I know what you're thinking...how could a middle-aged (I loathe this term) mum of three (one being non-verbal autistic) ever get out? And right you are, I almost never get out, like many other parents, & it's not always lack of options or invitations or will, most often it's my choice! Maybe middle-aged is the right term, yikes.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a super jeudgsh event that I had said 'yes' to, for once, because well, that Christmas vibe is fast approaching, all those glitzy dresses in stores & online hinting at all the fun to be had in the city & at work parties (I haven't been to one of those in decades, mine or my husbands), & the invitation said "...Mews of Mayfair...gin...cbd-in-gin!!...". Perfect.
What is it about us mums/me though that seem to have these deluded ideas of a night out translating to having days to plan what to wear & hours & hours to get ready when in reality it never, ever happens?
OMG so much stress to get out the door: Had to start cooking dinner for the family at 3pm; had to take puppy for a long walk to make sure he was knackered when everyone got home & not psychotic; had to aggressively text 16yr old teenager instructions/threats for babysitting non-verbal autistic 8yr old & puppy until Daddy gets home; had a brief thought about wearing something amazing & different before settling on the 'green dress' again (praying it had been washed).
By 4 pm I realise I am going to be v tight for time once child 1 arrives home. Race upstairs to get foundation on; race downstairs to whip dinner out of oven; chuck child 1 in car to collect child 2 from bus stop; race indoors to feed puppy; race back upstairs to throw on dress & some mascara; run for it; drive like a maniac to station & make train with 2mins to spare.
You plonk yourself in a chair on the train thinking, not for the first time, that this all pointless. I am meant to be having a break & a night out. I haven't touched my hair since lunchtime, I look like crap, why am I even bothering to go out? I don't want to anymore, should have stayed at home in my comfy slobs, I need the loo now, just great.
What has any of this got to do with autism parenting? Well, not much other than a few pointers in the preparing to go out process that others might not have to consider making it even harder for autism parents to take a break (something everyone is always telling us we should do).
When autistic Henry arrives home in his taxi, all must be exactly as he is expecting on a normal day ie me not wearing any noticeably different make-up or any 'different' clothes because he will spot it in mere nano-seconds & he will know something is up. When this boy's suspicions are aroused & he is uncertain of what to expect there can be big trouble ahead. There must not be even the tiniest hint of me being rushed, he will know. My breathing has to be in check & facial expressions too, because, he will know.
Timing exactly when I tell him I am going out is a complicated science/art form that requires me knowing his world & aura & mood & senses down to the microscopic particles level before judging when to say it & even more importantly how to say it. If I tell him too soon, disaster, too late, disaster. Information not processed until after I have left, disaster. Use too many words or the wrong words, panic & anxiety spike.
Leaving me & many other autism parents oh you know, a tad fretful once on the train & praying all is ok at home. Praying he is ok with his brother & vice versa, praying he does not begin to behave negatively (this can be seriously bad/distressing) as a form of protest etc. etc.
Once on the train, well, what can you do. On arriving at this stunning venue & meeting my lovely friend Sam, I finally switch off & have the most divine evening & know that it absolutely is all worth it for a few hours of fun. And fun this was... A kind of collab event with gin being the common denominator:
Venue: Mews of Mayfair, 10 Lancashire Court, London, W1S 1EY. Stunning little courtyard area filled with cafe tables & restaurants & bars & patio heaters & blankets too. So so pretty.
Gin & Yin Retreats: I mean hello. I can't think of a better holiday for stressed-out autism parents...the focus being beautiful locations, great food, lots of amazing gin & time to relax & have fun whilst also benefiting from yoga. Yes, please. Imagine being able to de-stress, unwind, not starve, re-energise our weary minds & bodies, sleep, & vent & laugh over gin & tonics? Because when you have your tribe, laughing about autism-isms is the best therapy ever. It just is what it is & there is no point getting sad.
Gin & Interiors: A gorgeous website & blogs on all things interiors, lifestyle & gin. Again, perfect! Their website is a visual treat.
Haymans Gin Company: I had not heard of it before even though it has been around since 18 footsack & well, it's utterly delicious. They had lemon pieces with their name almost hot coal branded onto the peel! So cool. They have also just launched a small gin that we tested & could not tell the difference between the full strength one & the much-reduced alcohol percentage one. Hurrah for the drivers.
And finally, Oto: A company who is the first of its kind to produce a CBD oil bitters to go with tonics & alcohol & well hey, as if anyone needed an extra excuse to enjoy gin...their cocktail was SO good. They also do a range of CBD oil roll-ons, drinks & a skincare range too.
Yes indeed, taking that night out, whatever it may be, is indeed worth it you fellow middle-aged parents. Go to the husband's work do, get dressed up & enjoy. Even if it's not ok at home, lessons will be learned, experience gained, they will be ok & hopefully, you will have set an expectation & can do it again one day.