This post is for Special Saturday, an online ‘global’ campaign that aims to raise awareness of children with special needs. Every Saturday a prompt is given to encourage people to write or tweet about something in order to help raise awareness of special needs. This week the theme is ‘Me Time’.
For me, ‘me time’ means having time to spend on the things I enjoy doing – reading, writing, tending my garden, listening to music or doing a bit of cooking. For me, it also means enjoying a chat with someone, having a laugh, debating something or even having a moment to be alone with my thoughts and daydreams.
It is hard though to find the time to do these things. With an autistic son who is not in school, I don’t have much freedom to indulge myself as I need to look after my son, liaise with his tutors and deal with other professionals involved in his life. I am also unable to have any sort of formal respite because my son can’t cope staying anywhere else and I’m reluctant to bring in a stranger who is paid to look after my son whilst we go away. I can’t see the point of having respite if it means that I end up worrying about my son when I’m away and in any case having time for me also means being with my family and children.
Being together as a family, free from the pressure of school, tutors and other professionals is as liberating and comforting to me as having time away from my family. You see, being me is also wrapped up with being a mother. Ever since I cradled my first born in those first few minutes after birth, my life and who I was changed forever. Wherever I go in life, I will always be a mother and my thinking will always be influenced by my experiences as a mother and my understanding of humanity that has happened as a result. And in any case, having my children close to me is a very special time in my life and one that won’t necessarily last. I want to enjoy my time with my children – there will be plenty of time for ‘me’ in the future when my children (hopefully) will be leading more independent lives.
Nevertheless I’ve become aware of how important it is to get a break. As I experienced a few years ago, caring without a break can lead to health problems and I really do not want to go back to those days of stress, anxiety and insomnia. Looking after children in the day after a night of anxiety attacks and little sleep is really quite tough. To help avoid these problems I try and make a real effort to snatch ‘me time’ within the home. It’s so tempting when I have any free time to catch up on domestic tasks such as the never ending amount of laundry and ironing but for me it’s also important to do something that I enjoy. So whenever my son is engaged with his tutor or is happily occupied doing something else, I try and make time to read or write, to cook, to work in the garden or to do some exercise on the Wii machine. Being stuck in the home is a difficult situation to be in but technology is a hugely liberating way of helping me to connect with life outside the home. Watching the TV, listening to Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 (yes I’m a fan) writing a blog and tweeting also helps me to overcome the isolation of caring.
I am also fortunate that for one day a week, my husband works at home which means I can leave the house and do a few hours of work supporting students with learning difficulties. Some people may think that going to work is not ‘me time’ but for me it is. It gives me a break from being stuck in the house and is an important way of developing independence in my son away from me. It also gives me a chance to keep in touch with students and to develop my own skills. It’s not easy when I’m tired or having a particularly challenging time with my children but I try and hold on to the thought (or hope) that in the long term, my few hours of work may lead me to better things.
Occasionally I also try to catch up with friends and family. This doesn’t mean going out for a coffee though I sometimes think how lovely it would be to return to my before-children days of catching up with friends in a trendy coffee shop. Nowadays, catching up with other people means that they have to visit us as we struggle to get our son to go to other people’s houses. Not everybody understands our situation and why we have to do this but those that do, we enjoy inviting to our home. This usually means a lot of preparation for us, particularly cooking, but I don’t mind as it gives me an opportunity to enjoy myself with family and friends though I have to admit to looking forward to one day being entertained at someone else’s house.
It has taken me a while to get to this point, of recognising the importance of ‘me time’, and I hope that I’ve found a better balance between my caring responsibilities and having time to be me. It’s not always easy; some weeks are a disaster and my children’s dfficulties simply overwhelm me. When that happens I try to remember that when things calm down, I will once again find time for myself. It’s hard to pick myself up after low moments but it’s well worth the effort as it helps me to feel healthier and more able to cope with the challenges of raising special needs children.
If you would like to learn more about Special Saturday then you can do so though the following ways:
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/SpecialSaturday
Twitter – follow @Specialsat and use the hashtag #specialsaturday
The Blog – http://specialsaturday.org/
Wendy at the Savette Gazette – http://www.savette.com/category/special-saturday/