Last year, right around this time, was one of the hardest times in my entire life, and I never shared it with you all. There was no real reason that last June was so difficult. I mean, Miss S was past the newborn stage. A-Man’s and Cap’n M’s therapy was doing really well and they were both making a ton of improvements. This blog was finally making a bit of money. Things were great! Except that they weren’t. Not for me. My family was taken care of, but I wasn’t. I lost it. This is what happens when you ignore self care.
What Happens When You Ignore Self Care
I was on the phone with my best friend, J, in tears. “I’m absolutely losing it”, I told her. “I’m stuck in this house all the time with all of these kids. I’m losing it”. See, I had Miss S in December, and immediately it was like my social circle was gone. I couldn’t make it to my Bible studies anymore, so I didn’t see those ladies. The church small group that we’d been going to fell apart. I went six months barely ever seeing an adult that wasn’t my husband, my mother, or my kids’ therapists. I. Was. Losing. It.
I Had Disabled Kids That Needed Help
Between A-Man and Cap’n M we were going to 5 therapy sessions a week. We were seeing a ton of improvement with both of them, and I feel incredibly blessed that we were able to get them the therapies they needed. But five therapy sessions over three days a week by myself was extremely draining.
The hardest part of having four kids is getting them all loaded into the car, and I had to take all the kids to my mom’s to be babysat, then A-Man and Cap’n M to the therapy clinic, transition them out of the car and into the hospital, transition from the waiting room into the therapy room, then transition back into the car, stop by my mom’s to grab the other kids, and then transition home to try to feed them lunch. It was exhausting, and it was my reality almost every day of the week.
I Had a Gifted Kid That Needed Homeschooling
Often when you have kids with disabilities, their needs are paramount. They have therapies and specialists and required activities and more. In our house, though, our oldest son who doesn’t have any disabilities, just so happens to be gifted. This comes with its own collection of special needs, including the necessity of homeschooling. Gifted programs don’t start until third grade here, and even then they’re typically one day a week and not helpful. So while I was keeping up with A-Man and Cap’n M’s 5 therapies a week, I also had to balance homeschool lessons to make sure that Mr. C’s needs were being met.
Gifted programs don’t start until third grade here, and even then they’re typically one day a week and not helpful. So while I was keeping up with A-Man and Cap’n M’s 5 therapies a week, I also had to balance homeschool lessons to make sure that Mr. C’s needs were being met.
I Had a Brand New Baby That Needed Everything
On top of all of that, I had a new baby at home. Miss S has been active since day one, and she has never been a baby that kept herself entertained. She didn’t like babywearing (of course) but she loved to be held. She was also exclusively breastfeeding, and had all of the typical needs of a new baby. I would have her in my lap nursing while I was trying to read Mr. C his homeschool lesson. I’d be up late pumping a bottle (that she’d use at my mom’s while I took the boys to therapy) while typing up a blog post.
I would have her in my lap nursing while I was trying to read Mr. C his homeschool lesson. I’d be up late pumping a bottle (that she’d use at my mom’s while I took the boys to therapy) while typing up a blog post.
I Had a Blog and Business That Needed Me to Run
I started this blog in November of 2014, when Cap’n M was just over a year old. In 2016 it really started taking off and making an income, and on top of that I was doing VA work for a few clients. Plus I had started to really push Fundanoodle products and had a big homeschool convention that I was preparing for. Bottom line? I was working more than full time. Plus taking care of four kids. Plus homeschooling. Plus taking two kids to five therapies three days a week. All while Chris was working more than
Bottom line? I was working more than full time. Plus taking care of four kids. Plus homeschooling. Plus taking two kids to five therapies three days a week. All while Chris was working more than full-time outside the house, and he was barely home for dinner most nights.
Overwhelmed, Isolated, and Outnumbered
I was drowning. I was completely overwhelmed, isolated, and outnumbered by my kids. I know I use outnumbered as my blog name because it’s cute and fun and totally accurate, but last summer it was more than just a funny observation. I literally felt like I was facing an army every morning when I opened up their bedroom door to get them all out for breakfast.
There wasn’t a single second in my day when I wasn’t “on” and doing some job. Whether I was bringing the kids to therapy, writing a blog post, getting client work done, nursing the baby, getting a snack for the kids, planning a homeschool lesson, or really anything, I was doing it for someone else.
Self care wasn’t even in my vocabulary. I thought that I was managing okay because my blog is my escape, but I was working so hard at growing the blog that some of the joy was gone. My blog work became a list of to-dos, and I felt like I was never doing enough. And really, I just wasn’t around adults enough. Chris came home between dinner and bedtime, and we watched TV and chatted off and on, but I didn’t have any time to just spend with another adult, just being me.
Reaching Out for Help
I broke down on the phone with J. I was semi-hysterical as I told her about how trapped I felt. How overwhelming everything was. How exhausted I was just trying to keep my family running. How I hadn’t had a real conversation with my husband in months and 95% of my conversations were with children under 6.
“I’m coming this weekend to take the kids, and you’re leaving”. She texted Chris and let him know he needed to find a hotel to stay at. “The further away the better” she said. When we protested that we couldn’t really afford a hotel room she said, “you can’t afford not to” and she was right.
She came that weekend, and we left. She kept our minivan filled with stale french fries and forgotten sippy cups, and we took her cute little car with no mystery toys. We headed out to the ocean, just a few hours away, and we were grown ups. We listened to songs with swear words in the car. We went swimming in the hotel pool without worrying about keeping any tiny heads above water. We walked on the ocean without being concerned about the wind/sand/water leading to sensory overwhelm. We went to a casino just because we could.
I came home the next day refreshed. My life was still hard. My schedule was still crazy. My blog still needed new posts and the kids still needed therapies and the baby still needed to nurse. But I felt like a human again. I felt like more than a robot that filled sippy cups and transported the kids to where they needed to go.
That overnight trip to a hotel by the ocean saved me. It pulled me out of a major funk that probably would have been labeled postpartum depression if I ever told a doctor about it. It saved my marriage from the constant bickering and overwhelm and disconnect that we’d both been feeling. It saved my kids from the mean-mom-robot that I’d become just to survive.
If you’re in a place like I was last year, please reach out. If you feel like you’re losing your mind by 9 am every morning, and if you have to refill one more sippy cup you’re going to break, please reach out. If you can’t remember the last time you had a moment to yourself, please reach out.
Not everyone can take an overnight trip to the ocean. But you can put your husband on bedtime duty and take a hot bath. You can stay up twenty minutes later reading a book that you actually want to read. You can take a few deep breaths during that moment between shutting the door to the backseat after you buckled all the tiny humans and opening the driver door to get in the car. You owe it to yourself and your kids to take some time for self care as often as you possibly can.
If you’ve been looking for a group where you can work towards understanding, accepting, and embracing your child’s (or your own!) autism with other parents and self-advocates on the same journey as you, you’ve found your place. I don’t promise to know all the answers (or even half of them) but I do promise to be there to support you in your journey, whichever side of the divide you’re on. Together we can celebrate successes, support each other on hard days, and step closer towards truly embracing autism each and every day. Enter your info below and join the Embracing Autism group to finally feel like you fit in an autism support group!
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For more ideas for self care, check out the blog posts from these other parents of disabled kids.
7 Practical Self Care Activities for Stressed Out Special Needs Parents | My Home Truths
What Happens When You Ignore Self Care | This Outnumbered Mama
50 Self-Care Activities You Can Do Together With Kids | And Next Comes L
Why You Should Keep a Journal as a Part of Your Self Care Routine | Kori at Home