How To Overcome Carer Burn-Out When It Equals Sh#%

We all have our days. Those days when you’ve dealt with a few meltdowns, struggled to have your child follow a simple direction, been bitten, had your hair pulled and cleaned several accidents. I had one two days ago. I’m thinking to myself, one more thing I’m going to lose it, then Billy comes over to me and hands me a long solid log! Umm yep exactly, a solid number two is being handed to me with a smile. Of course I will turn into a raving lunatic, I deserve to go off the deep end, RIGHT?

Well I say no. No to going of the deep end….umm too o10153018_868593926500666_9200869889764543477_nften anyway. Why, because when I go off the deep end, I am in the red zone on the stress indicator. That is not good for me, my family or my goals.

So because I am important, to me anyway, getting the most of out my day is what I need to maintain my oomph.  Here are three of the many tools in my tool bank that help me feel happy.

  1. Be Silly – I’m a silly Mumma. If you are wondering what that means, it is simply, me acting like the Mum in the Vita Wheat adverts (the mum jumps in a muddy puddle while the child stands there watching…remember?) My home is chaotic most days, so to fit in I will find the time to be a child and play silly games with the kiddies. The games are fairly simple so Billy can join in, but 10 minutes of hide and seek can give you quality time with the kids, laughter and maybe even complete joy if your child does something unexpected in the right direction.
  2. Keep a memory book – Really a memory book is nothing more than a photo/scrap-book/journal of moments. We have our phones pretty much attached to our ears these days, so keep remembering to take snap-shots of moments. Whether good, bad or boring, you will look back at the memory book and feel happy and grateful for your beautiful family.
  3. Go to a support group or online forum – They say a problem shared is a problem halved, but I say, listen to what others are dealing with and I guarantee you will take the other half of your problem back. We all get stuck in our own bubble and feel as though we have the most difficult life at times. That’s ok, just don’t get stuck there because your problems are only as big as your thoughts make them. There are many people dealing with worse and some of them still have massive smiles.

Try these tips out as I’m sure you will feel grateful and see how far your child has come. I have felt proud looking back at the snaps of where we once were. Oh and if you get the chance, take a picture of your child holding a solid log, at least you can show your other half as proof it happened!

 

I would love to hear how you get the most happiness out of your day, please leave any tips by leaving a comment below!

 

 

 

 

How to boost your happiness when you are a full-time carer!

imageI miss the me before I became a carer!

Sound familiar? Wow full-time caring can be tough. Physically demanding, emotional demanding, isolating and always about two gorgeous little people I love…..but, Ok I’m going to say it, I love them but I need a break from them every now and then. There I said it.

A break to switch off from the demands and responsibilities that come with being a full-time carer, mum, therapist, doctor, teacher and even when I am appointed the little sister when my daughter and I are playing. Some time to catch up with friends, dance the night away, have a few wines and just be me.

Unfortunately most of us, me included, don’t have the time or babysitters to be able to have regular breaks from caring. I learnt some time ago, instead of feeling frustrated and angry with situations I can not control, look for alternatives. Which is exactly what I did. How do you reconnect with yourself again when you care for others 24 hours a day 7 days a week? When can it be all about me for five minutes?

Then I wondered how I felt when I was just me. I felt confident, relaxed, important, liked, healthy, intelligent, beautiful, and refreshed. So it goes it’s not just me anymore and it’s not about just me anymore, but, it should be about me sometimes. I a full-time carer but when did that mean losing all those nice feelings. Ok I know, it’s not like we can spare one night a week or even a month to take time off from our responsibilities. However, there must be something we can do to reconnect with ourselves, after all we have needs too!

So I thought about it and come up with some strategies and what do you know, they worked. I felt like me again, everyday. I should point out these tips didn’t magically allow me to time travel for a night to dance the night away as myself at 25 years old. I’m not that young anymore and my life has changed. Honestly I wouldn’t want to be 25 years old again, I was all over the shop at that age. I just wanted to take off my carer/mum hat occasionally. Here are a few things I did:

  • Get dressed nice every day.

I don’t mean dress in a ball gown and stilettos to take your child to therapy, but just find 10 extra minutes each morning to do your hair, or apply some make-up. It is so easy to get stuck in the “stay at home carer/mum” mindset of I am not going anywhere, seeing anyone or doing anything so I will just hang around in my p.js all day. What about seeing you. It is amazing how confident you can feel by just doing this simple exercise.

  • Make a list of activities you enjoyed pre-babies

My list consisted of things like, catching up with friends, working, exercising, making plans to look forward to. Then I looked at my options. I don’t have easy access to a babysitter so I decided to think about what time I to myself and did one activity per month, during that time. Both my children are at school so I scheduled the time in and organised to meet up with friends for coffee. I didn’t think or talk about disabilities once.

  • Find a hobby or find part-time work

Regardless of what it is, if you live and breathe the same thing day in and day that’s what you will be focussed on. Finding a hobby you really enjoy or a job that gives you some extra cash will give you something else to think about. You will have something else to talk about as well as something that is important and is all about you. You never know, you may become so good at whatever you’re doing, people start to see you as a leader/expert.

So there you have just some of the things I did to reconnect with me. The person underneath the mum/carer/teacher/doctor roles I play everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I love being all those things. I love being a mum to my two beautiful children most of all, but I am still a person with my own needs and I am important too.  I found these things helped me and I hope they can help you too.

Do you have any tips on how you stay connected with yourself? If so please let us know by commenting.

How to plan the perfect birthday party for your special needs child!

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!

I love that song! Little did I know that I would relive the words every year after I had my first child Billy. As most parents that have special needs children would know, birthdays can be…..well let’s just say challenging.

There’s the dreaded birthday cake with the scary candles. The character themed plates, they are very scary things in my house. The guests and the noise! Billy’s first birthday was a grand event. I invited so many people, mostly my friends and family, It was a nice day. Billy wasn’t walking or talking but that didn’t matter as he was only one year old and had a rough year at that. He endured surgery, and loads of doctors appointments. I was happy we made it to one.

After that birthday, things spiralled, emotionally, for me. Each year as March 10th drew closer, I felt myself feeling anxious, and just downright sad. Here I was holding on to a life that I had planned but no longer existed. I was joining in on conversations with friends about plans for our children’s birthdays. I actually planned them for the first couple of years.

As we approached Billy’s fourth birthday, I started to feel different, I was angry! I realised that neither Billy nor I had really enjoyed one of those parties. The only people enjoying were the other children, while Billy and I sat inside away from the crowd and away from the birthday candles. That’s when I decided it was time to accept that my life was going to be different. Not only was I going to live a life caring for a special needs child, going to doctors appointments, hospital stays, therapy, etc, everything was going to be different.

I spent some time feeling miserable, feeling sorry for myself and sorry for Billy for all the things we would miss out on. Then I realised I had a choice. I could cry and never enjoy Billy’s birthdays or I could change my idea of a what a great kids party was. To do this I had to think about what Billy liked, didn’t like and mostly what he could cope with. Some birthdays may be just a cake with family and friends, I don’t believe that we need to have a party every year.

So I have shared some things I thought about when planning.

  • Prepare your child. Create a visual calendar to prepare your child for the upcoming event. Also create pictures symbolising a party and attach them to the date of the party. This way your child understands what is happening and this will reduce the chance of a pre-party meltdown.
  • Decide on where to have your do! The most important thing is that your child enjoys the day so if you have a child like Billy, having a bowling party just won’t work. Once you have decided on the venue, think about what makes your child tick along with what may cause a full blown meltdown.
  • If you are having other special needs children at the party, talk to the parents and find out about their child. We want everyone to enjoy the day.
  • Think about who to invite! This one needs some careful consideration. You don’t want to offend anyone. If you are inviting children from school that have special needs, you may want to refrain from inviting friends and family that have super energetic, loud kids. Most people will understand the situation or you could have a cake or little get together on another day for those people. This will depend on your guests and what you find out they can cope with.
  • If your having it at a venue other than home, talk to the manager!  I did this one year when I had a party for Billy at a playcentre. I wanted to let the manager know that Billy and some of his friends had special needs and what the venue could offer to make our stay as comfortable as possible. Its amazing how helpful people will be if you are open and honest with them. I told the manger that I would have some children with Autism at the party who may become anxious with noise and crowds, they gave me access to a time out room, which had a Dora video playing in case the children needed to calm.
  • Try not to expect too much! If we think too much about what we want the party to be, rather than what our children are happy with, well we will just be disappointed. Go with whatever happens, and have a giggle about it all later.
  • Give people ideas for presents. How many times has your child revived a present which you know he or she will never look at? It may sound rude but look at this way, if you don’t tell guests what to buy more than likely they will be wasting their cash.
  • Remember to ask about any diet requirements. Many special needs children have dietary requirements such as mashed food or gluten free. To avoid any embarrassment and hunger pains, ask guests to inform you on the invitation.

imageThese are just some of the things you can do to prepare for this special celebration. As we all know, things may go wrong. Planning for things you can control, will ensure you feel comfortable and calm enough to enjoy your child’s birthday. Although the party may not be as fast paced or extravagant as you may have dreamed of, it will be everything your child needs and that is perfectly different.

Do you have any other tips to share? If so please let us know by commenting!

4 Little known tips about taking your special needs child to a play centre

What’s noisy, confronting and sometimes… umm… not fun at all?

The dreaded play centre! There I said it.

If you have a child with special needs, no doubt you’ll know what I mean. But guess what?  I’ve discovered something that every parent with a special needs child, needs to know about preparing for a trip to the play centre.

The last time I decided to put on my “I have it all together face”, I decided to show it off at a play centre. Needless to say, I left feeling a bit sad and stressed.

It wasn’t because I asked for a cappuccino and got a flat white. No it was because of a number of, “out of my comfort zone” situations, that comes with being the mother of special needs five-year old boy.

The comfort I’m talking about is the zone where Mum sits down and chats with other mums over a flat white, cappuccino, tea or whatever, while the kiddies are off having a ball (or throwing the balls!)

What I have learnt, is that it CAN be enjoyable. Using tips from other carers and knowing what to expect, and most importantly, which play centres are most appropriate for my special needs child, can make the difference.

For example, only a couple of “oh my” *palm to forehead* moments – like knowing the whole play centre is watching “that adult” climbing the slide with their daggy undies completely exposed!

Oh and the one where you are running around after your child as he/she is cleaning the other tables, by swiping others chips. Maybe your child also sits right in the walkway at the entrance, stimming and making unusual noises so every child that comes in stops to stare and every parent asks, “is he ok??”

If it’s not that then maybe it’s the full-blown meltdown, either your child with special needs has, or your other child because you find yourself having to leave five minutes after arriving. Please tell me I’m not the only one?!

A play centre that accommodates, understands and treats me and my kiddies like everyone else despite my bent antennas, big red ballroom gown with purple daggys over the top, and one eyeball (yes I feel like an alien at times), can be a positive experience. It would probably be better to call first, and ask questions such as:

  • What is their quietest day?
  • Do they have a policy that will refund your money if you are only there for 5 minutes?
  • Do they have an understanding for your child’s lack of cooperation for leaving socks on?
  • Do they have an unused room on the day you plan to visit, which may help you to calm your child rather than leave and have your other child miss out?

Asking these simple questions can mean the difference between a visit to a play centre being a disaster or completely amazing!

And it’s totally worth it because it just may be the place where you witness one of those small steps for child, huge steps for our child kind. In other words one little thing that fills your heart with love and total bliss, the first independent ride down the slide, the first attempt to climb the fort, or something I have witnessed – the absolute joy on Billy’s face because for once he is part of the fun.

For that smile, I would be a daggy undie wearing alien everyday of my life.

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