When you have a family emergency but you don’t want to say ‘family emergency’ because that sounds so dramatic so you just don’t say anything until you’re exhausted and then there’s another different family emergency.
aka The Family Emergency Blog Post
This is a blog post of two halves - well, two pieces. It may not actually be a 50:50 split, but I’m sure you’re not here for a maths lesson, so the precise breakdown isn’t important.
I started writing this blog post towards the end of November 2022. My mother-in-law, who lives about a 2-hour drive away from us, had been in and out of the hospital for the past month, and my husband had been away to look after her multiple times.
And I started thinking about how weird it is to be dealing with this middle-ground life stuff. Where it’s no longer a big one-off emergency that only requires a few days of your attention, but neither is it (hopefully) a long-term change in circumstances that you need to adapt your life and business to.
I’m going to call it a Chronic Semi-Unexpected Life Emergency.
My blog posts are often a work in progress for a few days (some take weeks), where I capture thoughts, and ideas, and experiences, and even write whole sections at a time, and then come back and knit it all together later.
I had written most of the post, but not quite knitted it together, and then one of those Unexpected Life Emergencies happened, and I spent a whole day in A&E with my eldest son being treated for asthma.
So now I don’t really know how I’ll knit this blog post together, or what the structure is, and I don’t have some powerful take-home message. But it’ll be cathartic for me to finish it, and hopefully just reading the experience of another business owner will be helpful for you if you’re in the midst of a Life Emergency, whether it’s Totally Unexpected or Chronic Semi-Unexpected.
So back to the sort of beginning.
Our Chronic Semi-Unexpected Life Emergency
My mother-in-law, who lives about a 2-hour drive away from us, has been in and out of the hospital for the past month, and my husband has been away to look after her multiple times (I know I already told you that in the intro, but this was also how the original blog post started).
I miss him, so emotionally I’m a bit depleted.
I also miss having a second pair of hands to help with the housework and driving The Sons to wherever they needed to be, so my time and energy levels have been impacted too.
And The Sons miss him and are being (understandably) emotionally needy (I love that my 6ft tall teens still want snuggles in front of the TV with me).
It’s starting to impact my work, but there has never been a clear moment when I knew I needed to intentionally scale back my working hours, and let people know that there might be delays in any client work, or in replies to DMs or emails.
I wish I’d put an automated reply on my inbox a month ago.
But I didn’t know then what November would look like.
It started with The Husband going away one time. And then he needed to go again. And again. And again.
Our circumstances have become more and more challenging, but in such a slow way that I’ve failed to adapt to them. I am the frog in the saucepan of water on the stove.
And there are just so many questions or cul-de-sacs in my thinking right now:
1) If I’m going to go through my inbox to let everyone know there’s going to be a delay in replies, I might as well get on with it and reply to their email properly, and then the thought of even looking at my inbox at all gets too overwhelming.
2) What if I do tell clients and people in my inbox that we are in the midst of a family emergency, and then they see me replying to comments on Instagram, or answering questions in my Facebook group, or they see social media posts be published (because they were already scheduled) and they think that I’ve decided that work is more important than them. It’s not. It’s just that’s the kind of low-energy pottering about I feel capable of right now.
3) How much can I say publicly? I don’t want to alarm family and friends who might spot any comments or posts on social media.
4) What do I even say? If I say ‘Family Emergency’ everyone thinks there’s something wrong with the kids and it’s been very sudden (remember, I wrote this half of the blog post before there was a Son-related emergency). And then I have to spend ages telling everyone that actually, everything is OK, and then I feel like I’ve been making a big deal out of nothing and I should just be quiet and put that energy back into getting my work done.
5) I wish I could go back in time and put an out-of-office reply on telling people there might be delays in my replies, but then everyone will get this, including people who don’t really need to know right now, and they’ll be thinking ‘jeepers Laura I was just sending you an email about my Black Friday offers you might like to buy - I didn’t need to know about your chaotic personal life’.
I was starting to feel overwhelmed that I was letting people down, so I made a list of who needed my attention right now, and then decided for each one whether I would explain the situation and stall for time, or just get on and do the thing that they needed me to do (or answer the question that they needed answering).
And I’ve also been chipping away at smaller stuff that’s easier and requires much less head space. Because I do have pockets of time to work in, but they are small, infrequent, unpredictable and often interrupted by The Sons or The Husband (whenever he gets the chance to text updates or just wants a chat on the phone).
Our Totally Unexpected Life Emergency
On Wednesday night The Husband returned from his latest caring responsibilities trip away, tired, depleted, and in need of a rest, but also needed to work for a solid couple of days as his employers had been so patient but now really needed him to be doing his actual job that he is paid to do.
On Thursday morning Son#1 had an asthma attack we couldn’t get under control at home, and for the first time since his diagnosis 13 years ago, he needed emergency treatment.
So I left The Husband in charge of Son#2 (who is also poorly with the same cold) and the cat (who was due at the vets for her annual jabs). And headed to A&E for a long, but necessary trip.
It’s now Friday morning, and thankfully we all slept all night in our own home, and I’m hopeful of a day of snuggles and movies today.
I woke at 6am because I’d been asleep since before 10pm.
My mind is too frazzled to deal with emails or client work. But writing feels easy and helpful and productive, so I’m doing that while The Sons sleep.
And also because I set myself a challenge to write 100 blog posts in 100 days, and I’ve written 22 posts so far, and I knew that life would happen and make the challenge difficult and I don’t want to give up on it.
I have put the out-of-office reply on now, which seems kind of silly since the worst of the emergency is over now, but I feel like I need to give myself some space and time to deal with the inbox.
In case you’re interested, it says:
Unexpected Life Event in progress….replies may take longer.
If you’re emailing about the Black Friday Sale, I will get back to you, and I’ll honour the discounts so you’re not impacted by a delay in my reply.
If you’re emailing about access to your Worditude course….
you can log in at https://worditude.vipmembervault.com/
using the email address you registered with, and the password is the same email address (unless you’ve reset it).
Thanks for your patience.
P.S. You may see me pootling about on social media. That’s probably because that’s all I can manage right now and/or a post has been pre-scheduled.