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On Being SAHM/WAHM and Special Needs Parent

It is 9:53 on a Tuesday evening as I write this post, my 17month old toddler is watching Blippi on his tablet while my 5year old son had just asked for his 3rd round of Nutella sandwich. My loving husband is sleeping already since he will work early the next day. I just feel I need to write this post and thought I’d share what it’s like on becoming WAHM/SAHM and a parent of a child with special needs.

My husband and I are from the Philippines and we used to be working at Jollibee and both decided to apply as TFW in Canada when we were still a couple way back 2013. I remember that was a good time since our application process went smoothly and within one year we were able to arrive in Canada and work at McDonald’s and fortunately got our permanent residency the following year with the biggest surprise of it all — I got pregnant.

Like most of the couples today, the baby happened first before our marriage. So in 2015, I became a mom to a beautiful boy. Ever since that day, my life has totally changed. I forgot what it feels like getting a 12-hour non-interrupted sleep and take a 2-hour bath. But that’s just the silly old me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret being a mom at all and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. They can be the most impatient and silliest little brats but they are the most loving, sweetest, innocent and most of all forgiving and honest little human beings ever made. When I started to became a mom, unconditional love truly sinks in.

But it is really hard. And it got even harder when our eldest son was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 3. There are some good days and then there are also bad days. And when you are a parent of a child with special needs, it becomes hard to balance it all out, it’ll drain you out and I don’t know if exhaustion would even fit it. Our routine is juggled with his school and attending to his speech, OT, and PT sessions. The good thing is that I was still able to work in the office and my boss is a family-oriented man who understands if there are some days I need to be out of the office and attend those sessions and skip some working days.

But despite it all, it’s working out great for us as we are fortunate to have and backed up with a circle of friends we’ve known here since day one. And I think that is one of the most important things that OFWs should know when starting a family away from home, you don’t get to have that kind of support since your own family and relatives live miles away — it is always a good thing that you found some friends that you can trust and treat them like your own family.

When I had one child, I can still juggle work and was able to work in the office from 8-5 pm and pay for childcare expenses. But since we are a young family, our second child is planned so my youngest was born in 2019. And I am in love again with another human being.

When the baby came out, my eldest doesn’t like his piercing cries. So during my one-year maternity, I ended up running around the house from him literally because he’s aiming for his little brother who is a newborn during that time just to throw him a punch. Up to this date of writing, my eldest is still like that to his little brother although, sometimes he’s getting better at controlling it. Since I am on maternity, I was able to exclusively breastfed my youngest and have been very busy with being a full-time mom. I am the one who’s dropping off my eldest at school at 8 am and pick him up around 2:40 pm together with my youngest in the car seat and we were always on-the-go. We were attending my eldest sessions which he has 2 sessions per week at that time and I’ll be bringing my youngest along with me wherever it may be. With the support of his teachers, I always look forward to the sessions because I learn a lot on how to handle and respond to my eldest especially when he is throwing a massive fit. He is still non-verbal and he has an iPad he uses to communicate with programmed words and pictures on it. And it truly helped him because sometimes, he’ll repeat the words after he hears them from his iPad and can even spell them out which my husband and I are amazed and we can’t be more than proud of him because we know he’s trying and the best we can do is support him all the way.

Halfway through my maternity, the Covid-19 pandemic got in the picture so I plan ahead, I ran our household financial numbers and I knew ahead of time that I can’t go back to my full-time work, and if ever I go back, my pay will just end up paying childcare expenses for the two which doesn’t really make sense to me. That is why I realized in most of the households I know of, one of the parents stays home or the couple will work on their schedules to take turns in taking care of their kids. But in our own household, none of those applies because right now I am a stay-at-home-mom/work-at-home-mom-special needs parent. The only catch I have is that I am already making some side gigs before when I started out as a Virtual Assistant (VA) from Upwork so, I told my husband that when my maternity is over, I will work from home and that’s when SMBJ Virtual Solutions was born. In the middle of the pandemic, I was determined to run my course as businesses start to work remotely and I can see that is an opportunity for me. And to add more to my services, I study bookkeeping and after six months of juggling it all together with my eldest virtual learning, we both end up studying at the same time, I earned my QBO ProAdvisor Certification.

Becoming a VA for me doesn’t just happen overnight, I worked through it starting in 2012 and with the Iove of technology, I built my own website, joined affiliate marketing and VA networking groups. And over the years, I was fortunate to have found family-oriented clientele and have worked primarily with digital marketing agencies, startups, real estate, educational research and accounting firms. And to my biggest surprise, my boss from my full-time job offered me to work as a Contractor.

I would say everything looks great on side of my business as I currently have three long-term clients from Upwork and one from a local business. I work part-time from four of them with flexible hours and strive to work at least 4-5 hours in a day targeting 30 hours in a week which is more realistic and achievable for me. I like that I get to stay home for my kids and to be able to work from home. I know the idea of it sounds really cool and I think every parent would love that. The perks of being a SAHM/WAHM is to be able to see every milestone of your kids, being able to attend school events with them, childhood for me is a precious time and must be treasured because the days are always long but the years are very short.

It is not always golden moments because the truth is, I realized it is hard to work from home when you have kids around the house. On weekdays, my day starts at 7:15 in the morning. I’d wake up my eldest to get him ready for school. He attends full days at school and right now even with the pandemic, he attends face-to-face instruction which he really needs because we tried virtual learning last Spring and it really didn’t work out for him as he shows some regressions. I used the respite services for my eldest which has been very helpful for me that way someone will help me drop him off at school in the mornings so I don’t have to wake up and drag my youngest with me especially in the cold winter mornings. At around 8 am, the private respite will come in and pick him up from our home to drop him off at his school. So, I am left with my youngest until 2 pm and that’s when I log in to work online while taking care of him. He is 17 months old now as of this writing and he is at the peak of his curiosity, learning, trying to talk, and very playful and still breastfed. His favourite show right now is Blippi so I am very thankful to Blippi for entertaining my little one while I work.

It really depends on the day and how the day looks like. My eldest still has virtual sessions to go to and some other tight schedules I need to deal with personally and in business. If it doesn’t work out from that time window, I will then have to ask my husband that I need to work at least 2hours at night. But during the first months of being a SAHM/WAHM is a struggle for me. I always end up fighting with my husband to give me some time to work because it is not easy. It is not because I am just at home all the time I have all the time in the world. The truth is, It is actually vice versa and there are some days that I need more hours than the 24hours. I guess I speak to all the mothers out there.

I guess I’ll end up this post with the key takeaways that works for me best as a SAHM/WAHM plus being a parent with a special need. I have learned that time management is the key to make it all happen plus the support of my husband. You have to set rules in the house and giving yourself a break too – away from your computer and away from the kids.

After all, we are a parent and as parents, we always do what is best for our family.

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