Being a person when all you do is take care of people

I stayed home a long time (to me it was long I guess because so much happened) with my son and daughter, who are now five and two. When you are there for taking care of kids all the time, or even when working full-time like I am working now and also “take care” of other people’s kids’ emotional needs (being a child and family therapist) to then come home and watch my own kids, it can be hard to remember how to just be a person. I realized when I was staying home with my kids that I was not really doing a lot during the day and often not even when they went to bed, to continue my own thoughts and interests. It started when I was a new mom and of course you want to get into that role and I have always been passionate and excited to be a mom. I additionally researched a lot of extra things since my son has Down Syndrome and some other medical issues. I spent a lot of extra time/free time making things for him to help him learn and so forth. This isn’t a bad thing to do, but also you can get burned out if you are spending all your time looking up recipes, finding fun activities to do with your own kids or group therapy ideas for your kids (or whatever you do on your own time for your work career.)

 

So here are some things I have been working on and have noticed my husband do (who is currently a stay at home dad for my son during the week then works as an RN on the weekends.)

1)Its something simple but something I missed and realized was missing after a few years

1)Listen to your OWN music. Everyone loves music of some kind but I feel like it was a huge deal because not just listening to , but playing music was  a HUGE part of my life and free time/passion so first we moved a lot and had no room and I felt I didn’t have time anyway, for me to play piano or keyboard. I already wasn’t in band anymore after college (which is fine, fine with that season being gone haha but I miss piano!) So then I realized heck, I’m not even listening to music of mine! It is ALL Wiggles or Signing Time and now whatever Disney movie is on Netflix. I still am not great about it and even though I blog I am kind of old lady when it comes to technology so I’m like oh yea gotta as the husband about downloading Spotify….anyways folks, it matters!

2) Find some hobby that does NOT have to do with dressing your child or looking up ideas for helping your child ..writing about your child? okay so yes I do blog about my kids but I think I’ve branched to a lot of different things plus I enjoy writing/blogging so it’s not like I am totally focused on something for helping them learn or be entertained. I did knit on loom a few years ago and I think I have settled into reading fiction and writing as my go to hobbies when I’m not watching Netflix and folding laundry with my husband, or playing board games together (which is something he is mainly into but I do it too and he is on the lookout for things I would like so we have something to do together other than TV. Yes I could do outdoors things but not when hte kids are asleep right? Right. I do love walking and being outside but I’m talking stuck indoors in the trenches of pre K parenting here.

3) When you have a long weekend or extra snow day or even on a regular weekend or whatever, do not feel bad about not hovering over your child. I think people go between the extremes of ignoring their kids and starting at their phones or thinking you have to constantly be verbally imparting some wisdom or in their faces in our culture. You probably know deep down when its okay to check out mentally while supervising your kids. So, do it. I think its fine to read an article or video (probably on mute with captions!) on your phone here and there if it helps you be sane and feel like a person and not a mom/dad zombie. Also I know most probably feel just fine about this but in case you don’t , please don’t feel like you can’t do housework as long as your kids are safe. It’s hard to get done but the more you get done while they’re awake,, the more time you have to try and be a person/do your own thing and with your spouse at night. The kids help me with things. occasionally genuine help, often just them making it take a little longer but more got done than it would have if I did it ALL at night or nap. Nap is never promised in this home lol although my daughter has become much better about it since last year. That so didn’t happen when she was a little baby, not for long.

4)This is more specific and short, but stole this idea from my husband and therefore may appeal more to males. Okay I’m not saying do it ALL the time, but he has some headphones and listens to podcasts or whatever here and there while watching our son during the week (He is still attentive and doesn’t abuse this, however. But I am just saying if it keeps you sane…Here’s looking at you, parents of kids who don’t nap much or at all!

I think that’s most of my ideas but I might add more in the future if I think of more. What helps you moms and dads feel more like a person again?

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You Know You’ve Spent a Lot of Time in the Hospital When..

A lot of these could apply to if you or a parent or other loved one is in the hospital, but mine is mostly geared toward things you will notice or become accustomed to if you have a child in the hospital.

1) You start to grab a jacket (even in summer), snacks, and water on the way out the door to the emergency room. Hey, you’ve done it before-you know whether a minute to grab those is going to make a difference. And you know how cold the ER is along with wait time.

2) You don’t need reassurances anymore about procedures like X Rays, feeding tube placements,or respiratory treatments because you’ve seen it all already.

Ethan and his Dad hanging out on one of Ethan's shorter, less dramatic hospitalizations (aspiration pneumonia, one night)

Ethan and his Dad hanging out on one of Ethan’s shorter, less dramatic hospitalizations (aspiration pneumonia, one night)

3)During said procedures, you go ahead and volunteer to hold your child’s limbs in place so the procedure can be done quickly and correctly without extra kicking from your kid interfering.

4) Instead of calling for a nurse for everything, you try to spot oxygen adhesive dots or IV tape and try to do it yourself before you call (if its in an open public area. Not advocating for rifling through the nurses’ personal workspaces lol)

5) You’ve had just about everything they will ever serve in the hospital cafeteria and know what is tolerable and what is just gross.

First time to hold him after heart surgery. He was there 7 days.

First time to hold him after heart surgery. He was there 7 days.

6) You have made it into at least one public service announcement or brochure for the hospital.

7) People on various units see you and say, “Now you look really familiar” or “Your child’s name is so familiar…you’ve been here before, haven’t you?” Or depending on the staff or unit, they don’t even have to think-they just run up to you betweeen patients and say, “Hey! OH, he’s grown so much! What are you guys in for again?” Or “sorry I haven’t said hi, its just been so busy. But I wanted to come over and see you guys!” Its nice to be reunited, yet  its also like “oh my…our lives.”

8) You are able to direct lost parents around te hospital better than some staff because you have been to nearly every unit as well as almost every speciality outpatient clinic in the hospital.

9)You can help other parents compare notes on who is best at finding tiny veins for blood draws and which doctors are reliable (or not).

10) You aren’t phased by holding a baby with cords. It doesn’t scare you or make you nervous, but still are annoyed by it. Its always annoying. That hasn’t changed for me . 😉

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Comparison, Thief of Joy

This was written in the middle of Ethan’s stay in PICU for RSV in Winter/Spring of 2014..

Well as soon as I started saying how thankful I was that we didn’t have a repeat of last year, here we are in PICU again. However, it is not just the same because last year he declined very fast and had to be on a ventilator and chemically paralyzed.
It is so frustrating that we are so very careful with Ethan yet he gets RSV anyway. Since I am so busy tending to Ethan at the hospital, I tend to reflect on the car ride to and from the hospital when I am taking a turn at spending the night at home. Yesterday I started feeling a little wronged, that things were unjust, unfair. “ We already have a kid who has therapies all week long..he struggles through every milestone he meets…we have been so thankful and patient while we stay indoors and away from birthday parties and such trying to keep our child safe through the winter..while we see other families go and do, seeming effortless. (I know this is not true, it just feels it sometimes.)

I asked God and myself, “Why does he have to suffer again? Is he going to spend his second Easter in the hospital again?” In a dark moment of worry my husband said it aloud too, “Why does this have to happen to him? It just isn’t fair…” I’ve had friends tell me this before, that its unfair and I still felt strong and sure that yes, its unfair, but I don’t feel wronged. Things do happen for a reason.
This is all true. But did I feel it while driving home yesterday? No. Then as I heard the Christian radio station (K-LOVE, that actually isn’t playing as often as, say, classic rock or children’s music,) happened to be on at just the right moment. Someone from a Proverbs 31 ministries said that, “Feelings are indicators. They show the condition of our hearts..” She went on to say that basically we should be mindful of this as not to let it drive how we act and interact in ours lives. I really needed to hear that yesterday. Just because I feel wronged, an outsider, doesn’t mean that I am. It would be plastic and disingenuous to say that I do NOT sometimes feel that things are unfair and that I get weary, but I am realizing that the weight of the feelings are just that and it does not mean God loves me any less or that people take us or our experience for granted, because it is very clear that most do not. People are very gracious in saying that they are praying for us and that they are reminded of what they take for granted as people, as parents.

It does still sting sometimes to see how seemingly effortless other parents’ lives can be, that they can just tote them around, breastfeed them, go play with other kids, and choose what to do with their free time (or time as a stay at home mom, rather than have time blocked out for therapies that would otherwise be trips to the park or fun activities with my child.) It’s hard to look outside at a beautiful day from a hospital window.

While I know all families have some hardships (because hey, this isn’t Heaven!), it FEELS like families who don’t have kids with ongoing special needs have it easy even if I’m just seeing the fun parts of their lives.

I also know that comparison is the death of happiness and the thief of joy. After all, you always find someone who seems to have it easier. Or seems to have it harder. That is just how life is, we are not supposed to all have the same life experiences. God shows himself in us humans in our compassion toward one another, and our help for one another. For example, people who have grown children or no children can come alongside those who do have children and help them. I feel guilty because I feel I can’t do much for others who have children in the hospital (because I definitely feel their pain!) because we are in and out of the hospital so much and try to maintain Ethan’s health when he is at home. That is just one aspect of the beauty of differences in experiences. By the same token, people have told me that perspective it gives them to see our family struggle through, but keep faith, through Ethan’s illnesses and challenges that come with his Down Syndrome.

I do think we have, overall, a great way of appreciating and seizing moments because we have spent so much time NOT at home. It is that much sweeter when we are home. That should come soon again, we pray.