Being a parent is a full time job – we know this.
Being a parent carer is the same – on steroids!
Our children with additional needs also require additional time. Additional attention, additional affection, additional looking after.
So how do you find the essential time for yourself, your partner, your friends that will allow you to be the parent you want to be?
In a world of compromise I’ll offer a few ideas that helped me from time to time. Let me know in the comments of things that have worked for you!
- Develop the idea of “quiet time”. Maybe start with snacking after school with your children, chat about your days. Then everyone goes to their room, their space for 10, 15, 30 minutes to rest, process and reset before coming back together for the evening. As time goes on, you’ll be able to have an hour of quiet time that you can use to enjoy their presence without them clamouring for your attention.
- Consider “joint journalling”. Many of our children suffer from separation anxiety – it’s a real thing that we need to be very careful with. If you decide together what your creation will be (for example, today’s theme might be the weather), then go to your separate spaces for 20 minutes to draw, paint, write your part of the journal. Then come back and compare, add each part to your joint journal. Your child will know that in that 20 minutes apart from you, they were your sole focus. Slowly they can learn that you exist away from them, and you still care about them when you can’t see them.
- Community… this is a huge one. How many families do you know from your child’s school. Even in primary school this is a really tough one for our families. Maybe ask your child’s teacher to help you make links with another family. The SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) might put you in contact with other families like yours, but don’t discount the value of making friends in the wider world.
- Extra-curricular activities. Be they after school clubs, scouts, short breaks for disabled children, these are a breath of fresh air for all parents and should be available to our children too. You may need to talk to the organiser about your child’s needs, or even talk to the school about a shorter school day to make such a thing possible. But be brave – talk to people about what’s out there.
- Baby-sitting. This can be impossible, or seem impossible. But even if you do not have family that can help, it is likely that one of the teaching assistants at your child’s school would be more than happy to help out. There may be some charities that can offer support, but if you’re able to use the people in your immediate community, it will last longer. Start by having the babysitter help out with your normal afternoon or weekend routine. Eventually, you’ll be able to leave the house for ten minutes, then long enough to run a small errand. Build up slowly, and you will be able to manage a proper outing. Bear in mind that there are also agencies that offer specialised babysitting.
Who are you? What do you want to do?
It’s really important for any parent to try and hold on to a sense of identity. Many of us forget that, and it can be very painful to “wake up” one day and discover that we have invested our whole being into parenting. Because whatever the degree of need our children have, they will eventually be grown… and we can find ourselves lost, alone and very much on the verge of despair.
So here’s my challenge today: who do you want to be? What hobbies would you like to try? What was your passion before having children?