Thursday, October 22, 2009

A new frontier

I have eluded to resumes and jobs on this blog. It is something that I wondered if I'd ever be able to do again. The problem, as any parent of a child with special needs knows, is that we are "on call" 24/7. Occasionally I'd think, "maybe I can start to look for something very part time", just this thought process would set of a chain of events that would bring everything crashing down around me. The universe telling me, "not right now".

A few years ago I allowed the thought in my head and within two hours I was sitting in the principals office of Daniel's 5/6 building. They had called me because they were unable to calm him. I don't remember the circumstances, but I do remember sitting there, texting my husband with tears running down my face.

Am I someone who needs to "work"? No. Actually let me correct myself. I work my ass off. All the time. I'm very very good at what I do. How about have something of my own and get PAID for it? From here on out, it will be "get paid"! No I'm actually pretty content doing an excellent job at home. Keeping on top of Daniel's school, being able to be proactive instead of reacting to problems. Keeping our house in acceptable conditions. This is what I do and have done for 12 years, almost to the day. After I had Daniel, I went back to work for 9 months. At his first birthday I quit. I was working full time, living in the Detroit area. I'd drop him off at day care early and pick him up late. It killed me. I quit and said we'd figure it out, which we did. I can't believe that was 12 years ago. I remember coming home after a long day of work and having Daniel open his 1st birthday presents. Two days ago I sat here and watched him open his presents for his 13th birthday. The fact that 12 years have rushed by me is astounding. I know everybody says that, but it's because it is true.

Let me rewind how I have come to this place. Over the years here I have become very involved. I am part of our Special Ed Parents Organization. For them I sit on our school district wide parent council. I am the voice of the special needs kids. I'm on my third year of this. It has allowed me to get to know school board members, and the superintendent. They have said to me, that just my presence there helps them to think of an issue in a different way, one that involves "our" kids. That makes me proud. I hope that my time and input has helped shape the way our district makes decisions. After I started blogging more last fall, a mom in our district was reading it regularly. I knew her, as Zachary and her oldest are the same age and have played on sports teams together. We didn't know each other well. Our relationship grew and one day she said, "you do amazing things and need to get paid for it". I thought, yeah right. Eventually, through her, I became a part of a group that meets for the Michigan Family to Family Health Information and Education Center (F2FHIEC) (that is a mouthful) I was brought on to help spread the word to my contacts about the wonderful services they have to offer special needs kids and families. They paid me a stipend for my time. It's only once a month, but it was nice to get a check for my time in a meeting!

This same friend then told me she heard of a job at the ARC of Michigan, a State organization for developmental disabilities. They received a grand to hire parent mentors throughout Michigan. Jodi, (said friend) was in a meeting and told them she had their Lansing person. I wrote out a resume and sent it in. In the meantime I was at a different meeting and someone approached me and said exactly what Jodi had said to me months earlier,

"do you get paid for what you do?" She asked.

and I answered "no".

"do you want to?".

"yes, if it works for my family". I answered.

That's the kicker right? I didn't think I'd be able to find something that I could work in. The person who approached me from this meeting worked for UCP (United Cerebral Palsy). They were looking for an advocate. The advocate is not just for CP it is for all disabilities. It is a very limited job. 8.5 hours per week on average. I thought it sounded like a great way to test things out. I interviewed and was offered the job. But meanwhile the Arc job is still out there. I have an interview next week with them. I was very torn about this because I really wanted to hear what they had to say. This job is 20 hours a week and is a Parent Mentor position. Helping families learn the ropes. Training them to be proactive, if need be referring them to an advocate (the other job I accepted). Then an amazing thing happened. When UCP offered me the job they said they really wanted me, but they knew my resume was in at the ARC. They gave me their blessing to interview there and if I decided it was a better fit, gave me their blessing to take it with no hard feelings. But they wanted me for as long as they could have me. What an amazing offer! It took away my stress. I really didn't want to commit to one then immediately look at another job. I don't work that way. I commit to something and stick to it.

So currently I am an advocate for UCP. I have an interview next week. Daniel just turned 13, I just celebrated my 20 year anniversary. I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. The only thing that happened is Zachary's school is closed for the next 2 days from Swine flu. He is currently well. It's an exciting time for me. It's nice to know those years of going to meetings for "free" and working so hard ended up creating a really nice little resume. After not working for 12 years I was told I had "tons of experience as an advocate". I'm proud of that. It's amazing to be recognized for what you've done. My brain is still trying to catch up to all of this. But I am very thankful for the opportunities that have come my way. It is exciting to think that all I have learned can be put to use to help other families. It will also be exciting to get a small but consistent check every other week!

Times are changing in the Sneathen household. I think it will be for the better.


Jodi said...

You are such a lovely person Michelle. I am so thankful to have gotten to know you better this past year. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you pursue.

Michelle S. said...

Jodi, thank YOU for all of your help. I didn't think I'd ever be able to find "work" that would fit into my families schedule. It's not what you know, but who you know.

Amy said...

YAY YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mama edge said...

I so admire your willingness to post about this. I feel a lot of shame about my decision not to work (my wusband, for all I complain about him, has been amazingly supportive both financially and otherwise re my staying out of the workforce so I can be there for my sons 24/7). I'm scared to death that readers will judge me (and oy, my trolls would skin me alive).

I did work for a while as a parent advocate myself, around 10 hours a week, but so often the families I worked with needed me outside of school hours, so I was paying $20/hour for respite while I only earned $12/hour myself. Also, the advocacy work was so emotionally taxing.

I'd love to hear more about how you manage it all. Frankly, adding work to my schedule terrifies me.

You rock!