10 Must-Dos for Moms of Kids With Special Needs

One of the most important things we can do to be successful and effective parents is to take time for ourselves. Sometimes moms make kids and spouses top priority and only then consider something for ourselves, if there’s time. (And there’s never time when you have kids. Never. Ever.)

If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know the speech about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first in an emergency before helping anyone else, even before helping your child. Why is this? It sounds like a selfish act, but it’s actually not. If you run out of oxygen while helping others, you won’t be able to help as much as you’d like, and you may not make it yourself to help anyone ever again.

The same applies to motherhood.

Society has programmed us to think, What kind of mother is she, taking care of herself before her child? but that’s completely wrong.

Grab that mask and put it on! It takes determination and learning to say “no” sometimes, but you can take time for yourself. Permission granted.

Here are my 10 musts for mom self-care:

1. Make time for a hobby or another activity you enjoy at least once weekly. Creative ventures will nurture your soul.

2. Do something relaxing that is purely for yourself. Go for a walk alone or spend time reading a book (not about parenting) each day. Make a bubble bath part of your nightly routine.

3. Focus inward. Practice mindfulness for 10-plus minutes each day. This can be done anytime, anywhere.

4. Give yourself a break. Hire a cleaning person to clean your house regularly, or a landscaper to keep your gardens weed-free. You can even hire out laundry! You do not have to do it all!

5. Pamper yourself. There are dozens of spa treatments you can do yourself, at home. (I have a Pinterest board full of them.) Or go to a spa if you have the time and funds. You are worth pampering! 

6. Set boundaries and learn to say “no.” You are not superwoman — you can’t do it all. Taking time for yourself will actually afford you the energy to do well for others.

7. Connect to others. Support is so important when parenting a child with special needs. Reach out to ask for a break. Connect with others walking a similar parenting journey. Go to a support group. Have a monthly girls’ night out. Make time for connecting consistently and frequently.

8. Take care of your body. Feeling great about yourself will model healthy self-esteem for your children and positively affect your mental health. Schedule time for exercise and make healthy (and mindful) food choices. You are worth premium fuel, don’t you think?

9. Pay it forward. Helping others is good for our own mental health and well-being. It is also a great example for our children.

10. 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. Tour your favorite gardens. Read a good book. Indulge in some retail therapy. Eat chocolate. Drink a glass of wine. Once a year I attend the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend of respite for moms of kids with neurodevelopmental disorders.

The bottom line is, moms must steal time for themselves whenever they can, even if it’s taking an extra five minutes in the bathroom. A few moments of peace can be refreshing, and you are totally worth it!

A version of this post originally appeared on pennywilliamsauthor.com.

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