My journey started years ago, when I had moved to Los Angeles after college, hoping to work in the entertainment industry. I had some success creating and selling shows to networks as a television executive.
But then I got married and started a family—and my son’s needs became clear. I eventually had to stop working in television. As the years passed, the chance to fulfill my creative dreams in California faded.
In fact, since my son’s diagnosis in first grade, I’ve never been more than 15 minutes away from him during the school day. I either volunteered at his school or worked nearby from home.
But all this changed earlier this year when I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime.
A friend I met shortly after I moved to Los Angeles—who had become a producer—asked me to send her any television writing samples that I had. She had sold a series to Netflix.
My nerves were in overdrive—I had to take this chance! I sent in one of the pilots I penned based on a book I wrote about my son’s challenges, Finding Einstein. Within weeks, I was asked to an in-person meeting with the Netflix executives. After the meeting, they offered me the job. I was ecstatic, but also frightened.
The new job meant being an hour’s drive away from my kids—not just my son, who was about to start middle school, but my neurotypical daughter, too. It also meant an unpredictable schedule and a lot less interaction with our son’s IEP team. This change was going to be huge for our family.
I did my best to prepare. I got my friend’s son to pick up my kids after school. I connected my son’s paraprofessional with the case manager at his new middle school so they could support each other. I created a schedule for the family. And I had my son work with a therapist to manage his transition to middle school and his feelings about my new work schedule. I happily started my new life as a television staff writer, thinking I had everything in place.
But within days of starting work, my son fell and hit his head while fidgeting and leaning back in his chair. So many emotions went through my head. Guilt about being away. Resentment at being interrupted at work. Worry about being able to successfully handle both my family and my dreams.
I tried to focus on what I could control. I called an emergency IEP meeting and asked for a new school paraprofessional who was better equipped to support my son. I also hired a special education consultant who helped me adjust my son’s supports to more appropriately reflect his needs as a middle-schooler. This included strategies to deal with his fidgeting in class, and moving his seat from the back of the class to the front.
Things calmed down a lot. With a strong support team—like the case manager at my son’s middle school—I was able to advocate for my son. My friends and husband also stepped up to take on many tasks and responsibilities.
I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have the support that I have. Not everyone has the financial ability to go back to work. Achieving perfect balance as a parent while pursuing a career is impossible. But I also know it’s important to show my kids what going after your dreams looks like, whatever those dreams are.
Because my son learns differently, he might be told one day that his dreams are unrealistic. People don’t always see the gifts in kids like mine. But he can see that his mother goes to a job she loves and dreamed about. It is one of the best lessons I can teach him.
Read how a father’s career ambition got in the way of helping his daughter with dyslexia. And hear from parents in our Facebook community on how raising kids with learning and thinking differences affected their careers.
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About the author
Lia Martin is a writer and entrepreneur, and the mother of a son with ADHD and autism.