Self Care Isn’t Enough When You Parent Complex Kids

By Alethea Mshar

I’m getting a mani-pedi today. If there’s a poster for self-care, a mani-pedi would be on it. It’s relaxing, makes you look better, and it’s a couple hours away from the grind. The bonus is that I have a couple of gift cards to offset the cost so it’s not even a ding on the budget.

As spring arrives I will take pleasure in my beautified bare toes and most certainly ruin my mani by the end of the day, but that’s not the point. The point is the break, the focus on myself. A much-needed boost to my spirit.

But is it ever enough?

I believe in self-care, truly I do, but (you know what they say about “but” – ignore everything before it) it’s like offering a candy bar to someone suffering from malnourishment. It will taste great and give a momentary pause to the pangs that rumble nonstop, but it will do nothing to correct the underlying void. A malnourished person needs not a treat, not a single meal, but access to long-term sustenance.

And the full-time parent of complex kids doesn’t need a mani-pedi. It’s a candy bar that will only quiet the pangs momentarily.

…it becomes apparent that a brief outing isn’t even beginning to address the issue. It’s a bandage on a hemorrhage.

What is needed, truly needed, by parents, especially the primary parent of complex kids, is much wider and deeper than a few hours of self-care can begin to address. When you consider that moms of autistic kids have stress levels akin to that of combat soldiers it becomes apparent that a brief outing isn’t even beginning to address the issue. It’s a bandage on a hemorrhage.

What is necessary is wraparound services. Respite, extended school years and more.

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