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This Is What Self-Care Looks Like for Parents of Kids With Disabilities

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If you parent kids with disabilities, chances are you understand how important self-care is. And if you are anything like me, self-care is often a dream easier said than done.

As parents, most of us tend to put our children and family first, leaving little time and effort to invest in us. Yet, if we do not take care of us, who will? Emotionally and physically exhausted parents are not what our kids need.

We are all unique, and self-care looks different for each one of us. Some of us need a little more than others.

Self-care does not necessarily consist of spending the day at the spa (although that would be a great day of self-care). Self-care does not always require a babysitter (although that would be ideal). Self-care can be done in small pockets of time throughout the day by doing small things that can make a big difference.

We reached out to parents in our community and asked them what self-care looked like for them.

These were their responses:

“Hitting the hay eight hours before I need to get up. That’s my biggest self-care move.” — Courtney C.

“Having my own space and being more independent.” — Sarah S.

“Self-care is a quiet moment alone, an extra cup of coffee, my inner voice saying, ‘you did your best and it’s OK.’” — Kristy G.

“A nap, Netflix alone in another room, time with my oldest, ordering in for supper so I don’t have to stress about a meal on an already stressful day.” — Jessica L.

“Some simple self care things I do and that are free [are a] strict bedtime for all the kids, early bedtime for the kids if I’m having a bad day, nap time or rest time for kids every day so I can just veg. Get out to visit a friend for the morning, even if it means taking the kids with to play there. Taking a bath or hot shower once the kids are tucked in. Not letting the bad stuff pile on. When I feel tense and know there’s gonna be more hard stuff coming, I take the day to myself even if that means running errands all day without kids.” — Michelle R.

“Writing, journaling, blogging.” — Kelli K.

“Six years ago self-care for me was a weekly therapy session with a therapist. Today, self-care is a bath or an alone drive to Starbucks on the way home from work. If it’s been a hard week I blast music in the car, if it’s been good I go straight home to relieve my partner. In between, I try to keep my hope up and dream wildly. Having personal dreams and goals are proof that the self-care methods are working and that I’m still OK.” — Georgia S.

“The gym…. I love to lift weights. I wake up at 4 a.m. to go to the gym because between my daughter, working full time and being in grad school, that’s the only time I have for myself!” — Jennifer W.

“Going to the loo by myself. Actually, having a full shower, including washing my hair, with the door closed and on my own with no interruptions. Getting dressed on my own.” — Kristen G.

“Netflix and chill — that is if my kid doesn’t have too many insomnia issues that night. Getting myself a rare coffee when I can afford it just after dropping him off at school before I have to go to work (I work from home part-time because his health makes full-time work difficult since not many employers are understanding). Setting a price limit on birthday and Christmas gifts so there’s enough money left to buy myself something. Not answering every call or text right away — especially if the day is hectic or stressful. Quiet time with God — sometimes at night, sometimes at 4 a.m. Saying no to outings and staying home to relax. Sometimes self-care includes my child. For example, every so often we’ll cheat on his diet for one night and order take out so I can get a break from the kitchen. Self-care is so many tiny little things that add up to something super simple that might not seem like self-care to others.” — Jamie J.

“Spending time with friends is very important to me. It also makes me feel like a functional human when I can take time for my creative pursuits and engage my brain in a ‘selfish’ manner. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so keying in on what fills your cup is extremely important. It doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming to give you a big boost.” — Kyla H.

“A shower every day, and alone time.” — Tanya S.

“Reading. Or leaving the house for a short respite somewhere local. If the above isn’t something in my reach, I hide out in my bedroom for 15 minutes with the other siblings on the watch until I return.” — Dawn M.

“A weekly Zumba class with a fellow mum of a boy with additional needs. We talk non-stop all the way in the car there and again on the way back.” — Sarah G.

“Self-care is taking a shower that’s not rushed or interrupted, lighting a candle while I enjoy a TV show and coffee, and the occasional time to craft.” — Cilla L.

“Alone time in the car with great music going or a bit longer of a shower (if I am really lucky).” — Jennifer S.

“Taking small courses on web or graphic design and practice the acquired skills in solitude at a nice cafe or restaurant. Just walking through the city or riding the subway with a good book on the phone.” — Camilla H.

“It can be a moment or two of silence, just enough to not be worried about what’s going on in the other room, little bits and pieces here and there that help me keep my sanity!” — Katrina F.

“A long shower and three one-and-a-half-hour sessions a week my daughter has with a carer. While she is asleep in the morning a quick 30-minute walk. I have an hour psychology session once every two months to talk about everything and anything.” — Tammy V.

“Self-care for me comes in a conversation with a friend. A friend who has walked this walk and understands without an explanation. Her strength is my inspiration as her child gained her wings a year and a half ago. She is my angel… and [I feel as if ] her daughter watches over my daughter every day. I would be lost without her wisdom and guidance. We heal each other, we support each other…  and I am so very thankful.” — Ally W.

“Self-care is choosing to leave my sink full of dishes one night to go to bed early.” — Heather S.

“Long baths! Naps, date nights, counseling, prayer time, walking or exercise. Doctor appointments for yourself.” — Nicole N.

“Yoga, pilates and chiropractor. Occasional/rare naps.” — Jennifer E.

“Self-care is taking the time to read, sit, walk or have a long shower when able and not feeling guilty about it.” — Sheridan P.

“Taking a bloody fantastic whole food supplement that covers for my lack of sleep, eating habits and high-stress life (and it’s doing an awesome job), bought a brilliant skin care system (including eye creme for the bags and dark circles) and use my down time (time I should probably either be sleeping, exercising, doing housework or doing more therapies with my son) to build a community with resources to support parents of children [with disabilities] to take care of their health and have goals outside of their child and build my own income stream to have my own sense of achievement and bring value to the world outside my family.” — Abigail B.

“Recognizing when I have hit my limit and allowing my partner to take over care of our daughter.” — Julia R.

“I enjoy sitting at a table and painting miniatures from popular war games. I find assembling and painting them to be very cathartic. The fine small details take a lot of focus and cause me to forget the stresses of life. Then I get to play the game with my family once the minis are all painted. I also like to play video games for some self-care. Nothing better than escaping the world for another one.” — Richard M.

“Time alone doing something I enjoy. Usually at night playing video games or watching sports.” — Andrew S.

What about you, what does self-care look like for you? Let us know in the comments.

Getty image by bruniewska

Originally published: December 29, 2017
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