Two years ago today I left a very successful and well paid career to stay at home with my children. Many who knew me at the time might have seen this as an unexpected move. I was ambitious. My 5 inch heels perched with steely determination on the career ladder. Before having children, I would never have believed I will be a stay at home mum. In fact, there was a time where my family were not sure I would ever have kids and I didn’t really give it much thought.
But I did have 2 amazing children and as Noah was approaching 3 and his big sister was preparing for her senior infants Christmas play, I walked away from my job. Away from travelling the world on business class flights, from exciting worldwide business meetings and of course endless emails, late night conference calls and the necessary but very uncomfortable heels.
So this morning, on the 2 year anniversary of leaving my job, I stood in my daughter’s school assembly hall, decked out in a Santa hat and Christmas jumper as I pulled raffle tickets from a huge sack in front of 200 girls under 12. I couldn’t help but ponder how much life has changed for me!
The day Noah was born was a very sad day for me. I thought I would always be sad, that Down Syndrome would change all of us forever. In some ways it has but I am not sad. In fact I think I laugh more now then I ever did.
The first year of having Mum at home was a challenge for everybody. After years of running sales teams, I was used to a fast paced environment, the thrill of the chase, hitting targets, driving performance. If you weren’t moving fast, you might not get paid. After leaving work, I took all that career energy and brought it into the house. I became obsessed about running an efficient household, I was incessantly cleaning and organising, project managing homework, meal times, bed routines. I started to project manage Noah and all his goals. I was determined I was going to do this job right and it is a miracle my family did not send me back to work!
But children change priorities and children with Down Syndrome force you to slow down. They need time. Endless and endless amounts of time. I was so unprepared for that. This was not something I could put into a project plan. My children were not interested in performance reviews, quarterly plans or goal lists. Nobody was interested in my quest for perfection and there was not a lot I could do about it.
Noah does not care if the house is untidy, dinner is late, washing is not done, school has already started, Anna has to get to drama class, if we don’t shop we don’t eat. These are not priorities. Noah likes to play. He’s simply never in a rush. He likes to stop, smell the flowers, look at bikes, jump over puddles, sit on benches, peep over walls at gardens, play, play, play. Ideally everything would start and finish with a game. He’s not that keen on eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, putting on coats.
Some days are very hard. Communication is hard. I don’t have the time (or lets face it, the will) to explain why we have to eat our breakfast before getting dressed like we do every day. I don’t have time to walk through the process of getting dressed, brushing teeth, wearing the blue jacket instead of the yellow one because today it’s raining and I can’t make it stop. Why you have to sit in the carseat behind me rather then the one your sister sits in, why Uptown Funk is not coming out of the radio just because you want it to or why we can’t park in the same space as yesterday because somebody else is in it.
But this relationship with time is also an incredible gift.
Noah has taught me to slow down, to take life day by day, enjoy the moment we are in and appreciate every baby step along the way. Superficial worries have been eliminated. It doesn’t matter if we miss a call, say the wrong thing, forget to check Email, get our shoes dirty, eat late, wear mis-matching outfits, sit in the dog basket, sing in the supermarket, listen to Christmas music in summer, take 30 minutes to walk 50 meters. It doesn’t matter if your child’s painting is not as good as another child’s, he wont hold a pencil, can’t say the alphabet. We have time. Tomorrow is another day.
Some people say everything happens for a reason, I don’t believe that. I believe that we are all presented with situations in life and we do the best we can with what we have. I wish my little boy could express himself, that we had those funny and clever 4 year old chats I had with his big sister. I wish he didn’t have to work so hard. But I am rarely sad.
The heels are gathering dust (much to my daughter’s dismay, she much preferred me in heels then my over-worn Converse), they are a stark reminder of how my journey has changed. The road I am taking is so far away from the one I had planned. The fact that Noah was born with Down Syndrome has influenced that journey and taught me so much but contrary to all my fears, our life is not about Down Syndrome. We have a happy home. Both of my children are learning with us. I like myself more now. We can close our front door and the world outside doesn’t matter. There are tears along the way but we laugh so much more then we cry, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we’re enjoying the quirky ride! How lucky are we!