As a father of children with autism, Rob Gorski emphasizes the importance of self-care as a parent of children on the spectrum. This blog post was originally posted on theautismdad.com.
I’ve been an Autism parent for almost seventeen years. In other words, I’ve done this a very, very long time. Along the way, I’ve learned countless lessons. Unfortunately, many of those lessons were learned the hard way.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that I have to take care of myself.
When you’re a parent to a child or in my case, children – with special needs, it’s incredibly easy to get tunnel vision. We feel like we have to put every ounce of all we have into our kids. While this is well-intentioned, it’s also largely misguided.
The amount of stress and lack of sleep the average Autism or Special Needs parent deals with is staggering. The worst part about this is that we become so used to living this way, we don’t even realize it’s happening. The impact on our bodies and minds can be significant. This lifestyle is largely unsustainable because we all have our limits.
No matter how much we love our kids, we are still human and are subject to those limitations.
Here’s the scariest but most important question you need to be asking yourself. What happens to my child if something happens to me? I know that’s a chilling notion but the reality is, many of us are living in this exact situation. The truth is, we don’t live forever and our Autism or Special Needs kids will most likely outlive us. There’s nothing we can do to avoid that.
Another major problem that being a little selfish can help to avoid is Caregiver or Caretaker Burnout.
While we won’t live forever, we can do things now to help us live the longest, healthiest life possible. In order to do this, we have to be selfish. Being selfish isn’t always a bad thing, especially when doing so helps to ensure a better future for our special kids.
Being selfish means that we sometimes have to put ourselves first. I know that goes against every fiber of our being but it’s absolutely crucial. How we each put ourselves first may vary because we all have different needs and have different resources available to us. Some of us have family or friends who give us the occasional break and some of us don’t have that.
What’s important is that you find a way to take care of yourself. Maybe that’s taking a few minutes each day for a cup of coffee or spot of tea. Maybe it’s talking on the phone to a friend or family member. Perhaps it’s taking advantage of a break you’ve been given to get some desperately needed sleep. It could literally be anything that helps you to decompress, de-stress or get some rest. It’s also important to get exercise whenever possible and there are a million creative ways in which you can do that.
The point of this article isn’t to give you specific instructions to address this problem because everyone’s different. My hope is that this article will encourage you to practice self-care. How you do that is up to you. The most important thing is that you recognize that you have limits, and figure out little ways to help you decompress or recharge.
Even the smallest things can make a difference over time. We all want to give our kids the best, why start with giving them the best of ourselves.
About the Author
Rob is a 37 year old Autism advocate, writer, hardcore techie, Google android fanatic, creator of the My Autism Help Forums and co-founder of Guardian Locate. He is also a dad to 3 amazing boys and husband to his best friend.