If you’re like a lot of Moms, when you hear the words ‘self-care’ you tune out, and turn your attention to more important things like putting in the next load of laundry.

Once upon a time, I was the same. I would cry myself through each day, not thinking about how I looked until my husband would casually walk through the door in the early evening and greet me with, “Hey Alice. Not a good day I assume.” (If you don’t know who Alice Cooper is, Google the 70’s rocker’s photo and note the mascara half-way down his face!)  Who’d want this for a Mom?

I got wise only after several gut-wrenching events; my near demise and a visit to a naturopath, who insisted on treating me first. It was also around this time that a dear friend laid some tough-love on me.

She asked, “Would you put your son on a plane with a pilot in your condition?” “I’m not a pilot, I’m a Mom,” was my retort. “Well, you’re the one who’s flying the plane in this family and I’d say you’re unfit for duty.” Gulp. It had never occurred to me that my condition played such a pivotal role in my child’s life.

Sister, if this is you I’m going to ask you to listen up for your child’s sake.

Studies have shown that Moms of ASD teens experience stress equal to that of combat soldiers. Yes, you read that correctly, and I know that deep down you understand.

It’s time to stop dismissing the notion that you don’t have time to care for yourself. This is not only faulty thinking, but it’s also as harmful to your child as it is to you.

My son was spending his days with a miserable and unhealthy woman who was unaware of her impact on him. It was a lesson I learned the hard way. Thankfully, before it was too late.

Somewhere along the way we have come to believe that self-care is selfish, and that our child must come first. I still haven’t figured out if this is simply a poor excuse for not making the effort, or a true societal belief. Either way, this notion will have dire consequences for both you and your child.

Self-care is an essential part of ensuring that your child has the best life possible. When you think about it, it’s not much different than ensuring that your vehicle is safe to drive, or that your house is insured!

I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have the power to shape your child’s future more so than any well-meaning therapist could ever hope to. That said, you won’t have a fighting chance if your own well-being is suffering.

It’s time to wake up to what’s possible!

My client Jill came to me a few years ago, complaining of her son’s behaviour. As we got deeper into things, Jill came to realize that she was so stressed that she was unintentionally at the epicentre of the chaos. She had completely lost touch of who she was; what she loved to do, and how her demeanor impacted her family. She was constantly getting pulled into power struggles with her son. She didn’t know where to begin when it came to setting limits and as a result, she resorted to yelling and threatening to take away privileges to “keep the peace.”

After a few sessions she was able to helicopter-up and see not only that this wasn’t working, but more importantly that she was full of resentment and self-loathing. She broke down and sobbed when she saw the light. We were able to turn things around, but only once she gave herself permission to put herself on the agenda. I held her feet to the fire, and within a few weeks she felt like a new woman. It was a new beginning for Jill and her family.

She confessed that without being held accountable she might not have been able to follow through at first. Like all of us, we feel resistance when we make a change in our lifestyle. Our subconscious has a way of trying to maintain the status quo. Why? We fear change for many reasons. We fear failure, but we also fear success! Who will we be if we feel differently? On the surface this sounds ridiculous, but to our subconscious it’s very real.

At the start, we can’t rely on motivation to tend to ourselves. It likely won’t show up, or it will surely dwindle after a day or two. We must push through until we feel differently, and we can see the value of our efforts. Then, and only then will true motivation carry us forward.

For this reason, when it comes to self-care we need to create the time and have a plan. For example, if your self-care time involves having a bath, tell your partner in advance that he will need to man the fort. Let your kids know that for 20 minutes you’ll be unavailable. In advance, find the music that will soothe you, the candle you’ll light (in your honour) and the bath salts you’ll enjoy. Put your phone away. Finally, ignore that little voice in your head – be ready for it, and dismiss it the second you hear it!

If a bath isn’t your thing, what do you like to do? What could you do for even 10 minutes that would lift your spirits? Is it listening to a particular type of music? Perhaps a podcast (anything that isn’t autism-related will do). Do you like to journal, or read? Maybe it’s time for a little steamy fiction! Consider whether you want to do something active – or passive. Choose a time that you can be reasonably sure you’ll stick to, and map out how you’re going to spend your time, down to the last detail.

Sister, you are THE most important person in your child’s life. Do you, and your child a favour. As Dr. Phil says, “If you love your kids, take care of their Mom.” I’m not a fan of Dr. Phil, but where the matter of self-care is concerned, I couldn’t agree with him more.

If you need to, channel the thinking of one wise Mom, whose quote is, “My time alone is for everyone’s safety!”

I rest my case.

Just do it. Everyone will thank you. Especially me. I’d love to hear about your self-care adventures. Please post a comment below or join us inside our Lemons to Lemonade ASD Mom Community on Facebook!  

Related: Watch Episode 10 – Why Self Care is important for ASD Moms

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