When I first had my first born, I changed my entire self. I changed my wardrobe to what I called “mommy wear”. I listened to older wise women say things like “you are a mother; you can’t wear clothes like that” or “you can’t wear those shoes”. So naturally wanting to be a good mom I placed all my stylish clothes in a trash bag and took them to a local thrift store. I went shopping for all colors of sweat pants and jogging suits. I switched my heels to only black flats and tennis shoes. During this transition, I lost who I was. I lost my personality and confidence. Most of all, I lost what I enjoyed doing. Many parents fall in this trap especially when raising children with special needs and mental health diagnosis. All our energy goes into the care and the treatment of children (which is very important). However, when we lose ourselves in the day to day challenges of parenting we are not a benefit to our families and kids. We find ourselves in a dark hole that we don’t know how to get out of. In this hole we resent our children, spouse, friends, and family members. This resentment cause conflict with ourselves and others. I have provided two simple ways to maintain ourself as parents and most importantly parent of children and adolescents that have mental health concerns. With these concerns the stress in the home could elevate.
Say No- This is very hard to do. When we say no to people we think they would look at us differently or not like us anymore. Sometimes we think if we say no people would think we are not a ‘team” player. It is okay to say no. It is okay to say no to organizing a community event for the church or being asked to hold a leadership position in an organization we love dearly. It is okay to say no to taking over special responsibilities at work. It is OK to say No. When we say yes to everything people always will feel comfortable asking you to do things. Saying yes to everything can cause the home and work life to become overwhelmed and stressed over simple things such as finding the perfect fundraiser for the committee you chair or making sure the basketball team have a meal between games.
Do say yes- To doing or being a part of something you love. As parents we often forget the things we use to love to do. The things we would do for free if anyone asked us to do it. For example, before I had my first child, I loved doing craft, painting, and taking long hot baths. The first three years of motherhood I did none of the above. As parents we need to continue to love ourselves by doing the things we love. Often times, parents feel guilty about doing things we enjoy that does not include the kids. It is a benefit to our kids and families that we continue to be happy by engaging in the things we love.
Yes, it could take more energy in finding time and someone to care for your child to do the things we love for a couple hours of the week. Ask a neighbor or family member to assist with childcare. Utilize local drop in or hourly childcare. If working, use leave at work or take a half of day at work. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no is important to sustaining healthy mental health as parents and specifically parents of children with special needs. Know and learn your personal limits and know how to say no without guilt.