Being a parent is a full-time job full of ups and downs – and that is just in one day!
As a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, everyday may bring a new set of challenges or adventures. Between balancing work, your personal lives and the daily tasks as a parent, it can be challenging and overwhelming to say the least! When your child first is diagnosed with his or her developmental disability, feelings of grief, anger, uncertainty and anxiety may come over you. It is perfectly normal to feel these things, as this is a new chapter in your life that is foreign to most people! Unless you have been very close with someone who has had a developmental disability, it is a brand-new challenge and that will bring heightened emotions to the forefront of the brain.
What is Self-Care and Why is it Important?
As your child continues to grow, it can become increasingly challenging to balance your other children’s priorities with your own, as well as catering to the needs of your child with developmental disabilities. As a parent, you are constantly juggling the different responsibilities you have and try to give your all to each and every task. Taking the time to stop, take a deep breath and refresh yourself can be beneficial in many ways. Self-care is defined as taking the time to take care of your own needs and desires. Different forms of self-care for parents include but is not limited to:
- Getting a massage
- Visiting a favorite quiet spot
- Manicures or pedicures
Even if the act is only done for 15 or 20 minutes, it is important to put yourself first and make taking care of yourself a priority. Another way to practice self-care habitually is to set aside a few hours the same time each week in order to get into the habit of putting yourself first every now and then. For example, every Wednesday night, perhaps a family member takes the children for about two hours, so you can meditate, enjoy a bubble bath and read a portion of your favorite novel. This gives you something to look forward to the whole week, while carving out time to rest, relax and recharge.
How Can Family Units Put Themselves First?
Having a child with developmental disabilities should not be seen as a curse or a hindrance, but rather an added value to your family. It may be overwhelming at times, but it is important to acknowledge that your family unit is just as strong as other families that may not face the same challenges as you on a daily basis. Creating a strong family unit will allow all members of the family to feel proud of themselves, their siblings and not focus on the disability, but rather the love and admiration they have for each other. This strong family bond will allow you, as a parent, to feel proud of your family unit and will give you peace of mind knowing they love and support your decision to take time to care for yourself.
Sometimes the best form of self-care for a parent is spending uninterrupted time with their family, without fear of not making a deadline or missing an appointment. Taking the time to plan a family outing can give parents their much need ‘fix’ of family time. Such family activities can include:
- Having a movie night at home. Set up a comfortable fort in your living room, make your favorite snacks and pop in one of the family’s favorites!
- Splitting the day up to spend time doing what each family member enjoys. If you dedicate an hour or two to each member of your family, you can give everyone a chance to choose an activity that he or she will enjoy. This can fulfill a parent’s need for self-care, while also pleasing the rest of the family along the way.
- Taking a small vacation or staycation with the family can give you some much needed quality time together outside of the familiar environment of your home. Even simply travelling 30 minutes to a hotel can give your family the interrupted time you need to bond.
We know that it can also be difficult for two parents to find the time to spend together, especially when their kids are such a huge part of your life and your daily routine. As busy parents, you may lose sight of spending quality time together as a couple, outside of your roles of parents. Consciously taking the time to spend time with each other can bring you together as a couple and give you the energy you need to tackle familial challenges together.
Balancing Your Professional and Personal Lives
A healthy work life balance is important for individuals who have a lot on their plate, including parents of individuals with developmental disabilities. If you are not a full-time, stay at home parent, you know that it can be challenging to excel in your career while fulfilling your duties as a parent and spouse. Work and family are both very important to you and it is important to recognize when you should focus on each aspect and area of your life.
As a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, it can be challenging to not bring your personal lives into the office, especially if you have had a difficult day or evening with them. During your traditional work hours, it is important to focus on work, dedicating your energy and time to the challenges that are in front of you in your professional life. Although it may seem like a challenge at first, disconnecting yourself from your personal life while at work can be therapeutic in the end.
When your work day is complete, it is important to remember that you are working towards achieving balance, and that will only come if you learn to unplug while at work. Just as you try to spend time with your family members, it is important to make an effort to keep your work at the office. There are several ways you can make sure you are focusing on your family such as only answering work related calls in the event of an emergency, limiting your time spent checking emails and remembering that the time you spend with your family is precious, therefore it deserves your full attention.
How Can Respite Care Help Parents?
Respite care is the perfect option for you if you are looking to spend time with your significant other, with family members or simply need some time away to take care of yourself. Respite care is the act of a professional caregiver stepping in to replace a familial caregiver for short periods of time. If you need four or five hours to simply take time to decompress, accomplish your own tasks and take care of yourself, a respite care provider can take care of your family in the meantime. A caregiver can assist your family with meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication reminders, transportation or simple companionship. Having peace of mind while you look to take care of yourself will allow you to surrender to the idea of fully relaxing and unwinding. Reducing stress is the ultimate goal in achieving balance between work and home, your personal life and your family’s needs. Allowing a caregiver to assist can help parents feel at ease that their child with disabilities, as well as their home, are in good hands.