The Single Mothers who have Children with Autism facebook page recently posted a reminder that taking a break from your routine and taking care of yourself is important. Yet many commenters responded bitterly that it just wasn’t possible, and people who say that mean well, but that’s the last thing single moms need to hear.
People, if something isn’t going right in your life, you have to make the change happen. Do you think a respite fairy is going to land on your head and grant you three Friday evenings to yourself? I have no nuclear family in the area, yet I am able to take an evening off every once in awhile. Granted, I make a decent wage, and I get that it can be extremely hard financially – money was extremely tight after my divorce, because I was digging myself out of debt. I know that feeling. But there are ways, and you have to find them! Insisting that it’s impossible and defeating yourself before you even start will turn you bitter, and as a result, everyone around you, including your children will suffer. I know people like this. Their negativity is like a virus. And when they don’t take time for themselves, they are more apt to run out of patience and snap at their kids, become exhausted and ill, and it spirals downward from there.
- A break from routine is not necessarily a break from your child(ren). I know routines are the safety zone for kids with autism, but I have written before about how amazing it was to stop and get myself a sweet tea after a meltdown-y morning – it was FANTASTIC, and it had a lasting effect. Something small like that is a great way to start treating yourself kindly. Lord knows our kids won’t always show us the same kindness!
- I am lucky that my child enjoys latchkey – it is relatively inexpensive through the school, and gives me a much needed break from ALL kids after work, because he doesn’t like to be picked up until 5pm. I don’t pay any extra for keeping him there until 5pm, and it is an excellent opportunity to unwind a bit before the evening routine begins.
- Groups like The ARC often have respite grants for members, and membership dues are often inexpensive or even free. This is a GREAT resource that is oftentimes underutilized, which means you have a great chance of getting some money to help defray the cost of even a family member providing some babysitting for you.
- Have a friend with a special needs child? Share the babysitting costs, OR offer to watch the kids for an hour, if she’ll take them next time.
- Feel like your calendar is too full to take a moment for yourself? Pencil yourself in. You need to be a priority in your own life. There’s no excuse for that.
- Can’t find quality help? Ask at your school – sometimes the parapros (or aides) need some extra cash, and already have a relationship with your child. Maybe your local high school has some National Honor Society students interested in becoming special education teachers (and they probably need service hours and would do it for free).
- Sometimes just having an extra pair of eyes in the house while you do chores (or sleep!) can be a weight off your shoulders. Again – get a high school student to come in and be your eyes and ears (or entertainment for the kiddos) while you get stuff done. The more time they spend with your kids, the more they will learn about what to do – special needs babysitters in training!
- Bartering is getting big. Is there something you could do for someone in return for them watching your kiddos for a bit? Bake some banana bread? Fix a networking glitch? Give someone swimming lessons?
If none of these ideas will work for you, I feel for you. I completely understand that some children’s needs are severe, meaning breaks a just going to be harder to come by. But you can’t stop trying. You have to find a way. We special needs parents are in extreme danger of burnout and battle fatigue, and the very reasons many moms and dads say they “just can’t take a break” are the same exact reasons they must. Our children need us at our best, so we can handle the worst for a long time to come.