When we present our workshop, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Imperfect Parents,” we’re often surprised by one key response from special needs parents and caregivers (well, besides the fact that they actually do respond to us, which is not something that happens at home). We’re shocked by how few special needs parents practice Habit #3 – self care.
Even more surprising is the way those who do profess to practice self care actually practice it.
I shower. AH, NO!
Once I went to the bathroom alone. TMI!
I attended an IEP workshop. HELL TO THE NO!
I had a mammogram. OUCH!
I had a glass of wine…while reading my child’s IEP. NO, BUT GETTING WARMER!
Call us crazy, but these don’t exactly fit our definitions of self care. Sure, we may not be the sharpest, smartest, fittest, most interesting… (feel free to stop us at any time)… special needs parents on the block, but we are actually quite good at doing things to free our stressed-out, imperfect minds and take care of ourselves.
In fact, ***** BRAG ALERT*****, we are so good at it that Gina’s husband even noticed.
“I figured it out! You guys speak at conferences just one day, but stay the whole week to get out of the house.”
Self care takes practice.
Were we always self care superwomen? NO! When our children were younger and struggling, we rarely left our homes, let alone did anything for ourselves. We even had our own share of excuses:
“The dog ate my gym membership card.”
“I don’t have the extra money with the co-pays and pharmacy bills and all.”
“That would require me actually putting on a bra; I don’t know if I can do that.”
But over the years, as our children (and our worries) got bigger, we realized that taking care of ourselves was not just something we SHOULD do, but something we HAD to do. After all, what good would we be to our kids or our husbands if we stroked out from stress? And how could we ever prepare them for life without us if we never left them?
Two self-caring sisters are born.
Eventually, we each started taking small steps toward caring for ourselves. One of us went to a support group and another went to play adult basketball. Once we got out, we saw how beneficial it was to us and to our kids, who somehow managed to breath air without us (Who knew?).
We even start teaming up on our self-care initiatives.
“So, Patty, are we drinking wine at your house or mine tonight?”
Most recently, we started playing tennis together. We’ll admit that it was a difficult transition at first, particularly with the cussing and dirty looks from neighboring players (apparently their courts are out of bounds) . However, we’ve settled into a nice tennis routine and even use our newly purchased rackets for another shared self-care activity: pretending we’re in a band.
Starting a self-care movement
Self care really does help make imperfect life a bit more
manageable. And as part of our efforts to save the Imperfect World, we’re inviting folks from our 930,000+ Facebook community to join the self-care movement. Each week, special needs parents and caregivers report in to our page to tell us what steps they’ve made to take care of themselves.
So tell us… is there self-care greatness in you? Will you join the Movement and get the hell out of the house (the mailbox doesn’t count)?