Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Balancing Act: Setting Priorities as a Special Parent

Photo Credit, David Niblack,

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise...
Ephesians 5:15 NIV

It’s the challenge of parents everywhere: balancing your needs with those of your children. Only it’s multiplied exponentially when you have a child with special needs. You struggle with the specialist appointments, therapy, and medication regimen, the meltdowns (some of them yours), the lack of sleep (due to kids who don’t sleep and to your own anxiety and stress), counseling appointments (often for multiple family members), and the day-to-day of meal preparation, dishes, helping with homework, laundry, and the myriad other tasks that make up a parent’s day.

And all you really want is to go to the bathroom by yourself, a nap, and copious amounts of caffeine and chocolate.

How do you take care of yourself while balancing the needs of children who require extra care and the needs of their siblings who have special needs of their own because of their sibling’s special needs?

I’ve had to redefine normal. “Normal” is different for every family, and my days don’t include a lot of free time. It’s a fact I used to throw pity parties about, but it is what it is. I can’t get away every week (or even once a month!) for a night out with friends. I don’t have hours on end to spend doing things I enjoy. I still don’t get to go to the bathroom alone very often.

I’ve learned to embrace my normal.

I have a good relationship with my children and get to spend lots of time with them between homeschooling and medical travel. We enjoy lots of heartfelt talks together, which gives me an idea of what they’re thinking and feeling as we enter their preteen and teen years.

I write in spurts during my day, while sitting in waiting rooms, during the few minutes we have before leaving the house for an extracurricular activity, and after my kids have gone to bed. And I’m always, always writing in my head, which makes composing when I sit at the computer faster since I already know what I want to say.

I knit or crochet while watching an episode or two of a favorite show with my kids before they go to bed.

We work together to take care of household chores because working together means we have more time to enjoy other activities.

I take advantage of the occasional parents’ night out or blogging meet-up to get some time just for me, without the kids, but these times are rare.

I stay up way too late after the kids go to bed, carving out coveted “alone” time for my introverted self.

It works for now. I take care of myself the best I can, knowing that in a few short years my children won’t need me as much. Even my “special” child will have some sort of job and might not need much from me other than a ride to and from work and help balancing her checkbook. When that day comes, I’ll have all the “me” time I could ever want to attend conferences, write for uninterrupted hours every day, and sleep, read, and knit to my heart’s content.

For now, I’ll keep balancing everything as best I can, trying to get adequate sleep, healthy foods, and exercise so that I can be the healthy mom, daughter, wife, and friend I need to be for a long time to come.

Pray: Father, thank you for the life you have blessed me with. Help me to use my time wisely each day and to focus on the tasks that are truly important so I'll have the time I need to invest in people, and especially my precious children. Thank you for giving me the grace and strength to face each day and to take each moment as it comes. Amen. 

~ Jennifer A. Janes

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