We’re a neurodiverse family. The neurotypicals outnumber the neurodivergents, but we make up for it with sheer awesomeness and savage wit 😉 I have to admit though, even the neurotypicals in this household are oddballs, so our quirk level runs high.
Our life looks a bit different from the outside too. I often don’t realise how different it is until I look at other families. We’ve made choices that reflect our own personal ethics and beliefs, but also had to make compromises that are based more on the functionality both of individuals and the family as a whole.
Some of it is alternative but not that unusual. We co-sleep, with both our son (The Lad) and our youngest (NinjaGirl). Eldest has her own room when she comes to visit, but on stormy nights she’s been known to snuggle in with us too. The bed gets crowded and wriggly at times, but it suits us for a variety of reasons – warmer in winter, The Lad has nightmares at times and gets a bit anxious in the dark, and NinjaGirl has a very high snuggle requirement, often resulting in her sleeping with an arm around my neck and a leg chucked over my hip. We’ve thought about starting to shift the kids to their own beds, but frankly, my partner and I would miss the snuggles, and they aren’t inclined to go. So we maintain the status quo.
We babywear, even now. Not a huge amount, certainly not as much as when the kids were actually babies. But NinjaGirl is a houdini bolter, which means she is either in a carrier on my back if I’m flying solo with more than one child, or we have one adult for her and one adult for everyone else. The kid is seriously fast, and loves to explore. Wearing her lets her see what is going on and provides the intense body contact she loves. As bouncy as she might be running free, when she is up in the carrier, she snuggles right in and calms down fast. If I’m honest, it soothes me too, having her so close. NinjaGirl will be 5 in a few weeks, so really I should say we kidwear.
We don’t have set bedtimes, and have found that everyone tends to put themselves to bed whenever they are ready. Sometimes that is 7.30pm, sometimes it is 9.30pm. Usually The Lad or NinjaGirl will simply come grab a parent and request some snuggles while they go to sleep. Of course there are times when one of them is still roaming the house at 10pm and we are seriously wanting to go to bed ourselves, but that happens in every family.
We homebirth. For lots of reasons – safety, privacy, my sensory/stranger stuff. Both the small kidlets were born about 1 meter from where I’m typing this right now. We did a lot of research into it, hired a midwife (who is totally awesome), and went with the flow. Boringly normal. Once we had checked out all the birthy side of things, the deciding factor for me was the control of space and the privacy. I have strong anxiety stuff, and very strong personal space stuff, which means I need to know who is going to be around me, especially when I’m feeling vulnerable. And birth is a prime time for a woman to be feeling vulnerable. I was in control of who touched me, who could see me, what was done. I was in a familiar place where I knew where everything was, where I felt safe and comfortable. I had people with me I trusted, who knew my quirks and respected them, who respected my bodily autonomy. I guess that is starting to sound familiar, right?
And we have both parents at home. This is the biggie, really. This is the bit I get nervous about talking about, because we also don’t work outside the home. People get pretty judgmental about that stuff.
Yep, we’re a welfare family. And it is sort-of-not-really by choice.
A combination of sleep issues for NinjaGirl, and anxiety/sensory processing stuff for me means that for our family to function, we need one operational parent here every day. That makes holding down a job with regular hours pretty much impossible for either adult. Bosses don’t look kindly on someone who needs to take multiple days off work each fortnight because the other parent is so sleep deprived they can’t function. So we receive government assistance as our income. We’re hoping this won’t always be the case, but we are grateful that we have help while we need it. It also means we need to budget carefully, and we go without some things that many people see as normal or necessary.
We homeschool. Mainly for educational reasons, but also for the flexibility both day to day and over the year.
We live a fairly quiet, slow life. Sometimes balancing the social needs of everyone else with my hermit needs is tricky, and we’ve all had to compromise, but as long as we don’t overload the social calendar, it tends to work out.
We cook mainly from scratch (which helps with the budgeting as well as The Lad’s sugary carb addiction lol).
We garden, keep chooks, I sew. I crochet a lot, which I love in its own right but also works as a stim for me. The whole sustainable living thing is something that fits well with what we need and reflects our personal ethics.
We split the household work between both adults. I’m one of those angry feminists (lol) and my partner is a grown human, so this would happen anyway, but it becomes even more important when one of us is out of action due either to sleep deprivation or sensory stuff.
It seems really normal to me. It’s taken quite a while for me to be ok with accepting that this kind of life, while not really stacking up on the measure of “success” we’re told we should be aiming for, is actually good for us. We’ve made sacrifices that are in line with our ethics, and we try hard to be responsible with what we have and what we have been given. Not everyone would want this. Not everyone would be happy with this, nor would it suit their family’s needs. But it is good to know that making choices that are outside the usual lines is ok. It is good to hear from families that are finding ways to make respectful accommodations, who are ok with accepting their differences instead of hiding them. And I hope that we will hear from more and more of them.