Why parents of special needs children DON'T have spare time during the pandemic (or ever).
Have you been hearing people say, "I'm getting so much done at home during this pandemic!" Do you see social media posts of people trying new hobbies, new recipes, and new exercise routines as both quarantines persist and summer settles in? Generally, you won't witness parents of special needs children saying or doing these things. Why? Because getting stuff done and trying new things requires some form of "extra" time. Special needs parents don't have extra time, ever.
This isn't a criticism, a complaint, or a challenge. It's the plain truth that special needs moms and dads dedicate so.much.time.and.energy to their precious child (whether they're one or 21) that they don't seem to have what we call spare time. Every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment is filled with attending to their child's needs: physical, medical, emotional, social, dietary, therapeutic, behavioral, safety, and more.
A special needs parent craves extra time. "Believe You Me" as they say: parents caring for a child of different abilities put their child first and themselves last. These mothers and fathers who might be fortunate enough to come up with some spare time once in a blue moon usually end up using that time to work on something related to their child's care.
Take me, for example. Driving down to Los Angeles for the holidays?? My "spare time" in the car might be utilized by listening to an audio book on the latest biomedical interventions. The respite worker can do a Saturday afternoon with my son? Great! Time to balance his account, schedule his next dental appointment, do his laundry, and fix the broken dresser in his room. That is where extra time goes.
It's not easy. Sometimes I wish there were two (or three) of me so the alternate could tend to those tasks and I could go meditate. Special needs parents take care of themselves after they take care of their children. But that is true of parents in general, to be honest. Don't we all put ourselves somewhere lower on the priority list? It's just that when there are special needs in the family, parents don't often spontaneously find themselves with an afternoon to bingewatch their favorite shows or hang out at a book shop.
So where does extra time come from? IF it comes at all, it seems to be from someone helping out which then creates some time for the special needs parent. Perhaps spouses take turns supervising, so one gets time for himself/herself...maybe a grandparent steps in...or a trustworthy friend watches your child. In some cases, a favorite movie on Netflix can occupy the child just long enough so we can get something done before 2 A.M. And gosh, do we hope we can hit the pillow long before that.
When you think about it, the concept of extra time is actually silly. Everyone has exactly the same amount of time in a day no matter what. "Spare time" is technically defined as time you have when you are not working. So the terms are not exactly interchangeable. BUT, therein lies the conundrum for parents of special needs kids. They're always working. They are on duty 24-7-365 for their child.
I, believe it or not, found a way to help my family and me gain what really is extra time. Okay, okay; not literal extra time. But there is a way to reduce some stress and gain some peace of mind. Which, when you think about it, kind of equates to having extra time, right? It's Vest.
Vest has created solutions for special needs parents like me who become overwhelmed with everything surrounding the care of a special needs child. The paperwork alone can bury you and drain your energy, time, and resources. Vest helps you organize the papers in your life so that they are stored logically in one place and are accessible anywhere, anytime. With 200 + pre-labeled pockets, you will be on your way to a peace of mind you haven't experienced before. And that means I can focus on myself. After all, if I'm not recharging my battery, I won't have anything to give my child.
Soon enough, you may find some time to try that chocolate chip banana bread recipe or renew a favorite hobby. When you've got something good that helps you navigate the bumpy road of special needs, you will be able to enjoy more time for yourself!