Here in Australia it’s Mother’s Day in May, this blog is for all the mums out there. Mothering any child is no easy task but when you have a child with additional special needs it’s been described by a parent I worked with as ‘parenting on steroids’. It is a constant challenge to source funds, service providers, juggle appointments, contribute to the running of the family and somehow carve out some me time amidst it all. But. It is important to find that me time and to take care of yourself. Here are some suggestions as shared up by other parents.
Get support – Join a support network
Nobody understands it quite like others in similar situations. Online support groups can be helpful. Here you can share stories, advice and support with other parents whose situations might be similar to yours. The Raising Children website has some great forums. Better still try and connect with real people in real time in your neighbourhood.
Invest in your own mental health
You may feel a whole range of emotions: anger, fear, frustration, sadness and uncertainty among them. Your emotions are normal and are bound to fluctuate, however there may be times when they are quite hard to manage and live through. Specialist counselling can be incredibly beneficial. You are encouraged to establish a partnership with a skilled clinician during more buoyant times so that you have a go to person when the going get tougher.
There is theory that stress hormones, found in tears, negatively affect every system and organ in the human body. Crying in fact may promote health by eliminating harmful stress hormones. Then there is the feeling afterwards of perhaps relief, restored energy, release.
Give yourself personal time
Carve out even just 15 minutes every day or so to do something that is relaxing. Whether it’s reading a magazine, having a cup of favourite coffee or tea or talking on the phone to a friend, it’s super important that parents have a ‘me moment’ in order to recharge, reset and rally for the next challenge.
Exercise and taking care of yourself
As much as you can, try and make sure you are eating food that is healthy, drinking plenty of water, exercising and getting as much sleep as possible. Exercise is essential to relieve everyday stresses, it ticks lots of boxes. It’s good for your body, you improve your mood, your cognitive efficiency increases, your sense of well-being increases, and you feel more in charge of yourself. Sleep is awesome, it is pretty good if the children and the grown-ups are all sleeping as well as possible. A good, long sleep sure helps you get through the next day. Fill your water bottle and work through it during the day, match it with simple and great food.
Give yourself a break
Hire a cleaning person to clean your house regularly, or a gardener to keep your yard weed-free and usable. You can even outsource laundry and food delivery. Even if the budget doesn’t lend itself to outsourcing these tasks all the time, the occasional treat will serve you well. Your local council may have services to support you with these tasks, ask your child’s tribe as pockets of funding may also be available. Another option is ‘in sourcing’ and gratefully taking up the offers made by friends and family to pick the kids up, mind them for a few hours, do a run to the supermarket.
Visit your happy place
This can be in your mind or for real. Turn on music that transports you or makes you feel vibrant and alive. Burn a scented candle that reminds you of the beach. Draw a bubble bath and lock the bathroom door. Read a good book. Indulge in some retail therapy. Eat chocolate. Drink a glass of wine. Small treats and moments that make you smile and energise your batteries.
Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is necessary for your mental, physical and emotional well-being. Start with something small each day. If you don’t enjoy it, it probably doesn’t count as self-care. The more caring and loving you are towards yourself, the more energy you have to be caring and loving to your child. Make self-care a habit and watch everything change for the better. There is a chapter on this topic in my book “Becoming Chief, How to lead your child’s special needs tribe”, the tips have been provided by parents for parents. You can read more about it here.
I hope you feel energised to invest in your own self-care, you are truly entitled to.