Marriage is already stressful with busy schedules, kids, homework, and money problems – add autism to the mix and it can seem like the seventh level of hell. Everything from brushing hair to school work to eating is one challenge in a hundred I face daily with Sissy. In our house, you can’t celebrate, sing or run a vacuum without a tantrum or protest. At the end of the day, I am done and all I want to do is put my kids to bed and sit down, put my feet up and enjoy some TV…alone with my hubby. When we’re alone, no one is asking me for some juice, asking me 100 questions about the Hindenburg or yelling at me for singing an Ella Fitzgerald song on Pandora. It’s peaceful and quiet…a time to regenerate for the next day. A time that is short-lived as the hubby heads to bed early for a long work day the next day. Sound familiar?
If there is anything I have learned since Sissy’s diagnosis it is this…you have to make time for yourself and most importantly your marriage. Recently, my parents blessed us with our first date night in 13 years! Yes, I said 13 YEARS!!!! It was the most amazing date I have ever had. Just the two of us, as giddy as two teenagers, running around the town without the kids in tow. Did I say it was amazing??? After that night, we wanted more time alone but realized we actually needed it – time alone to focus on each other and recharge our marriage after years of neglect.
How are we going to do it? I made a list and thought I would share it.
This is what I have personally struggled with the most. Guilt! It is not selfish to opt for time together with a spouse over time with your children.
Schedule “Me” Time
If you’re worn down by the constant stress of taking care of a child with autism, you won’t be 100% for your spouse or children. Taking a few hours alone to go shopping, get a manicure or go for a long walk will do wonders for the mind and body. It is important your spouse gets the same “me” time.
One on One Time With Each Child
When you have a child with autism, their siblings often feel neglected. It is crucial to take some time alone with each of your children to focus on your parent-child relationship. Happy children=happy marriage.
No one can function well if sleep deprived. It is important to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. This can be a challenge because kids with autism tend to have sleep problems. Naps during the day will do wonders after a sleepless night.
Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member to come sit with your child while you cook or clean. If you don’t have family or close friends near you, look into local respite care professionals who can offer much-needed help.
Celebrate the Victories
Autism is not all gloom and doom! There are so many special things to celebrate. Let go of the bad days and focus on the good days. Schedule family date nights to celebrate a new word or a great therapy session. Take the entire family to the movies or out to dinner. Yes it may not go off without a hitch, but do it anyway. Your child may surprise you.
I am incredibly lucky to have a wonderful husband. If anything, Sissy has made our marriage stronger. But, not all marriages are strong enough to handle an autistic child. I know this is an ambitious list. But if you are overwhelmed and constantly worn down, your relationships will suffer. It’s time to focus on you!