The Warrior Momma (of Special Needs) Handbook to Self-Care

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This post is part of an editorial series, “Healthy Mama,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms and Texas Health Care Privia Medical Group North Texas, which includes Dr. Elisabeth Wagner, Dr. Mickey Hooper, Dr. Bea Kutzler, Dr. Doug Decker, Dr. Jamie Erwin, Dr. Kathleen Cammack, Dr. Emily Maas, Dr. Jennifer McLeland, Dr. Lindsay Breedlove, Dr. Martha Guerra, Dr. Danielle Burkett, Dr. Robert Zwernemann, Dr. Jay Herd, Dr. Ingrid Kohlmorgen, and Dr. Martin Read. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and answers as you make decisions for your own health.

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Mothers across America are neglecting their own needs for the sake of their children. As moms, it has just become what we do. We would move mountains for our kids to have the things they need. I get it. Money is tight, time is even tighter, and the daily amount of energy it requires to raise a gaggle of kids is easily right on up there with running a marathon.

Imagine, if you will, that one or more of your children, has needs beyond the average raising of a typical kid: weekly therapy appointments with OT, PT, and speech; extended stays in the hospital on a regular basis; weakened immune systems; endless calls to the insurance asking why services/therapies your child needs were denied once again; IEP meetings at school; regular trips to the pharmacy for new med orders; and the list goes on and on.

Woman Leans on Brick Wall
Photo by Aricka Lewis on Unsplash

Before you know it, self-care has fallen to the very bottom of the daily to-do list and gradually, unintentionally, gets added to the “some day I hope to” list. If this is speaking to your heart in a big way, grab a cup of coffee, a pen and paper for note-taking, and have a seat. This post is for YOU.

From one warrior momma to another: Self-care is not a luxury when raising a child(ren) with special needs. It is downright essential to your well being and to the well being of your family. Pouring from an empty cup is the least of our worries when you think about it: Self-care, or taking your child to an appointment with the specialist that took six months to get? And boom . . . down the list it goes once again.

I don’t have the luxury of spending money on spa treatments and pedicures on a weekly or even monthly basis. And honestly, I have even less time to add another “task” to my never-ending list. In turn, over the past 10 years, I have had to get ultra creative to find ways to “recharge” my soul. Here are a few of my favorite self-care “MUST dos” for myself.

Running Errands . . . Alone

This doesn’t sound fun at first, but hear me out. Quiet time in your car, and YOU get to pick the station. The ease of going in and out of stores without unbuckling carseats and herding tiny humans into the store. Talking to grownups. Waiting in line and not having to worry about whether your child is nearing a meltdown of EPIC proportions. And a million other things.

At the end of the errands, I select a treat for myself to enjoy on the way home and of course, take the “scenic route” home. It may not be a huge chunk of “self-care” time, but you would be amazed at what 20 minutes of “alone” time, along with your favorite candy bar, can do for your soul.

Peony in Hand
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

30 Minutes to Fuel Your Soul

Most of us have something we enjoy doing in our spare time, but between work, kids, and the house, our hobbies become “how to find the best price on toothpaste” and making a replica of the solar system for with your kid for a school project. While both of these things can be “fun,” I am pretty sure it does nothing to fuel most mommas’ souls.

To use this strategy successfully for self-care, you need to think about what makes your heart tick. What makes you smile (and your answer can’t include the words “my kids”)? If not, it just becomes another “to do” and pulls you further and further into the “burnt and frazzled” mom that is not good to anyone. Maybe you like to paint, bake, or do yoga. Or maybe you are an outdoorsy girl and like to hike, mountain bike, or run. Whatever it is, whenever you think of it, it must spark joy in your heart. It has to speak to your soul.

Schedule a time each week to make it happen. It will be hard, at first, to figure out how to work it into your already jam-packed week. But, stick with it. Eventually, you may be able to incorporate it in your daily routine — or at least multiple times a week. When you fuel your passion, you do something that you enjoy. Our souls crave it; trust me. Your family will see a happier you. You both deserve it.

Finding YOUR People

I am blessed with dear, sweet friends who understand when I have to cancel last minute because our son’s meds are off and a visit to the doctor is a necessity. They would — and do on numerous occasions — help me out in a moment’s notice. However, they don’t always know exactly what we live in a “normal day.”

Other warrior moms with kids who have similar diagnoses, or differences or disabilities as your child will understand you need to self-care. They will “get” you when you say that you have run out of options for meds that seem to work, or that your child is back in the hospital with another round of pneumonia because he catches anything and everything at the blink of an eye.

They will be your sounding board, your biggest cheerleaders, and your strength when you feel like you just can’t go on another second. They know your frustrations, share your worries, and pray each night for the same things. They will be able to say two simple yet powerful words, and mean them: “Me too.”

Woman Drinks Coffee
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Looking for the Simple Things

Before I had kids, I didn’t think anything of cracking open my latest issue of People magazine and read it from cover to cover for hours on end. These days, I am lucky if I read ANY magazine cover, let alone every page. I miss those free-spirit, carefree days.

Reading all of those trashy, gossip magazines may not be your “jam,” but trust me, everyone has a guilty pleasure. What’s yours? Eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream without sharing? Grab a spoon, find a quiet place (even if it is on the floor of your closet), and eat it, girl!

Maybe you would rather binge-watch the latest crime documentary on Hulu . . . I don’t blame you. There are some fascinating ones out there! Schedule a time each week, write it on the calendar, find a quiet spot, and find that killer! As a special needs mom, you are observant, patient, and intense. You may just be the one to crack a cold case wide open. Oh, and don’t forget to crack open your favorite candy bar to nibble on while you fight that crime. #WinWin

I am not claiming to have a PhD in parenting; however, my middle child has given me the privilege experiences that many of you have had over the years. He has loads of specialized needs that require more attention than our other two kids. He exhausts me on a daily basis. He tries my patience, makes us all prepare for the unexpected each and every day, and pulls at my heart strings all at the same time. This was the life I was “meant” to have, and I am okay with that. Through the trials and tribulations we have had since he was born, I have become a better person and a better mom. I will forever be grateful that I am his mom, but that doesn’t mean I am not itching for some quality “me” time.

What are your favorite ways to recharge your soul? How do you make time for it and everything else that life demands?

The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts 20 Neighbor Groups via Facebook, including the Moms of Kids with Differences and Disabilities Fort Worth Area. These groups are free to join and offer online and offline opportunities to build relationships and gain resources from other moms in the area.

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