I can’t believe I never realized this before. My fresh-out-of-college position as a psychiatric assistant on a Mental Health Unit (MHU) schooled me on raising my young children. The resemblance of my day to day back then compared to now as a SAHM is uncanny. Let’s review.
1. Meal Monitor
Three times a day, and for never-ending snack-time, I prepare food and watch kids eat it. I monitor breakfast and make note of any out-of-the-ordinary behaviors that clue me in to how my day is going to go. I always have an eye open for aggressive behaviors and flying food and silverware. It’s my job to make sure I handle it if someone loses her shit over spilled milk.
2. Tend to Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
I move into assisting with ADL’s, better known in my current position as brushing teeth, getting dressed and fixing hair. This seemingly simple routine can flip you on your head and have you chasing naked butts and fighting off fits. This is just as much true when working with a paranoid schizophrenic or manic depressive as it is for dealing with my Sassy 4yo and her completely wild little brother.
3. Safety Checks
As I walk the circle that is my kitchen/dining room/living room downstairs, I’m constantly scoping out the place for hidden dangers or safety concerns. I’m eye balling the countertops (now easily accessible to Little Man) for a knife left on the cutting board. I’m confirming the scissors were put away after crafting (term used loosely…we were cutting Easter eggs out of construction paper). I never doubt the capabilities of my Little Man to cause bodily harm to himself or others. No one truly knows what he is capable of …it’s just better to hide the pens and lock up the forks.
4. Take Downs
It was not a part of the previous job nor of the current gig that I enjoy. However, when faced with the choice to take down the one year old, with a hatchet coming at you, or bail…well, you throw on your Momma balls and proceed with caution. Although his daddy was
dumb enough forgetful in leaving his kindling-cutting-hatchet where Little Man could get it, at least the blade was in its locked case.
5. De-escalation Techniques
This is a priceless tactic I learned while watching people ‘go off’ for three years. A four year olds emotional instability is classifiable, for sure. The panic alarm in my Momma gut has learned to recognize the signs of dramatized, and some times verbally aggressive, melt downs before they happen. The future of everyone else in the household’s happiness rides on me being able to talk her through her four year old insanity. The tricky part is, and always was, not antagonizing with an over emotional reaction a.k.a. losing my shit.
6. Art Therapy
On the unit, it was my job to keep the patients busy and from time to time talking. My best trick for down times was coloring. Adults are no different than children when it comes to the simple motions of adding color to a page. It encourages their brain to put color to their thoughts and words to their feelings. Crafting (again, it’s really just crayons and scissors) can be a therapist’s and a parent’s best tool.
7. Delusions, Flight of Ideas and Manipulation
When you think of spending most of the day with a preschooler, one doesn’t first imagine taking on the role of psychiatrist. I am no doctor but I spent half my days back then trying to figure out if what was being said to me was a delusion, a lie or an attempt to manipulate me. If you don’t know already, four year olds are the most imaginative creatures on the planet. They are also liars. Bold face lying little fuckers. By the end of the
shift day, the constant flight of ideas streaming all. day. long. will exhaust you.
Working on the MHU, it wasn’t uncommon to hear, “Shut the doors! He’s trying to elope!”. I quickly learned that eloping was just lingo for “breaking the hell out of there”. It’s like deja vu in my house these days because at least once a day I hear, “MOM! He’s out the front door!”. Little man has learned to turn a handle…and he is psychotically quick and daring.
9. Job Hazzards
I was spit on. I was verbally thrashed at least a few times a week. I even had my ass handed to me by a woman in her 70’s that thought I was trying to steal her cat. This morning I poured juice in a cup and put a lid on it. I paid dearly for it. My adorable son crossed over and turned in to a swinging, kicking, flopping, screaming, completely unstable little being. There was no warning or reason. His little brain is just wired to flip the fuck out if things don’t go his way these days and I, unfortunately, am at the brunt of it.
10. Shift Report
At the change of shift, a report was given. A summarizing of information pertaining to each patient was passed along. This now occurs for me when the hubs gets home regarding his (when they’re naughty they’re “his”) kids. While I am finishing up dinner, I’m usually reporting on crazy antics, steps forward and two steps back.
end of the shift dinner time, I could give at least six examples why I can’t possibly show up wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. But I’m Momma, that’s what I do. Like I did when I walked the halls of the MHU, I’m constantly schooled by the very people I am there to help “get better” and am a better person for it. .