As parents of children with autism, we’re responsible for a lot.
I’m not saying all parents are not responsible for a lot, because they are too. All parents have the responsibility for caring for a little human life. That’s a big responsibility. But my fellow autism parents know that caring for a child with autism requires a little extra.
When I get up in the morning, I have to allow myself time to get ready for work, dress myself in clean clothes and find time to put makeup on and look like a human instead of someone who only got four hours of sleep.
I have to allow even more time to get my son up while trying to keep him calm and well-adjusted for his day. Getting him dressed sometimes requires the help of another adult. So does combing his hair and brushing his teeth. I try to keep his routine the same so I don’t induce meltdowns. He has to have his supplements and vitamins while I’m trying to pack his lunch and write notes to his teacher about anything that may have happened at home last night. We get him on the bus and hope he has a good day at his special education school.
Transitioning him from his school day to the rest of the day at home can be challenging. He’s restrained himself all day long and is now releasing himself at home. He is aggressive toward his brother. Meal times are difficult but need to be kept on a schedule. He needs sensory breaks often to get the stimulation he needs. He needs exercise or else he won’t be tired enough to sleep at bedtime. He is very attached and needs lots of hugging and cuddling throughout the evening. He doesn’t like to sleep alone and usually wants to spend most of the night asleep next to someone.
This is just a typical day, too. This doesn’t include therapies, doctor’s appointments or meltdowns that may last for hours and tire us both out.
When do you find time for yourself? It’s hard to take care of other people when you don’t find time to care for yourself. I struggle with this daily. I find myself exhausted every moment of every day. Even if I happen to get a full night’s sleep, I still wake up feeling mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Some evenings I don’t have the motivation to get up off of the couch to give my children a bath. Some nights I don’t want to be touched nonstop. (My son is extremely sensory seeking and is constantly touching me at all times. Just me and no one else.)
I often daydream of having a whole day to myself to do whatever I want. I want to take a long, hot bubble bath while sipping wine. I want to go out for hours and drink coffee while it’s still hot and go shopping. I want to lie on the couch and work on my laptop or do a cross-stitching project. These are all things that I want to do for myself.
And guess what? I deserve to do these things. And so do you. This is called self-care. It’s important.
Self-care is actually just as important as caring for your child. We want to give all of ourselves to our children. We want to be everything and comfort them and meet all of their needs at all times. We can and we do. But ask yourself this: are you meeting your own needs, too?
I know that I spend most of my spare time doing something for my children. I’m reading a book on autism or researching a new doctor, my son’s behavior, supplement or therapy. My days revolve around him, and I like it that way. I’m his mother, his parent, his advocate and his warrior.
But we need to take care of ourselves. We deserve a few moments of “me time” to help with our sanity. We deserve to take care of ourselves physically, whether it is going for a run, practicing yoga or lying on the couch and resting. We deserve to go out for coffee with a friend or on a date with our spouse.
Don’t feel guilty for taking a break and spending some time doing something for yourself. Everyone will understand. Your child will understand. It will help you to be the best you. If you can’t be the best you, you won’t be able to be the best for them.
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