We've all heard it a thousand times: “If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of your family.” When you are in an airplane and the oxygen masks drop, you have to put the mask on yourself first and then your child.
For me, it starts with getting sick. Getting sick when you are already tired and stressed is never an easy thing. You're trying to take care of your family the same way you always have and not really taking care of yourself. You give yourself the bare necessities and stubbornly claw your way through the day. Getting well takes twice as long as it should, and the entire time you are frustrated with yourself.
When you're running low on energy and time—when stress has you ready to pull out your hair—that's when your lack of self-care will catch up to you.
But what does self-care really mean? For me, it means taking too much time out of my day for myself when there are more important things to do.
But it does not have to.
Hindsight being 20/20, you begin to see that if you had taken the time for yourself—whether it was a movie alone, a solitary meal, or even a grocery trip with no children—you could have helped recharge your batteries and possibly prevented becoming sick in the first place.
Self-care doesn't have to be a huge thing; it can be something as simple as getting a pedicure or closing your bedroom door and putting on a set of headphones so you can listen to music for a little while. Or take a walk around the block to visit a friend that you haven't seen in awhile.
Start with 5 minutes for yourself and build it up as you can.
Whatever you choose to do remember just how important it is. No one likes trying to sniffle and cough your way through their child's doctor appointment, and therapy visits are torture when you are sick. Remember, our families need us at full strength, so take time to recharge and relax. And you deserve some time for you!
Learn more about self-care for parents of children with disabilities.
We have all found ourselves, at one point or another, comparing our child or our situation to another. The grass is always greener and you want what you can’t have—all phrases we have heard. Sometimes we must remind ourselves that we are all doing the best we can and we need to support one another and focus on the similarities, not the differences.
With every passing year in the world of being a parent of a child with special health care needs, you have the day to day struggles, the fun holidays, and some surprises. Good and bad.