Family First

Last week was yet another reminder why this is the first of the Frugal Fam’s core values. Just as I thought life was returning to normal after Emily had a series of fits in April and May, she has another. So I spent my 44th birthday in the hospital; waiting to see doctors. But it was also a chance to evaluate priorities…something we should all do from time to time.

For the past two and a half months, our family and me in particular has been hostage to this thing called epilepsy. I spent my days and nights trying to watch her every move; just waiting for the next seizure. Finances are tight, because I can do even less consulting and writing. Our marriage is fractured, because we argue on how best to handle the situation. And I am stressed, because I get less sleep than a new mother; spending my nights waking to check on her often.

I have discovered there is virtually no help for us. The primary epilepsy charity in the UK does not have a support group for parents. I cannot even use their web forum unless we speak from the point of view of my three year old child, who thinks this is all fun and another chance to play in the toy rooms at the hospital. I have asked the doctors about having a social worker assigned to help us manage and coordinate her care, but evidently…we are coping too well. Our health visiting team called once to check on us. I unloaded on them; begging for help. They called back later that day to confirm…there is no help for people like us.

My family first...enjoying my 44th birthday.
My family first…enjoying my 44th birthday.

It would be so easy at this point to simply take Emily out of nursery, draw into ourselves and spend life waiting for the next seizure. In some ways that is exactly what I had been doing. But it says…family first; not family only. While I will never take my eye off that most central core value, as the saying goes…life must go on. So I am back just three days after the latest seizure. Not that I might not miss another day with the next seizure; I am sure I will. But like riding a horse, it is matter of getting back into the saddle. And go on, it did. After our hours spent at the hospital, I went to the management committee meeting at my daughter’s nursery. Our family kept its plans to celebrate my birthday out with dinner at my favourite Chinese restaurant and we had a great time too.

I am a big fan of the writings of Stephen Covey, American self-help and leadership guru. My oldest daughter had bought me several of his books for my birthday (used off of Amazon in keeping with Frugal Fam’s core values of course). I am slowly rebuilding my collection that I was forced to divest myself of before moving to the UK. On Thursday, just hours before Emily’s seizure, his time management book First Things First arrived in the post. The very first thing I read confirmed that I am following my moral compass in this situation. It was the story of his daughter, who was feeling stressed after the birth of her third child: a high needs baby. There was so much she felt she should be doing that was going by the way-side. But after talking to her dad, she discovered that she was doing just what she needed to be doing. All those other things would wait, but her child needed her…for a season.

So if like me, you face challenges and cross-roads, it is alright to stop and take the time to evaluate what is most important to you in your unique situation. I will leave you today with the words of the American poet Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

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