In any enterprise, there’s at least one singular scarce resource; that one thing on which all depends but is limited in its availability. Successful enterprises identify that scarce resource and manage it effectively. Sometimes understanding which resource it is, isn’t obvious. Money problems are often time problems in disguise. Time problems are often lurking talent gaps.
Groups that fail to recognize what their true scarcity is fail spectacularly in ways that often puzzle those responsible for their success as they invest more and more in things that don’t matter and fail to protect that which is critical and can’t be replaced. In special needs parenting, that resource is time. Nothing else is close. It may feel like we don’t have the money or support or the expertise to do what we need to do to get through the day. And all of that may be true. But all of those things can be gained or replaced. What cannot be accounted for with any measure is that we don’t have enough time.
As a mission commander in special operations, the one thing that never really wandered too far from my situational awareness was time. There were always the variables of danger, enemy and friendly forces, communications, food, water, ammunition and a near endless list of other things we needed to account for. And each one represented an enticing rabbit hole to disappear down. The clock though, was always running. We needed to be somewhere at some time. And every decision I made required some calculation of a trade off of time…rabbit holes be damned. Nothing from my past makes me more equipped to deal with the day as a special needs parent than how that life taught me to treat time.
There is no mainstream lifestyle that accounts for having a child that can’t be left alone for the next fifty years. The child will always represent a resource draw we weren’t designed to account for, for more than a handful of years. That long dwell problem means that we can’t make short term trade offs to buy us time in the long run. So we are underwater, perpetually so. Time is the thing that runs out and never comes back. There’s no magic trick that will get you more time. No one secret I can tell you other than to treat your time wisely. And to have a sense that what you’re doing needs to be worth it. Rabbit holes are luxuries we don’t have. Waiting on hold for an hour for a $10 refund probably isn’t something you can do anymore. Driving across the county for the cheapest gas isn’t either.
Spend a moment on the literal meaning of the term “waste of time”. And remember that relaxation, recreation and self care are not optional activities. Make the decisions you need to, to avoid waste. Once you find the time sucks in your life you can do without, you’ll never go back. The urgency we all experience as special needs parents, in this case, can be put to good use.
You can get more of just about anything you’ve ever lost. Except time. No amount of money ever bought a second of time. Billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, genius Tony Stark said that once. It’s a lesson I relearn everyday.