When our oldest was 4 we received a diagnosis of pdd-nos, a form of Autism. The reaction to his diagnosis of Autism was mixed. The families who knew us well understood. And several older women in our church at the time inferred it could partially be a discipline issue. That I needed to get my emotions and life in order. The same women did not offer to get to know our family. Bring us a meal. Or offer babysitting. Our lifeline at that stage was a few trusted sitters and friends who watched our kids when we needed a break.
There is talk in certain circles that Christian culture is too indulgent toward self care. Sure I think it can be abused or over indulged like almost anything in life. But I truly believe this: Mom’s need self care. They need the opportunity to catch up on sleep on the weekends. They need a break from meltdowns, wet noses, and dirty diapers. They need friends. And older women to love on them.
When we moved from Minnesota to North Carolina 4 years ago I felt like a victim. Not of my kids, but of emotional fatigue. Special needs parenting can do that to a person. Especially when they are weary. Then, when I felt the freedom of my kids going to school “all day?” I felt guilty. Who was I to get time to recharge during the day?
Slowly my mindset changed. And now I am so thankful. I need the time they go to school for myself. Not to paint my nails or watch Netflix all day (though in moderation-go for it!) but to use my skills for good. And to clear my brain after the drama that sometimes comes with kids who have ADHD, autism, anxiety, OCD tendencies, and tics.
Overall these years are easier. My husband and I very much enjoy our kids and their creative personalities. Our kids play well together and we have frequent dance parties. We have favorite TV shows and board games. And we prioritize spending time with each child individually so they each feel valued and heard.
We still have unique circumstances. One of our kids only likes PG cartoons, and gets scared of almost anything else new. When we go to the movies we bring noise cancelling headphones. We have to prep our kids to try anywhere new: from restaurants, hikes, to vacations. Our child with perfectionistic tendencies will sob over a stray line on their drawing. Homework time is super fun at our house (ha!)
And there is the financial strain of therapies. This year we have paid for private social skills, cognitive behavioral therapy, and speech therapy. Every time we “graduate” from one therapy we seem to need to start the next thing.
I still experience an emotional jetlag from parenting special needs kids. When stressful future questions come to mind, I try to reflect on God’s goodness of what He has done so far. He is good even when circumstances are hard. And we have so much to be thankful for! Both our kids are mainstreamed. They both have friends. And my husband and I have a solid community in North Carolina.
Each family is completely unique but this is where I am with my story. I don’t want to single out my kids (should they choose to write/share/make videos about themselves in a few years-that is their choice!) But I do feel led to share some of this. I’ve never felt comfortable placing a “special needs mom” badge on my blog or branding. But this is also our life. And I hope it encourages someone who needs it. And if it doesn’t, I still enjoyed writing it down—this was my take on self care this morning.