Saturday, May 22, 2010

This is not my Beautiful Life

As in, this is not the life I had planned before I became parent to a child on the autistic spectrum. It applies also, I think, to becoming a parent full-stop.

Honestly now, who, and I mean name... one... person... that you know, is leading that perfect life?

That beautiful life that you imagined when you were maybe sixteen?

Doesn't everyone imagine when they are young, that they will have a fabulous career, make pot-loads of money, live in a perfect architecturally-designed mansion with a perfect husband, and 2.5 perfect children who never make a mess, or if they do, there'll be a perfect Mary Poppins to sort it out?

What part of sixteen-years-old knows anything?
Life happens, and then you wake up one day, only just on the right side of fifty, and think "How the hell did I get here? Woah, what happened?"

I'll tell you what happened to me - A little decision here, a change of direction there, and a big bunch of 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'.

I...(at sixteen) was going to conquer the world! And be famous as well. Of course.
From that... to a crumbling house in the 'burbs, with a mortgage, three neurologically diverse children, a part-time Mac-job, and loving it?

Looking back with my perfect retro-vision, I would have been miserable as conqueror of the world. It's not really my gig.

So here's a few things that I've found out over the last 17 years since becoming a mother:

I really wouldn't want to wear suits and high-heels every day. I prefer wearing shorts and t-shirts and sandals. Much more comfortable. Besides, suits and  tailored clothing require a tailored body, which brings up the whole issue of (wash my mouth out with soap) exercise. That costs too, these days- time and money.

Then, what about the amount of time and money involved in 'doing' hair and makeup? Anyway, why should women have to do it if men don't? By the time you add up the cost of hairdressers, product, curling irons and straightening irons, creams for this and colours for that... I could buy a library-worth of books instead. Mmmmm, books.

Add up the time it takes each day to fight your hair into some semblance of what that sadistic hairdresser designed, and apply all that makeup, only to spend almost equal time at the other end of the day removing it. Is it worth it? By my reckoning, by not wearing make-up and wearing my hair in a pony-tail, I save about and hour and a half each day. With that time, I can read the above-mentioned library-worth of books. Nice.

I'll move on now to the benefits of  living in an old house: it doesn't show the dirt. It's impossible to get the house looking 'like new', so I'm off the hook. 'Good enough' is a bonus.
I don't have to worry about combining kids, marker pens and designer leather sofas. All I have to do is not have leather sofas. That's easy. Spaghetti stains are only an interesting design improvement on our sofas.

I use the same reasoning about cars. Once, and only once, I bought a brand new car. Within two weeks, someone had scraped keys along the length of one side. I was distraught - my perfect car was damaged. Since then, I have bought only old cars, and when they get scratched, or dinged, it doesn't seem to matter as much. They just gain personality. Same as the walls in the hallway. If those walls gain any more personality, I'll have to call in Shaun of the Dead.

I laugh madly at that television ad - the one where the new mum is surprised by friends at her front door, and all she can think about is whether her toilet is clean enough. Don't you think she should just be happy to see her friends? If they don't like the state of her toilet, they can ask where the cleaning stuff is. Otherwise, they can shut up and eat cupcakes (that they brought themselves, because no new mum ever has time to bake) like real friends.

Thanks to autism, and to be honest, thanks to all my kids, I have been forced to withdraw from the the waste of time and money that is fashion, beauty, home improvement, entertaining, interior decorating... and all those other things that are advertised in glossy magazines.

Ah, there are the occasional regrets, and some (past it's use by date) make-up in the bottom drawer, but I have found so many ways to spend more time and less money.

Someone else can conquer the world - I don't want to any more. I'm happy here.

(Valerie, over at Jump on the Rollercoaster came up with the title "This is not my beautiful life", which I believe is a quote from a Talking Heads song, and started me thinking)


  1. You make me smile.

    And make me remember someone else at 16 who met you, and hoped that when I grew up a bit she could be as cool as you...

    Thanks for all the journeys we've shared. Even that one, a loooong time ago, in Sydney where I held the map upside down and took us to the wrong side of town (literally and figuratively)

    Who knew we'd end up on the same side of brain town at the same time!


  2. Oh, yes, my 'trying to be cool' days. In reality, I was shit scared of being in an unknown city, and being responsible (OMG, responsible) for eight kids between the ages of 14 and 19, when I was only 24 and felt like a kid myself. I had no idea! But hey, it was so much fun. Everyone got home in one piece. We still have the Enid Blyton book with the cast autographs in the kids bookcase.

  3. Perhaps that is half the battle, accepting the hand of cards life deals us, and learning to be content with it. My niece has a son who is autistic, it's been tough for them. I hope she has found the same peace you have.
    Thanks for letting me visit.

  4. Hi Lisa, Great post. it actually got me thinking to.. I'm always inspired by other people's posts ;)

    I'm going to go back and edit my Disqus so people can sign in with their FB account. Thanks for letting me know about the email addy thing, it would have taken me quite a while to figure it out otherwise and I would have been going "Uh.. why no comment, everybody?" :)

  5. Wow....

    I caught you today over on Autism Sucks and popped over here. I like your take on the world. A lot.

    You know what my plan was when I was sixteen? I never wanted to marry, have kids, or live in a house. I wanted to be a (high paid ha, ha) writer and live in a metropolitan condo. I wanted to be all city all the time. And if I HAD to get married, I'd marry at 40 someone older wiser and sensible and smart. HA!

    So, I married. Young in my world (25). Had a corporate teaching and writing job. Bought a house in the burbs. Have a PDD kid and NT kid. Have a dog. I grow veggies. I volunteer. I write my ass off (quit the corporate life with babe 2 in 2001). I wear comfortable clothes. I exercise. I be.

    Oh life!

  6. Oh, yeah, come visit at

    I'd be honored.

  7. Hey Kim, maybe I should've gone with my ambition from when I was twelve.

    I wanted a big, airy, cave in the mountains, all walls lined with books, where I could be a hermit and read.