Balancing Career with Special Needs Parenthood - A Conversation with Amialya Durairaj
Amialya (Mia) Durairaj is a mom of identical twin toddlers, both of whom have special needs. The girls, now aged two, were born three months early and had respiratory and cardiac issues related to prematurity. Both girls have had numerous surgeries and spent many months in and out of the hospital, but Mia reports that "things continue to look up, and they're both doing great now." Mia, her husband and the girls live in San Diego, California.
When she isn't wrangling her kids, Mia is a health writer and communications consultant at Little Octopus, LLC, and her work has been published in The Washington Post, a recent World Health Organization report, Hand to Hold, The Mighty and more. She's also the co-creator of Mindful Return's Balancing Career with a Special Needs Baby program which has been featured in numerous parenting and family magazines and periodicals. As if that isn't enough to keep her busy, she's the founder and co-chair of the Cardiac Family Advisory Council at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California.
After introducing Mia on the show and catching our breath, Jason and I jumped right in to asking Mia "how she does it," what motivates her and how she keeps balanced. Although she admitted to balance being a work in progress, Mia said that when she emerged from the initial chaos of the twins' birth and hospitalizations, she knew that she wanted to get back to work. She noticed that many mothers of children with special needs were full-time caregivers, but there were few resources for those women who wanted to get back into the workforce. She and a partner developed an e-course called Mindful Return Balancing Career with a Special Needs Baby. The four-week online course is designed for mothers with babies and toddlers, but Mia maintains that the material is relevant to those caregivers of older children as well. The course is flexible and can be taken at one's own pace. It defines work broadly. "It could be anything from being in the C suite, to having a small side hustle on the side that you do during nap times," Mia states. The course also guides women into negotiating with employers for flexibility.
It's that kind of "ask" for flexibility that drove part of Mia's recent Washington Post article, titled "Parents of special-needs kids assume they're less desirable employees. They're wrong." Mia herself realized that the advocacy work she was doing for her daughters in the hospital, in the school system and other systems of care was actually making her more capable. Mia says that she was gaining new skills that "dovetailed well into the work that I was doing as a consultant and as an advocate."
I'm tempted to quote everything that Mia shared with us on the podcast, such was its power and originality. I found myself looking back at the twenty years of my own caregiving and realizing just how many skills I'd acquired! Jason, Mia and I discussed all of this at length and then, of course, talked about the necessity of self-care. Mia introduced us to the term "micro-self-care" and the importance of carving out some time for oneself even if it's a five minute meditation or drinking a cup of coffee and reading a poem of the day.
I wish I'd been able to take Mia's e-course twenty-four years ago and urge all of our listeners to explore it! In fact, we have a wonderful giveaway:
The first two listeners that comment with "sign me up for the course" on the FaceBook post announcing this podcast episode will get to participate in the e-course for free.
Purchase < $100
A library card
Dr. Rita Eichenstein's book Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children
Inspirational Person or Group
The Cardiac Family Advisory Council at Rady Hospital in San Diego