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The three packets of mushrooms that made me lose it

By REBEKAH DEVLIN

“Can I go in front of you,” the man in his mid to late 60s asked waving his three packets of mushrooms in my general direction and starting to walk past me.

“Um, what?” I said as I looked up from loading the last item onto the Aldi conveyer belt.

I was irked.

“Can I go in front of you,” he repeated.

“Unless you’re in a hurry,” he said with such condescension my blood started to boil.

And this is where the wheels fell off for me.

UNLESS YOU’RE IN A HURRY.

I don’t even know how to answer that, because as the mother of two autistic children aged 6 and 4, my life is a perpetual state of hurry.

It’s 9.30am and already I’ve taken the 4-year-old to physio at 8am, a session that did not go well and involved my child wrapping herself up in a yoga mat and pretty much refusing to do any of the tasks asked of her.

A session that we were nearly 10 minutes late to – because her brother was spending the day in a holiday program and she was going to “boring old kindy”, so there were tears.

This is just one of the six therapies we do every week between the two kids.

My son burst into my room at 6am this morning to tell me his sister had eaten all the Easter jellybeans she got from kindy yesterday as breakfast, and had then decided she was going to round out her meal by gorging handfuls of sprinkles.

My kids have fructose intolerance, so sugar is not our friend and means we’ll pay the price with a sore tummy later.

I’d had to yell at both kids about a million times to brush their teeth, help dress both children, remind my son to wipe his bottom as he hasn’t mastered that skill yet, attempted, unsuccessfully, to brush my sensory-avoiding daughter’s hair – and given up on even trying to get the food off her face.

And where the heck do their shoes go each morning???

I was racing into Aldi because they had rechargeable batteries on sale, and any special needs mum knows how many battery-operated devices are in all our lives and their batteries are heaps cheaper than Bunnings, but for an unknown reason, they now only sell them as a special buy a few times a year, so I had to go first thing in case I missed out.

Plus I also had to go to Coles, because the kids’ food intolerances and fussy eating means we only eat certain brands of things and they can’t all be purchased in the one place.

Then I had to get home, and start my job.

I also need to email my son’s speechie because it’s NDIS plan review time and I need the report, I have a parent impact statement to write (which I’ve been trying to do for two weeks already and my LAC is going to call any day to chase me for it) and I need to finalise everything we’re asking for in our plan, which I’m sure most of which will be knocked back anyway and the whole process would have been a complete waste of time.

Plus we are going away next week, so I need to cancel aforementioned six therapy appointments. Plus try to pack EVERYTHING my kids could possibly need over that time, because heaven help me if I forget anything. All the while knowing that being out of routine and somewhere different is likely to cause a whole raft of issues resulting in meltdowns and me wishing we’d never even bothered trying to go away.

And now here’s old mate trying to push past me in the supermarket because he thinks his time is more valuable than mine.

I wasn’t doing a huge weekly shop, looking at my docket, I had a total of 28 items. And at the rate those Aldi operators smash through it, it would be approximately a minute wait for him.

“Well, you’re kind of guilting me into it, aren’t you,” I said back.

Let me just add, I would NEVER say something like this normally. I am a chronic people-pleaser and will always politely smile as people walk all over me.

“Just go in front,” I sighed.

“Oh, it’s fine,” he snarled back, “I’ll wait”.

And so now I’m at the check-out beating myself up for being petty and not just letting the rude old bloke in front of me.

But when my kids are losing it in the shops, do people let me in front of them so I can escape to the car? Rarely.

Unless he had a taxi with the meter running outside, why couldn’t he have waited the 60 seconds it would take me to do what I needed to do?

As a carer, it can feel like you are constantly in a state of flight or fight.

The demands on your time are so numerous and the tiniest thing can derail your day. Like Easter jellybeans, or the fact that a favourite pink T-Shirt was in the wash, or why couldn’t we have a friend over today to play? Or the toast was too toasted, the cereal was too soggy. Oh and don’t forget to get that script filled for the melatonin, because that never ends well.

You try to fit everything in and there’s simply not enough time, not enough support and not enough understanding.

Between trying to get your kids onto waitlists for therapies, fighting with the NDIS, educating your children’s school, ensuring your kids aren’t bullied and are making friends, running around to the various therapies you already do have, doing all the therapy homework and preparing multiple different meals because your kids have conflicting sensory profiles…. There is no time, ever.

On my way back to the car, I looked at my emails and found a release from Carers Victoria saying that 86 per cent of the 1100 unpaid carers they surveyed said their satisfaction with life had declined during the pandemic.

76 per cent of carers reported increased levels of loneliness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 54 per cent reported by the general public.

“Carers continue to experience isolation, mental health issues, difficulties in accessing health services, financial difficulties, and a lack of available respite services,” the release says. 

“Adding to the psychological distress during COVID-19, carers were providing more care, including more complex care. For many carers, this exacerbated the social isolation and poorer health and wellbeing they may have already been experiencing, with pre-pandemic data indicating that carers experience poorer wellbeing at 2.5 times the rate of people not in caring roles.”

Do I love being a carer? Yes. I adore my kids with every fibre of my being. But is life hard sometimes? Harder than it needs to be?

Well, some days, all it takes is three packets of mushrooms to make me crack.

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