Self-Care for Parents of Children With Special Needs

Hey! Briana here. This is a guest post by my friend Colleen from Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy. Enjoy!

Let’s be honest…being a mother is hard.  Harder than any other job, harder than we could have ever imagined, yet we wouldn’t change it for anything.  Now, add the extra demands put on mothers of children with special needs and parenting is even harder due to the extra needs of our unique and special children. You may even be experiencing burnout as a special needs mom. 

It is only recently that mothers have been socially encouraged to take care of themselves in order to be the best mother to their child.  Sadly, it was seen as selfish to take care of one’s self. Today, we continue to learn the benefits of self-care, especially for mother’s raising children with special needs.  Self-care is essential in order to be a successful mother.  

The healthier, happier, and less stressed you are, the better mom you are to your children.  For many moms, self-care acceptance means opening yourself to the idea that you must make time for yourself each day.  This will look different for everyone and should be personal to what makes you feel better. The goal for each mother is to remove external factors and look inside.  

In order to make self-care a priority, you must plan for it.  Put it on your calendar right beside doctor’s appointments, PTO meetings, and your dog’s grooming appointment.  Seldom will time just magically become available where you have no responsibilities for an extended period of time.  

Depending on your child’s age, unique needs, and availability of family members, you may need to ask for help in order to take time for yourself.  Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. Here are some suggestions for finding care for your child while you take some much deserved time alone:

  • Reach out to friends and neighbors to set up a schedule where each mother can spend a few hours alone while their child is well taken care of.
  • Look for local organizations in your area related to your child’s need that may offer childcare during certain times of the month.  For example, our local chapter of The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers a monthly childcare drop in for children ages 5-18 with any type of mental health issue.  Parents can leave their child, free of charge, in the care of trained mental health professionals for three hours.  
  • Look for caregivers through a local college program such as the school’s Department of Education.  College students seeking a career in special education, mental health, medicine, etc often seek opportunities to earn money in a way that appeals to their career prospects.  

Once you have a caregiver lined up, decide how you want to spend your time.  Depending on your child and the care that you found, you may want to spend some quality alone time in your own home versus spending time out and about.  Here are some inexpensive ways to focus on yourself.  

Inexpensive Self-Care Ideas

Read a Book

Reading for even 10 minutes can stop the never-ending thoughts of mothering and allow you to enter the faraway, often fictitious, land of the characters in your book.  A great book leaves you wanting more, excited to return to the pages the next time you can sneak away.  

Take a bath

No matter how basic your bathtub, a few minutes of alone time, soaking in warm, scented water can re-energize even the most tired mother.  For an extra splurge, buy yourself a Lush bath bomb and enjoy the psychedelic colors.  

Mindfulness

Spending 5 minutes in a quiet, peaceful room can help you refresh both your mind and your energy level.  Mindfulness is intended to bring your thoughts into the present. It helps to put the moments of life into perspective.  When your thoughts start spiraling and you feel your patience fading, taking a few minutes to breathe deeply, center your thoughts, and simply “be” allows you to take care of yourself when it is needed most.  

Exercise

By now we all know the benefits of exercise.  Find a group class if you prefer to spend this time with others or head to the nearest park and walk around while enjoying the peace and quiet of nature.

Listen to Music

Create a playlist that brings a smile to your face and sense of calm to your mind.  Turn on this playlist when you are alone in the car or sneak away to the bedroom, close the door, and flop on the bed while listening to your favorite tunes.

Take a Vacation Day From Work

For mothers who work outside of the home and have access to paid vacation days, take a whole or half day off just for you.  Plan the perfect “me” day and make it happen. If you are a mother who stays home, try to schedule a day to yourself while a friend watches your children.  Share the joy with her by allowing her to take her own “me” day while you watch the children.  

Get Up Before Everyone Else

Set your alarm for 30 minutes before the rest of the house wakes up.  Enjoy the quiet and calm of a brand new day with a warm cup of coffee or tea.  Read, write, or enjoy the stillness.  

Join a Support Group

Too often, the struggles we face leave us feeling alone and fearful.  Reach out to those with similar situations through Facebook Groups, The Nextdoor App, or local community boards.  Whether you meet with these mothers in person or virtually, spend time connecting and supporting one another.  

Treat Yourself to a Meal or Dessert

When was the last time you were able to eat a meal, snack, or dessert without sharing?  Treat yourself to some time alone at a restaurant or cafe. Order whatever you want and enjoy each and every bite.  This is something that can be enjoyed solo or meet up with friends. Either way, forget about calories and celebrate you!

You deserve this time alone.  Do not feel guilty. It is important that you embrace your own needs and find time to just breathe without being in “mom mode”. 

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About the Author

Colleen!

Colleen Wildenhaus is the mother of a 13-year-old girl suffering from severe anxiety and OCD. Her blog Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy shares with readers the journey her family takes to enjoy the small moments each day, keeping the beast of anxiety from taking away the joy of life.

Facebook – Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy

Her blog – Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Joy

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