(In case you were wondering, I believe in practicing what I preach.) To my loyal followers who were wondering what happened to my posting, for the last few months my parents unexpectedly ended up living by me – and my mother is quite ill. Simultaneously, I just launched my new office which was very time consuming to set up and could not be postponed since the lease was already signed. Now that my parents have moved out and my office is set up I can resume my extracurricular passion of informing you so that you can best advocate for yourself and your loved ones. Clearly I had to lead by example and prioritize what needed to be done over what I would like to do when my time was more limited.)
How is this part 3? We have previously discussed the what and how of life balance here.
We also discussed self-care, as this should be your highest priority.
When I became an Early Intervention provider, I had to attend a training. The goal of the training was to familiarize us with the Individualized Family Service Plan in which the parent drives the goals.
I have a few concerns with this approach. Is the parent the educational/developmental expert? Even if they are an expert, can they be sure they are unbiased in their own case? (I have personally witnessed they cannot). The reality is that too often uninformed parents are short changed, as they often do not know enough to necessarily have realistic goals. Nor can they identify what the underlying cause is, and in relation, who is the appropriate professional to provide treatment. And they might never know. In the scenario below this child may well simply not meet his goal until he is old enough to do so naturally with maturity.
At this training they presented a profile of a 16-month-old boy with Down Syndrome. Mom would get up in the morning, spend an hour on social media and then upon hearing the child stir bemoan the fact that she still needed to shower, dress and eat breakfast but now the baby needed her. Mom’s goal, which was written in the IFSP plan, was to have this baby entertain himself so mom could take care of herself. I consider this a huge disservice to the mom. No typically developing infant can be expected to entertain them self like that. Furthermore, most children wake up after a long night needing a change and a feeding. Mom had her priorities wrong and her expectations were unrealistic.
I was reminded of this after hearing of a recent mom’s request for help discipling her out of control 4-year-old twin girls. She is a full time stay at home mom who works full time from home. I felt bad for both the mom and the girls. All were suffering due to mom’s misinformation and unrealistic expectations. While certainly 4-year olds can entertain themselves for short periods of time, they cannot do so for a whole day! The person guiding them helped this family in many other ways, but neglected this crucial point. When people have unrealistic expectations that are not met they tend to express frustration, not exactly a relationship building exercise. So, this professional is not doing anyone any favors by keeping the parents uninformed.
It is fairly easy to understand when you shift perspective. Supposing mom had sent the twins to a babysitter so that she could get some work done. She then finds out the babysitter spent the whole day on her phone running a side business. Said babysitter only gave them lunch after they wrecked the kitchen trying to get their own food and would distractedly hand the girls activities with which to occupy themselves, essentially ignoring the girls. This babysitter would be black listed. On the other hand, if the baby sitter did engage with the children and responded to them calmly in a timely fashion, but perhaps had to take the time to take an occasional phone call or to have something to eat we would all understand.
It is about balancing expectations with reality. The mom of the 16-month-old needed to understand that perhaps social media should wait so that she is ready to change and feed her baby when he wakens and then he will be ready to entertain himself for a bit. An hour is not a reasonable time frame to expect a 16-month-old to entertain himself or even a 4-year-old. If they do so on occasion consider yourself lucky. This does not mean mom or caregiver has to be engaged at all times, but they do have to be on call. If you understand that people need human interaction as much as they need food and water (what do you think mom is doing on social media?) then you can start to find solutions. This may include changing your priorities and spending more time with your children, finding playmates, sending to daycare, doing a round robin with some other parents in the same situation, or asking others in the same position for some advice.
Make sure the one leading knows what they are doing and isn’t leading blindly.
Are the expectations you have for yourself and your family members realistic? How do you know?