No one expects that being a professor and a mom to an autistic toddler is easy. It really isn’t, but not always in the ways people might expect.
Caring for the autistic kid is actually probably easier than most people think, at least in our case. Our daughter is very high functioning, and other than some sensory related meltdowns, is a fairly happy kid. She gets frustrated when she can’t communicate something she wants, but so does every toddler. In fact, every weekday evening from 5:30-7:00 PM we have our ABA implementers around to help out. Lately kiddo has wanted to do her ABA therapy in her basement playroom – which is wonderful. She and the implementer stay down there and husband and I can make dinner and eat together in peace. This is a recent development, it used to be that kiddo was constantly running away from therapy to me and demanding to be picked up. So things on that front have gotten easier.
On the work front, it’s summer, so that means no teaching at the moment. But stress levels are still very high. As my mother keeps reminding me, I have a proposal deadline coming up. Seriously, when do parents stop nagging you about homework? Apparently not when you become a professor, at least in my case. Note to other profs: Do not tell your parents about impending proposal deadlines. I don’t know why I ever did.
Of course I also have to prep my fall class, get a paper out, advise a student, and a few other things. Oh, and I’ve recently had my own health scare that is most likely nothing, but has resulted in me having a TON of doctor’s appointments and tests. Last week I had a cardiologist appointment, a kidney ultrasound, and a cardiac MRI, all of which showed me to be perfectly healthy. But it’s an extra drain on my time and stress levels, and the docs want me to do more tests, ugh.
So with all this, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that some things slip through the cracks occasionally. This week, I managed to annoy the front office staff of my department because I was supposed to sign a form by a specific date and I went to sign it the day after the deadline. The deadline was pretty much the same day we got the forms because of the end of the fiscal year. Apparently they were looking for me on Tuesday to get this signature, but I had some other stuff to take care of on Tuesday and wasn’t around. So when I talked to them on Wednesday I got comments like “No one ever knows where you are, you’re not around.” And other annoyed comments. At first I was embarrassed but then I realized a few things: 1) I’m a professor. I don’t work for or report to the office staff. and 2) It’s summer, which means the university isn’t paying me for my time. Many people may not know this, but professors actually aren’t paid for the summer months unless we find our own money through grants. So I feel like they can’t really fault me for not being around for a day, after all, I’m still working for the university over the summer without pay from them. (I did have 1 month of pay from a grant, but 2 months are completely unpaid for me).
Perhaps part of the problem is imposter syndrome, and I certainly have some of that. It probably doesn’t help that I am female and younger than both of our front office employees, by a decent margin. In fact I’m younger than some of the graduate students, which can make it a bit awkward if I try to exercise my professorial authority. Also, I am someone who is very easily embarrassed and I suffer from a high level of anxiety, for which I take medication but it’s still a problem for me. So for now, as silly as it is, I’m avoiding the front office completely.