems at school, fighting for transport or services, juggling appointments, lack of sleep, challenging meltdowns, or dealing with change: I am expected to handle these with patience, grace and professionalism as if there is some major reward to be gained from it all. I wish there was a reward.
Like reality TV not all my colleagues are actually for me.
Unfortunately in the current climate of cuts to services families that should be supporting each other are actually having to fight against each other for school places, funding or access to services. It is often a case of every man for himself when in fact this is not good for anyone. Sadly not all the professionals working with my children like me either. I am actually ok with that as long as they support my child. Some of the professionals I don’t actually like either!
Like reality TV we are watched and then forgotten.
Professionals visit, or see us in a clinic or attend a meeting about my children then the second we are ‘offline’ nothing seems to happen. We are yesterday’s news as they have long waiting lists, too many clients and not enough resources to go around.
Like many reality TV stars my name and face are now familiar to more people.
There is a certain person who holds a pretty major role in our education department. Apparently he knows my name well now. I can’t imagine how that is! My children’s Head Teachers know my name well as do many Heads of departments and clinics.
Perhaps the reason I have little interest in watching reality TV is actually because I live it enough daily.
Or perhaps my life has enough drama, characters, emotion and challenges without any need for more.
Just in case you missed it earlier I had lasagne, salad and home made chips for my tea tonight!