As a Mother of two children with Autism, I recognize the importance of a break! Sure I have great days with my boys and they often bring me tremendous joy. However, there are some days when my battery is totally depleted. Those are the days that I have no energy to battle with insurance companies, school districts, service providers, or people in general. I used to believe that nothing could get done without me. What I was really thinking was, “Nothing could get done the way that I would do it.” In taking time for me, I had to let that go. Things continued to get done – differently – but done. Letting go of that control allowed me to embrace time for me, guilty-free. Was it easy? Not at all. I remember the early days of wading in the water of respite. I tested the waters by having the respite provider at my house watching my boys while I took a nap. My dreaded days were the weekends. These were the days where my boys had no school or therapy and were therefore unoccupied all day! When I had energy, I could find things to do like going to the park, being on the floor playing with cars and the train, painting art projects, and running in circles – literally – running in circles! You see how that would require a lot of energy? Some might say that this is typical parenting of a toddler. But with Autism, there is the other layer.
For example, on one of those days of going to the park, I pulled into the parking lot and realized that I left the ball at home. As I was turning the car to go back, a screaming child in the back seat began to hit me in the head, cover my eyes as I tried to drive, kick the back of my seat, and pull my hair. It was as if he had six arms all moving at once. No matter how much I kept saying, “We’re coming back! We’re coming back!” the attack continued. Luckily we were only 5 minutes away from the park. I quickly got the ball and drove back to the park. I dried his little face as I helped him out of the car. He happily grabbed the ball and started out sprinting in the field. I was exhausted before we even had a chance to play. What was supposed to be fun turned into war! This is just an example – one example of many.
So back to needing to self-care, I needed to have time to just sit, breathe, and be – without being on alert. Going to the movies, getting a pedicure, and mindlessly wandering in the mall have all been used as my respite. Having time once per week just for me has aided in building my resilience to handle the many explosions that might unexpectedly occur. Think about a car with a tank full of gas. Eventually, your fuel runs out and your car can no longer function. Taking care of the car (self-care) is crucial for you to continue to go forward. Giving the car fuel when it is depleted (respite) is not selfish, it is necessary!
Take time for you. Even if it is 20 minutes each day. Find time to replenish your fuel. Then get back into the car and enjoy the ride!