The Lonely Parents Club: Tina's Story
Please tell us a little about yourself
I'm Tina, I'm 34 and from Manchester. My kids are 6 and 7 now, and I have 2 bonkers boxer dogs (and a Husband)! I'm a full time blogger / Youtuber – which is both a blessing and a curse at times.
What does being a parent mean to you?
Being a parent means putting someone else's needs before my own, 24/7. It means being completely responsible for someone else's safety, happiness and wellbeing. It means sleepless nights, stress and lots of love. As much as being a mum means I'm not seen as "Tina" much any more, I love almost every second of it.
What has your experience of loneliness been as a parent?
My eldest, Sam is 7 now. There's literally 12 months between Sam and his sister, Syd. When Sam was around 18 months old, we realised he wasn't doing things his sister who was 12 months younger than him was doing already. (Like responding to his name, following you around the room with his eyes). His behaviour started changing too. He stopped engaging in activities and nursery rhymes etc, and became obsessed with certain TV shows and toys.
The year that followed saw Sam being assessed for Autism, and eventually diagnosed. That year was awful. It felt like we were stuck in limbo. We didn't have a diagnosis, so couldn't access special needs services, and Sam's behaviour meant doing to traditional groups and classes, and meeting up with mum friends was almost impossible when I had my youngest to look after as well.
I went from being out somewhere almost every day and attending various baby groups and meeting up with friends, to staying home 5 days out of 7, and only going out the other 2 days to meet up with my Mum and do our food shopping. Even then, we struggled. Sam had a meltdown in Tesco cafe once and swiped a plate off the table. One of the the two women on the table behind us said (plenty loud enough for us and half the cafe to hear)…. "That kid needs a good hiding". That knocked my confidence massively. Sam didn't have a diagnosis, so I didn't feel I could tell her about his Autism, so it just became easier to stay at home. Depression kicked in soon after the incident above, and it hasn't gone away 5 years later.
How did you improve or are you improving your situation when it comes to feeling isolated?
Once Sam got his diagnosis, we could access special needs groups and support, This helped a lot. The kids got older and started school, and that meant I made more "special needs mum" friends. My daughter goes to a mainstream school, but most of her friend's parents get it. Now Sam is older, you can spot his special needs easily, whereas when he was 2, it looked like he was having a tantrum or just a "naughty boy" to those who didn't know him well.
Sam gets respite now too, so we get a couple of nights off each month from "Special needs parenting". The kids being in school also means I get a break and get a chance to go out and socialise more. (Although working for myself from home definitely doesn't make that particularly easy to do).
How do you feel society as a whole could improve the lives of anyone struggling with isolation or loneliness?
I think social media has made people lazy. People seem less keen to meet up in real life now they can send a quick hello and keep up with each other's news via social media. I am 100% guilty of this myself. I can go a year (or even longer) between meeting my friends now, and when we meet, it's like we met up last week as we know what's been happening thanks to social media.
Society as a whole can help improve the lives of those who are lonely or isolated by paying more attention: If you've not seen one of your mum friends for a while, drop them a message. Offer to call round and visit them. Invite them round to you for a brew. Offer to babysit so they can have a break.
Things seem to be getting a little better on the Autism Awareness front recently (In my area at least) – there's a lot more inclusive sessions now than there were 5 years ago.
What tips or wisdom would you share with others who might be experiencing loneliness and isolation as a parent?
If you absolutely can't get out and about, social media is full of people in a similar situation. Use Instagram or Twitter and follow hash tags like #PND #AutismMum #SENDMUM #specialneeds #itsoknottobeok
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would say that if you don't feel you can manage a parent and baby group (I hated them), maybe meet up with 1 friend or go to a baby session at a local soft play centre. If you're a special needs parent (or waiting on a diagnosis), seek out local support groups. Search on facebook or google. If you can't find one, give your Council's special needs team a call – they may be able to point you in the direction of some.
Above all else, remember you are your child's whole world, and you need to look after yourself too.
More About Tina
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