Last night, on my facebook page I shared an image that read:
“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”
How many times have you been told that, in some form or another, as a special needs parents? Probably countless of times. It sounds so good and so true but I know we all start thinking, “Childcare? Expense? Cost? Work? Time?”. It seems impossible to find time to yourself when childcare is limited, you may not be able to afford it due to extra medical expenses, and you have absolutely no time to yourself in between work and special-needs parenting duties. It just isn’t happening. I understand, that’s exactly how I feel.
We’re all feeling like we can’t schedule in that time for ourselves, yet we all know we need it. So I brainstormed all night long to come up with a solution and this is what I have for you:
- Get up 1/2 hour before the kids need to get up for school. Sit in silence and sip on coffee in peace. My son, for the majority of his life didn’t sleep through the night and was a 4:30 AM riser. I would’ve laughed at this suggestion during those 10 years. Now, he’s a great sleeper, so I enjoy this morning time to myself.
- Go to nature, even with kids in tow. Or wherever it is your child is happiest and has the least likelihood of having a meltdown. For our family, that’s nature. Which is perfect because I can literally feel my patience & sanity return when I’m in the outdoor elements.
- Put the kids to bed early. Run them really hard all day long, use two weighted blankets, diffuse some lavender, and give them a dose of melatonin. Then go soak in a bubble bath with stress away bath salts, a glass of wine, and a good book.
- Are you lucky enough to have a backyard? This summer, I enjoyed a margarita next to our inflatable kiddie pool on a few occasions. I put on my large sunglasses and my big, dramatic floppy hat and I pretended I was on an exotic beach somewhere. All while still keeping an eye on my monkeys.
- Give yourself a time-out. Things getting too loud? Too much? Everything is making you feel like you want to snap? Go in the bathroom with some miniature candy bars and lock the door. Just five minutes. Deep breaths.
- Borrow Your Kids Noise-Canceling Headphones. I have seriously done this. Multiple times. It blocks out the environment a bit so you can continue with your tasks with a bit less stimuli. Try it. It really calms me and makes me realize why the boys love them so.
- Exercise. Look, I know it’s probably impossible to go to the gym. Even if they offer childcare, they aren’t equipped for my child. But it’s been proven time and time again that exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t shoot their husbands are better parents (please, tell me you know the movie I was just playing in my head). Play Just Dance or Wii Fit with the kids. Or even put on an exercise video- sometimes my boys like to jump in on those too, sometimes they just like to laugh at me make a fool of myself. Do family exercise- hikes, walks, swimming, bike rides, and so forth.
- Find a hobby. Remember that there are many facets to you- you’re an amazing parent to that child(ren), but you are also you without using your child(ren) to define you. I get stuck here a lot. Hobbies don’t have to be expensive and they don’t have to be out of the house, if you honestly do not have childcare. Journaling, scrapbooking, gardening, reading, painting, photography, playing an instrument, or brushing up on your cribbage skills. If you *can* get out, check out a local Paint & Sip night- super fun to talk with other ladies, sip some wine, and you feel creative and accomplished at the end.
- Chat with your friends. Just let it all out to whomever you can do that with. Be it friends on the phone, a friend over for coffee, your sister, your Mom. Hit up your facebook groups and internet chat boards. I believe social media is a huge time-suck, but I also believe it’s a huge lifesaver for people who don’t feel like there are many people in their lives that truly “get it”. We all need someone to listen and nod their head and empathize with you because they truly understand what you’re feeling.
- Have you checked out respite care? Here in Maine, respite services are available through three agencies. If you have a case manager (and if you don’t, I highly suggest you get one), they can hook you up and help you with all of the paperwork needed. Check out the following link for more information about respite care: http://www.accessmaine.org/Toolkits/Respite/prog_child_dis.htm
Are these suggestions ideal? No. However, I know so many families who are living in this reality of just not having an option to leave their children for a night out. Filling your cup can obviously happen around your kids, sometimes that hug or snuggle at the end of the day is all I need. But, we’re human adults and it would be unnatural to think that you never need time to yourself. So you have to sneak it in when you can. And I’m off to go take my own advice, #3 is sounding very tempting!