Reframing Self-Care as I Parent a Child With a Disability
When you’ve been a full time caregiver for someone else for so long, it can feel like an almost impossible task to begin the process of self-care. What does self-care even mean? Is it manicures, massages, champagne bubble baths, splurges at the mall? That’s the “self-care” that is not accessible to all, and also rarely fulfills, if only temporarily.
True self-care involves reconnecting the pieces of you that split apart when your child was diagnosed — the same pieces that continue to unravel, bit by bit, with every doctor’s appointment, public meltdown, IEP meeting, sleepless night, toileting issue and call from school. We can lose ourselves in our roles as caregivers. Self-care is rediscovering who we are.
We are not superhuman, but our jobs as caregivers expects us to be. And, by the way, so does the world around us. Here’s the thing: No one is ever going to give us permission to care for ourselves because that would require someone else to take over our jobs, and honestly, who wants to do that?
Self-care is the act of creating space just for you. And only you can define what that should look like. What brings you joy? Was there something you did when you were younger, a hobby or activity you loved, but stopped doing because life got in the way? Is there someone in particular who you admire? It’s likely that there is something you see in them that is desperate to be born within you. These are just a few ways to figure out your own path to self-care.
Real self-care is an exploration and a journey back to wholeness. It doesn’t feel indulgent, it feels necessary. Some of us may have forgotten what joy feels like. Maybe self-care for us means grieving what we lost, getting honest about our emotions, learning how to let go of the life that was not meant for us in order to reimagine the life that is in front of us.
We have this one life. Don’t we want to live it? We are worth fighting for just as much and as hard as we fight for our children. You start right where you are. Maybe self-care is simply a deep breath. A pause in the day. A moment of forgiving ourselves for not being everything we think we should be. For not being superhuman. It doesn’t take a credit card or fancy soap to start that journey back to yourself.
Getty image by barbaramarini