Parenting is the most messy, beautiful, exhausting, and rewarding job. Caring for someone with a special need can be all of that, multiplied. Each day has its own set of obstacles, and you are in charge of navigating each one. Routines may help alleviate many pressures that come with those obstacles. But with or without routines, sometimes you (the caregiver) become so entrenched in caring for the person you love, that you forget to take care of yourself, too.
Christina Elston, from L.A. Parent, writes about the benefits of exercising self-care as a parent. In her piece, Elston references a mother named Areva Martin, who is an attorney, a special needs advocate, and a special needs mom. Martin emphasizes that self-care is crucial to giving her child the absolute best life possible. Neglecting self-care, Elston writes, often begins when one’s child is diagnosed with a condition:
“I think the first thing that moms neglect is their own personal health, Martin says. She has talked with many mothers who either gained or lost 25 or 30 pounds after their child’s diagnosis, because of the stress and the scheduling demands of taking their child to appointments and therapies.” – Christina Elston, L.A. Parent
Where life after the diagnosis begins, continued personal time should remain constant. The amount of self-care time you get to yourself is certain to decrease, but you cannot survive running on fumes forever. Everyone has different hobbies, interests, or exercises that help them wind down, and de-stress, and re-center. Figure out what works best for you; only you know that.
In light of that, Elston offers Martin’s three keys to self-care for parents:
- Don’t overdo it. Begin with a brisk walk, not a five-mile run. Add two fruits a day or lunchtime salads to your diet, rather than trying to transform your eating in a day. With reasonable goals, you’re less likely to crash and burn.
- Be consistent. Build these small habits into a pattern. When you’re successful at making exercise and healthy eating part of your day, you’ll start to enjoy it. If you get off track, just pick up where you left off.
- Reclaim lost time. Martin sees many moms waiting for their kids to get out of therapy. “Bring some comfortable shoes and walk for 30 minutes,” she urges. “Get a little creative.”
Life is unpredictable. Your child’s needs are susceptible to change. But when you take care of your needs, you position yourself to tend to the needs of the one you are caring for. That is when you begin thriving, not just surviving.
NOTE: This feature references remarks made from an article at L.A. Parent.
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