Raising a child with learning needs or a disability is incredibly rewarding. Our children see the world through a completely different lens. They open our eyes, minds, and hearts in new ways and make us better people.
All of the good often doesn’t change the fact that many of us are constantly rushed, stretched thin, and so exhausted that we can fall asleep as soon as our body pauses from constant motion! (We’ve all been victims of the “doze-off” at one time or another.) Loved ones might say, “You need a vacation or a spa day,” as if that’s even logistically possible. We smile politely knowing they don’t quite “get it.”
Re-Defining “Me Time”
We may not be able to take a vacation or a spa day, but we can and must consciously work toward a schedule of regular me-time in a way that’s sustainable and doesn’t interfere with family logistics…even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes. We love to say to ourselves, “But, my child is my main priority.” Yes…this is EXACTLY why we have to pursue self-care…each in our own ways.
Why Put Your Oxygen Mask On Before You Help Your Child?
On airplanes, the flight attendants say, “Put your oxygen mask on yourself before assisting children.” This doesn’t mean, “Love yourself more than your child.” It means, “If you’ve passed out because you refuse to put your mask on first, then you’re completely useless to your child.”
Put your oxygen mask on and learn to conserve/renew your energy effectively…because your child will need you for many years to come. If you’re haggard, unhealthy, and worn out, you won’t be able to be an effective caregiver or parent.
Me-Time Is So Rare & Elusive – It’s Like The Loch Ness Monster
This “me-time” people talk about is like the Loch Ness Monster. Does it really exist? Is it a hoax? You may have heard of a friend’s cousin’s aunt’s neighbor who’s managed to find “me-time.” Can it be possible for you? YES!
There are so many ways to incorporate “me time” into your schedule, but only certain ones will work for you. It all depends on your family structure, schedules, and the nature of your child’s difficulties. Here are some clever ways to chase down the “me-time” you need. Hopefully some will work for you!
1. Use The Shower & “Potty” To Your Advantage
Does your spouse or your responsible older child hold down the fort for you while you run to the bathroom to use the toilet or shower? If so, then stop “running” to the bathroom and take it slow.
Add an extra 10 minutes on to your shower or an extra 5 on to your bathroom break. Listen to your favorite songs, use delicious smelling shower gels and relax in the moment. Don’t let your kids into the restroom with you, if they’re being supervised. It’s just 10 minutes, but 10 minutes a couple of times a day or a week, this can make a huge difference.
2. Running Errands Alone? Work In A Break
If you have someone watching your kids while you’re running errands (and you can add in some extra time), add one more errand to your list and say you’ll be home at 4:30 instead of 4:00. Stop by a bookstore, coffee shop, or local park and relax for thirty minutes. Treat this as an errand and do it regularly…whether it’s 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour, it will help you recharge.
3. You Have A Car Sleeper? Use That To Your Advantage
If you have a child who falls asleep in the car, go for a drive with your child. Once he/she’s asleep, park your car in a nice scenic place, look out your window and enjoy the quiet. A book, headphones with music, a favorite snack, or a cup of coffee to-go would be the perfect companion for your “me-time.”
4. Borrow Your Friend’s Kids!
Do your friends or relatives have kids? If so, invite them and their parents over to play outside or do something fun. Your child will be entertained and have fun with friends, and you can have a cup of coffee and chat with the parent(s). This can be a surprisingly enjoyable mini-break.
5. Earlier Bed Time
Try setting the bedtime for your kids 30 minutes to an hour earlier. Use that time you gain not to do chores, but to do you! Do whatever you feel like doing and don’t worry about the laundry, the rest of the dishes, or other chores. Those chores will be there tomorrow. If you’re one day behind, what’s the worst that could happen?
6. It’s OK To Say No & Set Boundaries
We all want to be the best moms we can be. Those of us who have a child with different needs than our other children may feel guilty that our typical children aren’t receiving as much attention…or that our children with disabilities aren’t getting what they need. We’re stretched thin trying to please everyone. There comes a time when saying “no” is OK though.
When your schedule gets hectic, separate what your children want from what they actually need, and prioritize the needs over the wants. It’s easy to become caught up in the rat race and find yourself trying to respond to every request, attend every birthday party and play date, signing up for 5 after school activities, etc.
It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint
We moms are human and have our limits. There are only so many hours in a day. Having a less burned-out mom who’s happy and has energy is more beneficial to your kids than having an exhausted, short-tempered, distracted mom who drives them all over town to keep them entertained. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
7. Accept Help
You most likely have friends and family who have said, “I’m here for you! Is there anything I can do?” Just taking a guess…but you probably said, “Thanks, but I’m OK.” That’s what many of us do. We think, “This is my job. I don’t want to burden anyone.” Well, you’re not burdening someone if you’re close enough to that person to know she meant it when she asked, “How can I help?”
You’re also not burdening if your requests are within the realm of what’s reasonable for the person. So, find out specific times and tasks that your friends and family are willing to help with. Make a list of who is willing to do what and when. Call on those who are willing to help!
8. Take A Walk During Lunch
If you work in an office and get a lunch break, take a walk. Get out of the building and eat your lunch in a place that’s calm and that you enjoy. Eating at your desk may mean you’ll get more done today…but doing so every day may make you less productive because too many break-free days can lead to burn-out.