Balancing a fulfilling career with being an engaged parent can be difficult for anyone. It gets more difficult based on how demanding and stressful your job is, its flexibility, if you have other people to help take care of your children, the number of children you have, if your child has special needs…
Bottom line? It’s tough.
When you are parenting a child with autism, it comes with a variety of additional responsibilities. Every child with autism is different, and so the therapy appointments or type of care needed for your child may be very different from another family’s experience. Achieving a flawless routine with no meltdowns, no missed or late appointments, and above-average work at your job would be ideal — but, maybe not completely feasible. Life happens. Do the best you can, and be kind to yourself when things don’t quite go as planned.
Here, we’ll share some ways you can try to balance being a parent to an autistic child with having a career.
11. Ask your employer for flexibility
More and more companies offer telecommunicating (or working from home) as an option. This can relieve pressure in a variety of different ways.
It removes your commute, which can free up extra time in the day that you can use to catch up on work, take care of your child, or run errands. Being home may also put you in closer proximity to your child’s daycare, school, or therapy appointments, which can make transportation easier. And being at home can make it easier to deal with any behavioral problems where you need to be able to drop everything and go and bring the child back home with you.
If your company doesn’t currently offer telecommuting, sit down with your boss or HR representative and see if they can make an exception. Propose that they let you try it out on a trial basis, or ask that they allow you to telecommute just a couple days a week.
You could also add more flexibility in other ways, like asking for a reduced travel schedule if your job requires it. Ask for projects or cases that require less overtime or late meetings. If you work with a very stressful client, see if you can bring someone else along to meetings, stick to emailing rather than in-person meetings with that client, or even swap clients with a coworker who is less affected by their attitude. Change shifts if you can, or ask if you can work the majority of the day from the office, and make up any hours later that night once your child is in bed.
Make it clear that you’re not looking for less work than your peers, but rather, you’re looking for work that can better meet your needs.
You never know if you don’t ask.
10. Explain why you need flexibility
You don’t have to be overly detailed or share more than you’re comfortable with — but you do want to make it clear that you are requesting flexibility because you absolutely need it, not prefer it. Give specific examples of any issues that could arise and why you’re needed. Perhaps your child has multiple therapy appointments that conflict with work, but it’s the only time the center is open. Or maybe your child is having trouble adjusting to daycare or school and is having behavioral issues, so you may need a modified work schedule for at least the next month.
You know your child better than anyone, and being frank with your employer or HR department about your needs will help, especially if they aren’t familiar with autism or caregiving. There also might already be company protocols in place that could help you balance your work/home life.
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C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.