respite-tmomMoms are good at a lot of things, but making time for themselves isn’t typically one of them. Think about it — when is the last time you prioritized yourself over your family? Is carving out an afternoon for yourself something you do on a regular basis? It’s easy to get burnt out and not even know it. Add a special needs child to the mix and you are even more at risk for increased stress, depression and exhaustion. Perhaps it’s time to rethink making time for ourselves. After all, when mom isn’t happy, nobody is.

This lesson is not always an easy one to learn. I remember very clearly the moment I realized I needed a break – it was May 2010, 18 months after my son Max was diagnosed with Autism. My doctor sat me down in his office and told me “You’ve been focusing on Max’s therapy and progress like it’s a sprint, not a marathon. You have got to slow down and take care of yourself or you are not going to survive to finish the race.” He was right, I just couldn’t see it because I was so busy trying to get Max into every possible therapy that might help him. I was miserable, tired, and stressed beyond my limits. I went home from that appointment and told my husband I needed to go away for a week on my own to rest. He saw that I was at my breaking point and took a week off work so I could get away.

Ideally, you don’t let yourself get to this point. The key is to find time for yourself and time to spend with your spouse on a regular basis. This means building a support network of people, including family, friends, or respite workers, who can stay with your children so you can get a break. Most of the time, a break will constitute a few hours, but you also need to have the ability to go away on an overnight or a long weekend.

The majority of my time away from the kids comes thanks to my husband. Since I handle most of the childcare and therapy appointments during the week, he takes over driving duties on the weekends and makes sure I get time to rest. He is also happy for me to go out in the evenings whenever I like — in fact he encourages it! We do our best to get in a date night once a month, and for that we have a respite worker who the kids adore. The best part is we don’t have to worry about any challenges Max may throw her way as she used to be one of his therapists and is fully trained in behavior therapy. My husband and I recently went away for an entire night and it was the most relaxed I’ve felt in years.

It isn’t always easy to make time for yourself, but it is imperative that you make your well-being a priority. The result is a happier, better rested, more energetic version of you, and your family can only benefit from that. Everybody wins!