Juggling Act: Balancing My Life With Special Needs Kids
Written by: Ellen Sternweiler
We went to the Midnight Circus last summer, my kids watched an extremely talented juggler in amazement! The act started as one would expect, with a couple of balls and a few tricks. It became much more exciting when his assistant joined in and started throwing more balls and random objects into his act. Soon he was juggling what seemed to be an impossible number of things. It lasted for just a moment, though it seemed much longer. The whole audience stood with bated breath—all waiting to see if he would make a mistake. He didn't of course. He captured our attention so completely that no one noticed as he steadily and quickly regained complete control by tossing each object back to his assistant.
While watching, it occurred to me that this act is much like my life. The differences being, my life is not an act, it was never intended for an audience, and the amazement wore off quite some time ago as the run time has far exceeded the 5-minute limit.
There was a time in my life when I only had a couple of things to juggle. I could choose to add whatever things would make my life more exciting and fulfilling, or to discard the excess when things became overwhelming. Even marrying and having children were choices I embraced with open arms, while continuing to juggle all of my other responsibilities and interests.
Over the course of the past eight years, however, and seemingly without choice, the magnitude and quantity of things I've had to juggle increased until I finally reached that point of 'impossibility.' That was 3 years ago. I’m still juggling—now more than ever—and I’m exhausted. Things can't continue this way indefinitely.
How do you decide what is expendable when everything seems important? What should I let go of when my choices are: Which child's needs are more significant than the others? Which therapy sessions, doctor appointments or assessments that "[my] children need" are necessary? Do I really need to battle every day with a less than perfect school system? Should I continue to fight the insurance company to recoup the cost of medical bills? Do I fight for my marriage when times are hard, the stresses of a tough economy, and coping with the challenges of having multiple children with special 'needs' have taken their toll? Should I give up my store or my philanthropic work—even though, aside from my family—they are two things in my life that I truly find fulfilling? Should I stop paying bills, watering the plants, doing the laundry, taking a shower...
Of course, this is all dramatic, and the reality is that this didn't all 'just happen' to me, and while some decisions may be harder than others, I DO have choices. It's just that, I've found it even harder to allow myself the time to take a deep breath, step back, and let go of some of these things I've been juggling for so long. Why is that so hard? Perhaps I’ve just become too accustomed to the routine, or addicted to some odd sense of accomplishment for being able to handle it all...
It’s time to make some changes. I need to simplify my act a bit and start taking care of the most essential things again—including myself. The acceptance of that reality is liberating.
I don’t recount these thoughts to compare myself to anyone else. Everything is relative and the challenges in my life are no more meaningful or significant than anyone else’s—just different. I think most people can relate to my feelings. I'm just suggesting that, when life becomes overwhelming in this way, perhaps the 'Balancing Act' is a better trick to master?