Parents: Give Yourself A Break

DSC06725.JPGA friend posted this article from Motherly this morning about how self-care isn’t enough and parents (especially moms) are burnt out.

I can completely understand. As the mom of a kid with ASD and ADHD, and well as a neurotypical firecracker of a 4-year-old, I feel like I am always going going going. And really, I feel like it’s not enough.

This summer I’ve said NO a lot. No to racing off to an activity each morning, no to lunches out, no to 5 playdates a week, the craft dates, all-day zoo adventures, and sojourns to the beach. Oh, and this would have been just 1 week of summer activities in the past. Imagine that for 8 weeks. Are you tired now?

This is something I want everyone who reads this to take the heart: NO IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE. 

Plus, I still need to do household chores, cook, laundry and make sure the big kid gets to therapy twice a week, I need to exercise at least 4 times a week.

In saying no to all of these activities, the kids are able to relax, which means they are in a better mood, which mommy is in a better mood. We are still doing stuff, but it’s more things that the kids can do at home or in a small group of friends.  We’ve been swimming at our community pool each day in the late afternoon, playing at the local park. We’re going to the YMCA a few times a week in the afternoon so the kids can play while I exercise. Stuff that is low stress.

Why is parenting harder? Why are we burned out? This article gives us some ideas. The increase in activities for kids (If you want to go to an Ivy League school Little Timmy, you need to start your extra-curricular activities at birth!), social media expectations (It’s like Keeping up with the Joneses on crack), the constant barrage of information and data being thrown at us (pics of our kids, nanny/daycare cams being sent to us, text messages, chat apps, always being connected to people and media). It’s overwhelming. It’s tiring. Being expected to be Instagram-ready or Insta -Perfect is frustrating and exhausting.

For special needs parents, it’s harder because, for the most part, our kids aren’t  “like everyone else”, so frequently we are ostracized from activities. It’s the truth, and it sucks. and it hurts. To shield my kids from this hurt and keep myself sane, we’ve stepped back from activities this summer.

I’m not going to give you a list of self-care activities that will help you de-stress. You already know what works for you, your family, your budget.  This is what I do.

What I want you to know, moms and dads that read this post:

You are not alone. There are other parents and caregivers out there that are feeling the same way you do. You don’t have to keep up with everything you see online. You are doing the best you can for your family. YOU ARE ENOUGH!

I found this shirt on Amazon and I had to share it. 

Five Ways to Help a Special Needs Mom

158b3ea47eb4b5467a381bf7aa1d910b.jpgAs much as love and tolerance for others is taught these days, sometimes the first reaction when someone sees a special needs kid in public having issues (read: meltdown or stimming/self soothing) can be to stare wide eyed, make offhand or rude comments, or just bristle at “the weird kid”.

Please remember that the parents are doing the best they can, and that just like your neuro-typical kids, their kids have bad days too. Here are my five tips for how anyone can help a special needs mom.

  1. Offer to Help:  Offer to carry a bag or box they may be struggling with, especially if they are trying to remove their kiddo from public. I remember a few years ago, we were at Chick-Fil-A and Our big guy was done. He was tired, there were 15-20 kids in the little sound-proof kids area, so it was crazy loud in there and he was over stimulated. He just broke down and started crying and was wailing like a banshee. Two moms at the next table helped us pack up our leftovers, got our drinks refilled, and helped us carry everything out to the car, so I could carry both kids out. No shame, no dirty looks. Just compassion for a situation that every mom faces: THE PUBLIC MELTDOWN.
  2. Be a Friend:  It can be very isolating to have a special needs kid, trust me. Text your friend. Offer to get together at a park or some place that her kiddo(s) can play, so you can spend time together. Some special needs parents have hectic schedules with therapy appointments or doctors visits sometimes weekly. Keeping in contact with your friend can really help “normalize” her life.  I so seldom see other moms, that texting and Facebook are two of the ways I am able to keep up friendships.
  3. Starbucks Run: Ok, so it doesn’t have to be Starbucks, but if you know she’s having a rough day, bring her a coffee or a treat. I had someone (and to this day it’s a mystery), send flowers to me after a really rough week.
  4. Expect to hear NO- and be OK with it: As much as you want to see your friend, hang out, go to the movies, get a pedicure, or just gossip over coffee, it can be hard for special needs moms to get away. Not everyone has family that can handle their kiddo, and special needs respite/care can be expensive. Sometimes, even the offer to hang out is better than being left out completely.
  5. Give Your Friend Grace, and Pray for them: Recognize that your friend may have a harder road to hoe that you and your family, and that’s ok. If you aren’t religious, think of them or send them good thoughts, dedicate your meditation or yoga session to them.

Talk Back: I’d love to hear about a time when you helped another person!