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Zen and the Art of Juggling Juveniles & Jobs

23 March 2016

Late last year, I posted about so-called occupational hazards, issues that crop up for many MS diagnosees who undertake paid (or unpaid) employment. Thank you to all who responded: it has been very illuminating to read about other people’s experiences, particularly regarding whether or not to disclose. The outcomes of disclosure, it appears, were either strongly positive or decidedly negative. Go figure!

In this post, I am keen to share my thoughts on all the positives of work: engaging with others, motivation to learn new things, obtaining a sense of achievement and occasionally, a much-needed therapeutic distraction from reality.

The last few weeks have been a fairly full-on (hence the radio silence on the blogging front). The kids all have “end-of-term-itis”, having contracted that particular condition virtually back-to-back with “beginning of year-itis”. Furthermore, my normally ever-present & even-keeled husband had a work trip to Europe and followed that up with an epic bout of jet-lag. To top it off, our middle child has been causing some medical mayhem with his own diagnostic dramas and awkwardly-scheduled specialist sessions.

However, all things considered, our household has been in pretty good shape. Despite being a bit knackered after my stint as a solo-parent, we have been clearing every hurdle that has appeared in front of us with what would have been previously unprecedented ease and grace.

(OK. I admit it. I may have, at some stage, gotten ever so slightly touchy when one of my brood declared that night’s dinner should be thrown in the bin as the menu du jour did not meet his exacting culinary standards. But I digress. My point is, we weren’t simply surviving, we were thriving!)

A very reasonable question you may pose is, que paso?

The answer, at least for Team Flaim, appears to be that of Occupational Therapy and that frequently-used-but-oh-so-difficult-to-attain notion of “work-life balance”.

Occupational Therapy

The journey to this point has not been easy.  Let’s backtrack a few years.

Formerly a highly trained biomedical scientist (translation: I spent waaaayyyyy too much time in graduate school), I had found myself into the academic equivalent of an employment tundra. By taking so much time off to raise children, I had, it appeared, inadvertently committed career suicide. When I decided to dip my toes back in to the professional world, which corresponded to the end of my first MS relapse (but prior to diagnosis), said world’s response was decidedly luke-warm. However, all things considered and with the benefit of hindsight, a casual position two days a week wasn’t a bad outcome. It offered me the proverbial foot in the door, while easing me back into a role where I needed to perform mentally above the standard required to correct my children’s spelling mistakes and necessitated expanding my attire beyond the usual jeans and T-shirt.

Six months down the track, I felt I was ready for something more. It took a few failed attempts before I caught a lucky break. Capitalising on this opportunity to reinvent myself, I’m now happily employed in a job I really enjoy doing, that is both challenging and motivating and involves a cohort of helpful co-workers and colleagues. I look forward to work and look forward to coming home to be with my family. Win-win!

In many professional jobs, there is a perception that workers have to be ‘ideal’ – fully devoted and available to the job, with little in the way of personal responsibilities that may impact on their faithfulness to the firm. As a mother of three young children (one of whom has a disability), I’d be one gigantic red-flag, even minus the MS!

But the times, they are a-changing. Dads are staying home with sick kids. Grandfathers are doing the day-care drop-offs for their offspring’s offspring. Nanas are ready to fill in the gaps in the rosters – ours is a life-saver!

Thankfully, I have not yet encountered any prejudice against being “non-ideal”. I’ve not had promotions denied, my performance scrutinised or my commitment questioned.

Previously, my mantra may have been along the lines of Five for Fighting’s “Superman”: It’s not easy to be me. These days, it’s more like: It's time to see what I can do, To test the limits and break through, No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!

What about you, readers? Do you have a motto that you follow with regards to work?


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