What I want you to know as a working mom of kids with special needs.
It is hard to listen to other people while they talk about their fantastic last-minute weekend away. Their weeklong all-inclusive vacation that will be so relaxing because they can bring their children to the kid’s club and have other people cook for them.
It is hard because we are jealous. It is hard because that reality is so far away from our own.
Our time away is always within 20 minutes of a hospital.
We have an escape plan.
In the first two years of motherhood and after almost 50 appointments I knew that I could not work full time or maybe even at all. There is no job that will let me miss 10 days a month and there is no job that would be worth me missing those appointments. Someone might be able to make my kids life better at an appointment. Maybe a new drug or a new treatment. I couldn’t miss that chance.
It has been 7 years since I had a “real job” an office job with benefits and vacation pay and perks. I struggle with the fact that I make a lot less money than I would had I kept growing my career. It is something that I have never actually said out loud. By saying that maybe that makes me a bad mother.
Like most parents of kids with frequent medical appointments, I had to make a choice and that choice was my kids. While I will never regret that decision EVER – it was not part of my career plan. No one talks about this in the baby books or in career planning or really ever…
In a sense I am really lucky. I run a small business and I get to plan my days around appointments. No judgement when I have a sick kid. Time off during school holidays and PA days. But with no paid sick time, vacation pay or a break the promise of the luxury of self-employment feels like a lie.
In Canada and around the world – so many women have taken time off work to be a caregiver. They have organized appointments, advocated for care, learned a new medical language. They have learned faster and under more stressful circumstances than anyone could ever imagine.
My journey as mother of 3 kids who have each spent dozens (ok hundreds) of hours at our children’s hospital is far from over. I can walk each and every hallway backwards from immunology to pediatrics to xray to ultrasound and back. I can do it in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning and although I am so incredibly thankful that these hospitals exist I long for the day when I step out the door for the last time.
As a career coach and the Founder of Moms at Work I am in the fortunate position to be able to say to so many of my clients who have had to care for parents, children and themselves – I see you. I REALLY see you and I want you to hear me when I say – this wasn’t the plan.
This wasn’t the plan – but I am a different more empathetic person because of it.
This wasn’t the plan – but I am proud of the person I have become.
This wasn’t the plan – but I know how powerful, capable and fierce I am.
This wasn’t the plan – but you are not alone.
Maybe you will start your own business. Maybe you will just volunteer for a time.
Maybe you will start something new.
Maybe you will join our growing community of women who GET IT and want to help
Moms at Work was not something easy to start. It was not fast – it was not a master plan.
Your journey won’t be either – but you will do it.
Because nothing that we do in this life that you are most proud of was easy.
Not your children.
Not your success.
Not the things that took you hundreds of hours.
I want you to know that Moms at Work is for all working moms. I made it like that for you. Because this wasn’t part of the plan but we are here to help when you are ready.
Allison Venditti – Mama bear to 3 cubs, Founder of Moms at Work, Career Coach, HR expert.