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jkpenney

Babywearing Educator, Parent, Advocate

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Actually Autistic

A Failure of a Stay-At-Home Parent

When you have kids everyone tells you how fantastic and necessary it is to stay home with your kids as long as possible. It’s like you’ll set them up for a life of disappointment if you don’t put your professional life on hold until they are at a minimum school age. If you have the means, then you absolutely must stay home or you are not a very good parent. At least that is what society tells us.

Staying home is a great experience, and I’m happy to have tried it. I am also happy to have it behind me, never to be attempted again. Some people flourish at home with the kids. It is where they are happiest, even with the bad days. Then there are folks like me. We are good parents. Our kids are well rounded and blossom under our care. But we do not have that bone deep satisfaction of our counterparts. Being home is fine, but we aren’t the best parent we can be when we stay home. For us leaving each day to work outside the home leads to a happier household all around.

But it is hard to take that step at throw “the one chance to watch your kids grow up every hour of the day” back in the face of society when others are not afforded the same opportunity. You should cherish the time at home and be happy! When you’re not, it’s just a rough patch. You feel yourself slipping into depression? Just get out more! The answer can’t possibly be that maybe you should work out of the home, right?

When I decided to find outside employment, I felt like a failure. Why couldn’t I be satisfied with my kids all day? Accepting that I am not programmed to love being a stay at home parent was difficult. Everyone told me it’s the greatest thing in the world, so why did I dislike it so much? Acknowledging that my happiness matters as much as the children’s was a tipping point. I could not parent at my best when I wasn’t fundamentally content with my decision to stay home.

I am a failure of a stay-at-home parent and that is perfectly fine. Accepting this has made me a better parent and a happier person. For some people, less time with the kids makes for a stronger household and that is just right.

Whirlwinds

It is remarkable how hectic life can be at every stage. No matter if you work away from home full time, stay home full time, or any other variation, life has a way of staying busy. During those action packed moments, it’s difficult to take time to decompress and focus on yourself.

Self care is a concept many of my friends discuss regularly. Only, it’s generally to remind another friend of how important it is to give yourself space. We often forget to prioritize ourselves in this discussion. Honestly, who even has time for that? Yet self care is probably the most important thing we can do for our family, friends, and selves. When we don’t take the time to fortify ourselves, we can’t be there as fully for those around us. Quite frankly, we’re probably teetering on the edge of breaking.

Between solo parenting while the spouse is at sea, co-parenting when he’s home, taking classes, the dog, the house, work, volunteering, and a million other things that tend to crop up, I run on empty 98 percent of the time. At least the cat is easy on me. On those days when I remember to dedicate ten minutes to myself in some fashion, I relax a bit. Be it playing in the yard with the dog, working out, going to church, or singing loudly in the car, those increments of time improve the rest of the week.

Those moments are few and far between. And my accountability to myself is low. So if you’re like me, grab a friend and help each other stay on track with daily reminders to hide away for a short period to decompress. Oh and do remind me to do the same.

Life Progression

A short while ago I started working full time, outside the home. I am even happier than I imagined I’d be, affirming that this is the best choice for my family, especially my parent-child relationship with the girls. 

The privilege of staying home with E and A for five years is something I will likely look back on and cherish. While in the moment it could be difficult and overwhelming. I adore my children, but actively parenting them 24/7 is exhausting. Some flourish as stay-at-home parents. I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a dedicated and good parent. And I will continue to be, just with more outside help and time apart. It is good for all of us, as I am a better parent by delegating their care during the day. 

These first weeks have been an adjustment for all of us. The kids’ emotions are on edge and they are a bit more clingy than usual. But these emotions are counteracted with their love of our caregiver and excited tales of all the things they did with her that day. Finding the right person to fit our family was stressful, yet it has also worked out wonderfully. We couldn’t have found a better person than we did. Fingers crossed she decides she loves the area and doesn’t move away. 

For now our home is filled with joy and uncertainty as the girls work to adjust to our new schedule. As they adjust, I’m going to sit here and soak in all the extra affection, along with the whining. 

You should’ve asked

Source: You should’ve asked

Volunteer Appreciation

It is volunteer appreciation week. Volunteering has been a huge part of my life since childhood. Currently I can attribute much of my current self and growth to my volunteer work with my local babywearing group. 

When I first decided to volunteer with the Hampton Roads chapter of Babywearing International, I never imagined I’d be so thoroughly involved with the organization on the local and national level four years later. My work with the organization has given me new friends, introduced me to many new people, and forced me to grow as an individual in various ways. 

A couple of the biggest areas of growth are my communication and leadership abilities and the sense of community it has brought me. I never imagined I’d be the Chapter President of anything, yet somehow it works and I’m actually quite good at my job. Meetings tend to push me out of my comfort zone by requiring I be personable and outgoing. I’m exhausted after the fact, but the switch in personality is second nature by this point and more genuine than forced. 

The biggest benefit has been the community of volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. The nature of the group means this base is ever changing. At the core of each volunteer is a person willing to give their time to grow this organization that has changed their lives as it has changed mine. A huge thanks to all the volunteers of past present and future that are making our babywearing group and inclusive and welcoming space. 

Embracing Autism

April is right around the corner and it is Autism “Awareness” Month, which I prefer to call Autism Acceptance Month. A singular word choice doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it makes a huge difference. Society is quite aware that autism exists. Just because people know that Autism is a thing, does not mean they really get it or accept the presence of autists in society. Acceptance and awareness are two very different things. Acceptance is what we should be promoting this April, not merely awareness. 

E is autistic. Her doctor asked me again during our last health check how I feel about it. After hearing this well meaning but ridiculous question for the hundredth time, I informed her that “it really isn’t a big deal as I am also autistic.” For some reason she was shocked by this tidbit and went on to tell me the importance of not divulging such medical information to just anyone. Clearly she doesn’t understand autism as well as I had hoped. 

Autism is measured on a spectrum. Some traits will be at different ranges of said spectrum than others. Additionally females are greatly underdiagnosed as most diagnostic criteria is tailored to males. I present as rather neurotypical with some quirks. Society doesn’t see me as autistic. I am not a savant, I am not developmentally delayed, I excelled academically, and I am perfectly capable of making eye contact and socializing. I’m very good at making myself look like I fit in, a trait common to autistic females, yet at the same time I never really fit. After my diagnosis, it was a bit of a relief to finally have an explanation as to why meeting social expectations was so taxing. The understanding it brought me has allowed me to relax in social settings and embrace my less sociable habits. Not everyone I encounter accepts this. 

Sure they are aware that autism exists and expect everyone to be like this one autistic they saw in the media or in a movie. They don’t really understand the breadth of the neurodivergence. Nor do they accept autism’s prominence in society. If you don’t fit each check box, then you don’t count as autistic and you should make yourself act like a normal person. We need acceptance of our existence and acceptance of our variances. Acceptance, not awareness. 

Taking The Next Step

If you’re my Facebook friend you’ve probably noticed my numerous posts asking questions about resumes and job applications. It’s been five years since I considered a career. Needless to say I’ve needed a refresher on the topic and my resume major updates. My friends and google have been of great assistance on this matter. 

Upon graduation from college in January 2012, I had a job lined up at a large shipyard and was considering graduate school. But then I realized that now wasn’t the time to start a career. I wanted kids and I wanted them while I was younger and before I established a career. I did not want to start a profession to then take a break once children came along. Plenty of women have kids and continue working. Others welcome a time away from employment mid career. I am not one of those people. 

I am wired to need to see things through. I hate starting something I cannot continue with till completion. Be it a sewing project, extracurricular activity, or   life stage. Because of this I chose to start parenthood now. I had finished school and was at a fork in the road, parenthood or career. Most do these simultaneously and even starting to work now I will as well. But I’ve also got one child in school and another ready for preschool. These past 4 years at home raising the tiny humans have helped form them into who they are now. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I figure school aged children can afford for me to not be at home 24/7 as they are not home that entire time themselves. 

All these whirling thoughts have led me to to today. I’ve actually submitted a job application, updated my resume, and currently actively job search. It’s time for the next adventure. 

Getting into Fitness

My best friend decided to go full force into healthy eating and fitness. Now she’s super fit and feeling fantastic. Her motivational posts make it sound like a really great idea to follow suit. Plus well I hate when my clothes don’t fit right. At this very moment I’m super motivated. 

But it’s also midnight. By time I wake up I’ll probably have lost all will to try. I tend to lose interest in things quickly and lack dedication. I’m pretty certain it’s one of my autist tendencies. However, I really want this to work out. There are so many positives and no negatives. 

So I’m putting it out there. If I chat about it with the world, surely it will be more difficult for me to just back out come sunshine. That’s the idea behind this post anyway. Come morning, I will make an active effort to utilize my overpriced gym membership. (This is a must as my budget is screaming at me for my waste.) I will manage and stick to a clean meal plan, and I’ll quit with the eating out so frequently. (Again, budget.) Maybe if I think of healthy living in relation to money management it will work out better. I do love numbers. 

Wish me luck!

Growth After Relevation


A year ago today I sat in a parking lot after a meet up and started drafting a post for tumblr. It was about how babywearing helps me to survive. I never published this post, nor did I finish it. Half way through writing it I broke down in tears. It wasn’t Turing out as I expected it to. Instead I could only focus on how awfully difficult life felt parenting two kids all day long. A year ago today I realized I needed help. 

That following week, I made an appointment with a therapist and started to actively work at becoming myself again. Until this point I was just going through the motions and barely hanging on. Postpartum was not as easy the second time around. Anxiety and depression snuck up on me through the year after A’s birth. I didn’t acknowledge it till she was 13 months old. 

No one tells you to watch for post partum depression much after the first few month. You figure if it’s going to happen that it will be obvious and earlier. That’s not always true. It’s probably not even mostly true. A psychologist referred to my changed mood as adjustment disorder. That’s probably accurate. 

If you feel down, or even just indifferent, talk to someone. As I’ve described it before, sometimes you just stop caring and have a harder time finding patience. Not everyone will feel strong negative emotions. If you feel off, speak up. You don’t have to deal with life alone. 

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