When you have a baby, you pretty much say goodbye to sleep.
When you have a baby and a toddler, you get used to being in what amounts to a walking semi-coma, where the only things that register are: Is the baby awake or asleep? Crying? Hungry? Wet?
Is the toddler drawing on the walls? Climbing something? Doing ANYTHING that could possibly result in injury, the him/herself or anyone else?
Coffee? Do I have coffee available?
Then they get older. They start going to school for a few hours a day and, miraculously, you have those few hours to yourself! (Maybe.) You hardly know what to do with yourself. You take walks, pull your old bike out of the garage, sign up for yoga, or, if you don't have one already, you might even Get A Job! Like an actual grown up!
And sometimes you have to give that job up. Because your kids have special needs, and they need YOU. Because you're lucky enough to be in a position where you don't HAVE to work. Because your husband works one full-time job and other, seasonal, part-time jobs in order to enable you to be home with the kids.
And time goes by, and you start to feel isolated again, the way you did when the kids were VERY young and your husband was frequently out of town for work. When none of your friends had kids yet, and just couldn't relate. When you didn't have a sitter, and those friends stopped bothering to even ask you to go out with them because you couldn't, anyway. When the only adult you spoke to for days on end was the barista at the coffee bar in the grocery store. When parents of other young kids shunned you because your kids were "weird", and they maybe thought their precious bundles would "catch" your kids' autism.
Now, though, you are lucky enough to have a bit of a community. Your kids are in schools with not only others who are like them, but also neurotypical kids and adults who Get It. And who LOVE your children! What a huge blessing!
And then, along comes school vacation. Necessary and needed, but flippin' exhausting! You remember why you were so tired all the time before they started school. Except now it's worse. Because you are older. And there is a BIG difference between what you can handle at 36 and what you can handle at (nearly) 46. It's also a lot easier to maneuver and soothe a crying, melting-down, overly-stimulated toddler than it is a crying, melting-down, overly-stimulated teen or pre-teen. Your children are getting bigger and stronger while you are either staying the same or weakening. Despite your best efforts.
You work out 6 days a week, you lift weights, walk, cycle, do yoga, try to sleep 8 hours a night, everything and anything to retain strength, endurance, and flexibility. Because you desperately need all 3. You meditate, because you need patience and some semblance of sanity.
But you're also entering perimenopause, which means your hormones are going into maniacal overdrive.
On top of it all is the Guilt. Partly because you are an Irish Jew, but mostly because you ADORE your kids! You know how amazing, brilliant, funny, kind, and loving they are, and you wouldn't trade your life for anything.
But you are also so drained, mentally, physically, and spiritually, that you find yourself losing patience, grieving for the life you USED to have, the life you COULD HAVE had, and all the dreams you had to let go of, and all of the "What-ifs?"
Truthfully, none of that (aside from the patience) is as good as you remember/imagine it being. But you realize you have to create some kind of balance. Something for YOU. Something that is yours and yours alone.
And you realize that it's OK, once in a while, to NOT take the kids to the pool, or the park, or even just for a drive. To hang out at home and chill.
That, sometimes, they need it just as much as you do.
And, if you're really lucky, you just might be able to catch a catnap.