The Manic Momma – Organizing the Chaos in a Household with Special Needs
I know what you’re thinking after reading the title? Has she lost it? What’s going on? Did she just say that?
But let’s be realistic, we have all had those days. Haven’t we? Somewhere. Sometime. As a parent or caregiver of kids or even special needs kids, I for one have had those days. I will admit it. The days where I am thinking about 100 different things going on. Where the lines blur and so do the days. The days I question: Did I put the right kid on the bus? Did they have school? Am I at the right doctor’s appointment? Wait, how did I even get here? I remember driving but do not remember the drive. Where did the time go? Wait, I have to make dinner yet and do homework too. Oh, I forgot to eat again, well its bed time now. Maybe tomorrow I’ll eat something. I hope.
These are the days that I am glad I have at things in place to straighten out the chaos. Things such as I have mentioned before, my schedule and my “book of knowledge.” My schedule is always a go to and breaks down the days and times and even the months. I know it may seem crazy, but I actually pencil people in, including family. That way they are not forgotten and it’s a friendly reminder. Also, I have all three boys activities, my husband, and my activities included on my schedule. You may color code if it made it easier or stand out, but if you’re like me and do not have a lot of time, just writing it down is simple and helps.
Also, to help with those chaotic days, try and plan out meals ahead of time. I love to prep cook on the weekends when I have more time or cook a few meals ahead of time and freeze. The crock pot and pressure cooker are my favorite time savers. And on those days that my husband won’t be home for dinner because he is working nights, I have easy meals or sometimes even left over or sandwich nights for the kids.
At least once a month, we try to cook as a family or have my husband and I cook together for each other. But honestly, if you do not have time, it’s no big deal.
The second item I have that helps with the chaos it my “Book of Knowledge.” This three-ring binder contains all the important paperwork for all the boys. From doctor reports, school reports, testing results, shot records, IEP’s, contacts, therapy reports, and anything else you may need. That way, no matter where we go or who calls for information, it’s all in one organized place. It’s inexpensive and a time saver. It’s a basic three-ring binder and I have different topics separated with dividers.
I have found that no matter how many times the doctors and specialists say they are going to forward the information, more than likely, it will be forgotten in the shuffle or lost. Because of this, I always get a copy of the exam, visit, or test result and take it with me at all times. Then it goes in the folder. Make sure though, every few months to go in your folder and throw old paperwork away. That way there is less to look through and its faster to find things. If I kept on to all the old IEP paperwork for my twins, I would need a storage locker the size of my house. What might not be important to me though, may be important to you…so make sure you keep what’s needed and toss the rest.
Another way to help organize the chaos is put all your contacts in your phone that is on you at all times. I have names, addresses, and even fax numbers. This makes it so much easier to fill out paperwork on the spot or give current information quickly over the phone. And speaking of talking on the phone, please do not feel like you need to always answer your phone or return calls as soon as possible. You have voice mail for a reason. It’s okay to not get back to people right that second. Just make a reminder to call back, but do it on your time and your terms. I actually plan times in the week that I have set aside to return calls and emails. I have taught people to understand that I will call back, but when I can.
Sometimes, being a parent of a special needs child, you need to teach people to understand if they do not already. People will not always know what you are going through and you can’t expect them to, but you can teach them. Being a parent or caregiver of a special needs child is just as much a learning experience for you as it is family and friends. I am still being taught things by my boys every day. They have showed me hope, humility, compassion, love, and so much more. One day, I will have to share the story of how my twins defied the odds and fought to live. But this is why, no matter how chaotic life may get, I always remember that story and suddenly, what is important is realized. They are my teachers and I am grateful for the lessons I am taught.
So, from one Manic Momma to another, maybe something I have talked about may help. Maybe you can teach me something. But all of us, manic or chaotic or just plan tired, need to stick together and empower each other. We can do this. We will do this. We will get through this. One chaotic day at a time. You are stronger than you think. And you’re not alone.
Trish Schaeffer is a mom of three active boys—two of them with special needs. She lives in Manchester, PA and writes on topics relevant to families with special needs. Whether she’s educating you about something she’s learned, offering advice or simply sharing a piece of her world, she does so with a compassion and persistence that inspires.
This article was featured in Issue 40 – Conquering Stress