Before we had kids, we used to love date night. Even if date night was just picking up a movie, Chinese food and coming home and snuggling. It was a way to reset from all the crap that goes on during the week. When we had our daughter, I dreaded our first date night – I did go out, but felt immensely guilty about doing something without her. What “first” would I miss? Would she remember me when I came home? But realized that what all my friends had said was true, going out after having kids is just as important – if not more so – than before having kids. Regardless of the activity, it’s a way to decompress and reset your mind and attitude. And while it may sound cliche that time away from the kids really does help to be a better parent.
Fast forward a bit and now we have the boys. In four years, I can honestly count on one hand the number of times we have been on “date night” – in whatever form that took (movies, dinner out, dinner in, SLEEP). As for “me time” well I can probably count on both hands. Let me be clear folks, I do NOT mean things like grocery shopping/running errands. I mean genuine “me time” such as working out, getting my nails or hair done, etc. There are any number of reasons why we haven’t been able to – all good, legitimate ones (no, seriously they are). But the reality is that we aren’t doing ourselves, or our kids, any favors by not trying to find that time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and would do anything for them, but the number of times in the last two weeks alone that I have said “damn, I’m a crappy mother” is a little more than I would like. And a general (red light) indicator that kid-free time is desperately needed. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere in sight.
We are currently prepping for Gavin’s first surgery next week, which means TWO pre-opp appointments to clear him for said surgery. We have made a conscious decision to NOT say anything to his siblings prior to his surgery. While Bailey would fully understand what is happening, she has very high anxiety when it comes to hospitals so we try to limit that when we can. Spencer might understand what is happening but why put him through that stress if we don’t need to. While the kids don’t know, pretty much every adult in their life does. Teachers, before/aftercare staff, therapy staff, family – mainly because they have to know so as to prepare for when he comes back to school (plus the school kinda has a policy of needing to know why he’ll be out for a week+) so there’s the stress of the kids finding out from someone other than us. Thankfully we do get a little break in that both of them will be going on a little “pre-Thanksgiving holiday” with grandma and grandpa to keep them occupied allowing us to focus on Gavin and prep him for surgery (which is of course the day before Thanksgiving).
I’ve said it before, being a parent is NOT for the faint of heart. The reality is mistakes are going to be made, big, small, doesn’t matter (oh and I mean by the parents just as much as by the kid). That’s life and that’s how we all learn. But throw in being a special needs parent and well that’s a game changer. The mistakes that I make always seem compounded somehow. I never seem to second guess my decisions more than when I am making a decision for Gavin. Good, bad or indifferent, decisions I make today will have a profound impact on his daily quality of life and on his future. Now pile on the daily stress of parenting two able-bodied children, homework, school activities, dance, work, bills, family, doc’s appts, etc. and now we have a perfect storm brewing.
So to say that we need a date night or “me time” (or a really stiff drink) is a gross understatement. Things get said or done that under normal, non-stressful situations would never be said/done. Which just adds insult to injury as it were. But at the end of the day it falls on us to make and take the time that will allow us to decompress a bit, either as a couple or individually. The stress will never go away – it’s part of life but finding ways to release a little stress here and there will go a long way to us being better parents, partners and people (not to mention me not saying “damn, I’m a crappy mother” nearly as much).
We are heading into one of the busiest and most stressful times of year, adding to the everyday stress of life. My advice (to parents and non-parents) is to make time (even just 15mins) for you. You’ll find you can enjoy the holidays and the people around you a lot more if you’ve taken the time to take care of you (I know, I know – I will too, I promise).