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)?
The following kept me afloat for another 3 years before a major emotional/mental breakdown. 1.5 years b4 Fibromyalgia developed…
I had been raising both kids from the ages of 2 and 4, 100% of the time, w father visiting approx 2 times a year, (in a supervised setting for long weeknds.) I had a couple of good babysitters…but used them for things like working late or on weekends and helping keep the house going
Then came along “Mr. Midnight.” I had been single, celibate and not even peeking at men for 6 years. My X is a bipolar alcoholic. Yes, there was mania, the kids and I had to go into hiding…yadda yadda.
Mr. Midnight was the sexy alpha male that I winked at on a dating website. The reason I was on a dating site is because my X had started calling me honey on the phone….I felt I needed a buffer…and when he found out I had started dating, he was upset. So I encouraged him to date too…LMAO he found another poor sucker w good insurance, manipulated her and they are now married.
Mr. Midnight is THE best kisser I have ever had the pleasure to know…AND he had a ton of frequent flier miles.
The first weekend he flew me to his Hotel, while he was on a job out of state, was more magical than my honeymoon. He was at work all day…till 6 pm. I lounged by the pool, I lolled around in bed watching TV and I even used a treadmill. I did things that “normal” people do…I RELAXED. IT WAS CATHARTIC. it was a 3 day weekend that I extended to four. We went out to dinner at night; enjoying very good food, drinks and then spent1:1 time together later, in the room (heh heh)
I rediscovered what I had been missing.
I arrived home on a cloud, rejuvinated and feeling like I had “Found” myself again. The kids were around 10 and 8 at this time. They also benefitted by being around another adult, besides me.
There were a few more trips in the next year and a half. I know for certain, that I would have crashed and burned alot earlier had it not been for Mr. M.
I advise all of you, men, women, single, married…to GET AWAY FOR LONG WEEKENDS A FEW TIMES A YEAR. Preferably with a really, really sensual kisser.
I should mention that I was also teaching teens with learning and behavioral disorders. I did that for 25 years. My days were long, 715 AM-5PM, bringing work home and working 6-8 hours on weekends.
After the crash and burn…I realised I could no longer work.
It WILL catch up to u if you don’t practice self care.
The reason I was able to leave for a long weekend, is because I had trained from the age of 12, one baby sitter…having her start out by being a “mothers helper” assisting me while I was at home with the kids. She learned how to handle my difficult to manage child. Another sitter I trained later in age…I believe she started with me at age 18. But, I did the same kind of training. I started them out on a lower hourly rate and incrrased the pay as I was able to actually leave rhe house and eventually for longer periods of time.
I have no family living anywhere near me.
If you have family involved with your imperfect parenting of your children and things go ok while you are absent, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, REALLY? GO!!!
That is, if u are able to let go of control. Tbis is the crux of tbe matter for alot of us. But folks, we NEED TO GIVE UP CONTROL in order to leave the house. It kinda goes hand in hand with believing you can “Fix” your child. I know this, because I had thought I should be able to fix mine. I had, after all, alot of training in child development, emotional impairments, ADHD, Bipolar, Explosive kids, Autism, Aspbergers, Oppositional defiance etc.
Well guess what? I COULD NOT FIX MY CHILD. I was too close to the situation…as all of us are. Can we help them make gains? Certainly. But the world will NOT STOP IF PARENT(S) LEAVE FOR 2-3 DAYS.
I know I sound opinionated and also people may not agree with me. However the point was to share what works for us, personally. I feel so strongly about this topic…because I have been through so much, in my situation.
FIBROMYALGIA IS FOR LIFE. THERE IS NO CURE, ONLY “TREATMENT” WHICH IS NOT EFFECTIVE IN MANY CASES. I developed it from the constant, unrelenting, stress. Pounding coffee, diet pepsi and yes even cigs at times..I CHURNED THRU MY DAYS…I even managed to work out. But I took no breaks until Mr. Midnight swept me away.
If u cannot go away: too expensive, no prospective lovers, etc… read further.
If you have community mental health services, you should be eligible for something called RESPITE CARE. Please check into it. A worker comes to your house and takes the child out of the house…to give the whole household a break for a little while. I did not qualify for this because I had insurance…but you might. There was also in home therapy and mentors available. I could access none of that support. I found my own mentors by asking male substitute teachers if they would take time to hang out with my son, play basketball, etc. I paid around 10.00 per hour. Each man provided somethingbto my son, that I coukd not. Note: No Big Brothers program anywhere near me.
I am sorry If I have offended anyone with my capital letters and statements.
Thanks for reading.