No I’m not homeless. I’m glad I’ve never gotten to that point. Paying bills and staying afloat is difficult, and I don’t mean to make light of those who are faced with that situation.
But, this summer, I have been sleeping in my car once a week. Because sometimes you have to sacrifice for your family, and getting a decent night’s sleep is the sacrifice I’ve decided to make.
I work nights at a kennel. I show up as the kennel closes, clean all night and keep an eye on the animals. It’s not an easy job. I’m on my feet all night long, scrubbing for several hours (my triceps are looking amazing!) then washing dishes, folding laundry and walking the facility at least every hour. I only work three nights a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But they are very long nights. Two nine hour shifts and an eleven hour shift on Sunday/Monday.
Monday morning, I drive 30 minutes home (if I don’t take the bus, which takes twice that time and a transfer) just in time to get my son up, fed and dressed. I then drive about an hour to his summer school, which is an ABA program with a fabulous staff of that specialize in working with kids with Autism.
I used to work day shift, but there was little chance I could have been able to drive my son to school, through traffic, then drive to my work, work enough hours to make it worth it and get back to his school in time to pick him up. So I took the dreaded weekend night shift.
It’s tough on us as a family since I sleep all day on the weekends while my husband goes out and does all my favorite fun stuff with the kiddo. On weekdays, I spend all day hanging out at the park near where my son’s school is so I don’t waste gas and chance traffic keeping me from picking him up on time.
And on Mondays, I sleep in the backseat of my car in a quiet corner of a parking lot. Because after three nights of being locked in a kennel, working my butt off and getting little sleep, there’s no way I can drive that hour home to my bed. The back seat of a car is surprisingly comfortable. I have a pillow and a blanket, and though it’s sunny, I’m too tired to care. I just hope the weather holds outs. I’m probably the only person who is relishing the cool summer.
I’m not complaining. I am super happy we got into this program for the second summer in a row. Through our insurance, my son attends basically for free. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll finally learn to tie his shoes and they’ll keep him reading and writing, because I’m burnt out on fighting with him over homework.
I know good parents are supposed to just suck it up and work with their kids, but you likely don’t know my kid. The battles over homework are epic. There’s no giving him the page and letting him do it on his own. It’s straight up coaxing him to sit still, focus and work for far longer that it should take. And that’s putting it very lightly. It’s become far too negative an experience for both of us, and I’m hoping trained therapists will have better luck than I have.
Not to mention the fact that I’m excited to get him into any sort of program since our experiences with day cares and even school has put me off childcare unless I’m leaving him with someone trained in working with kids with Autism. Unfortunately, most the special Autism camps and programs are out of our budget.
I sacrifice my weekends, nights and sleep schedule to make a little extra money for bills. I give up my time, spending most of my day at a park in order to put my child in an awesome program.
To me, this is what it means to be an adult. This is parenting. This is what I do because it needs to be done.
And to be honest, the park near my son’s school is awesome. I even get to take my dog to the most amazing dog park I’ve seen in town. I love exploring an area I would have likely never visited without this opportunity.
I’m learning the area and have already met a number of wonderful ladies who have stopped to chat about their dogs and bird watching. I may have also found a hiking partner.
Then, there’s the fabulous tan I get when I lay out on my picnic blanket. When I’m not sketching, I can nap, my little dog on watch. It can be disorienting to wake up in an unfamiliar place, but at least I’m getting in a little extra sleep.
And for those worried about my safty, I keep pepper spray on a lanyard around my neck and do my napping in fairly well populated area. When I’m in my car, it’s locked, and again my pepper spray and phone are close at hand.
All in all, it’s not a bad situation. And like with most difficulties and life experiences in general, I just like to think it’ll make for good writing material someday.
Besides, I think it’s wearing out my dog more than me. She passes out like this every day on the long drive home.