Remembering Self Care!
Hey everyone, here is a post written by my friend Chris over at "A Crazy Kind Of Faith". She is a mom to two beautiful children, one of whom (Kai) has Autism Spectrum Disorder. We decided to swap writings about how we remember to take care of ourselves, because taking care of others starts with making sure we are prepared to do the best we can!
Taking care of ourselves is usually not something we women do very well, and I tend to think that when parenting a child with special needs we seem to do a worse job of taking care of ourselves. After all, we have therapy appointments to attend, doctor appointments, IEP meetings, insurance issues to contend with, and the list goes on and on. We can easily become so consumed with all of the caretaking that we forget to take good care of ourselves.
I remember hearing about the concept of self care when I was in graduate school for social work. A term that was frequently thrown around was caregiver burnout, or secondary trauma. It is not uncommon for folks who are so “other” focused to become depressed and fatigued…particularly in situations where we are working through difficult circumstances. While self care is always a good idea in theory, it is seldom really encouraged in the workplace. Reality sinks in….and there are always more “fires” to put out.
Having a child with special needs is not like having a job, however. It can CONSUME every aspect of your life if you let it. You cannot “leave it at the office.” There is no turning off motherhood-- if our kiddo struggles with sleep issues, emotional regulation, or a bout of the flu… SO DO WE. It’s just par for the course! There’s no saying “I’m outta here!” at the end of the day….that is, unless we have a spouse or significant other who is willing to step up to the plate (at least for a while!) I am lucky enough to have a husband who can and will take the kids for me, so I can “do my thing.” The trouble is, I’m still always THINKING about my son, even when I’m doing other things (I have to get better with that!)
One of the buzz phrases that has become en vogue recently is extraordinary parenting. Extraordinary parenting = more than ordinary, above and beyond what is “normal”, exceeding the “typical” parenting experience. It is not part of a job description or even an expectation. It is just something we DO when walking the journey with our SN children.
Consequently, I have decided to begin “walking the walk” of self care. I have taken it upon myself to set aside three days per week to exercise and attend yoga, as well as putting a lot more effort into healthy cooking and drinking plenty of water. It doesn’t hurt to load up on foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids to help combat depression, especially here in Wisconsin where the winters are long, cold and gray! I’ve started looking for some creative outlets (such as blogging) to pour my creative energies into. It is amazing how much more revitalized I can feel just from giving myself permission to self-nurture.
My son was really my inspiration to begin my OWN self-care journey. He is on the autism spectrum, and recently has begun ABA therapy 25 hours per week (in addition to early childhood special education classes in the mornings). It is no picnic for him….but we have every reason to believe that the outcomes will be well worth the effort. SO, I thought I would also use this time as an opportunity to create and adhere to my own schedule and eat a healthy diet to sustain optimal mental, spiritual and physical health. When my kiddo is struggling, I want to be in tip top shape in all of those areas.
Someone told me recently that parenting a child with special needs is very much like running a marathon. Just as marathon runners cannot “go the distance” without appropriate training, I cannot expect to give my best to my children without being the best I can be.
Chris blogs about family life, special needs, adoption, and the excitement of having a child on the autism spectrum at: http://www.acrazykindoffaith.blogspot.com/
If you'd like to read the post hosted by Chris's page, click here!
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