Parenting

How do you get a break?

As this week's expert on Cafe Mom, Amy hears from "special-needs moms" who desperately need support and respite

Jack Kesselman

This week, as co-author of More Than a Mom, I’m a Guest Expert on Cafe Mom (a site for moms launched by Andrew Shue — of Melrose Place fame. Remember that show!?) Moms are posting questions about staying sane and healthy while parenting kids with special needs.
 
I expected a handful of questions. But dozens of moms are writing in with their heartbreaking dilemmas. Here are some of the issues that moms are posting:
 
-How do you get extended family to help? My in-laws just think my kid is a “spoiled brat.”
-I’m a single mom (with my own health issues) with two kids with special needs. How can I possibly find time for myself?
-How can I find someone who can watch my child? I have no family around. Plus I have no money to pay someone.
-How can I hold on to my friends with “typical” kids? They don’t understand what I’m going through.
-I don’t know who I am anymore. Everything I do is about my child.
-I feel guilty if I take time to myself. 
-Even if I manage to go out, I can’t stop thinking about my kids.
 
A few things are painfully clear. There aren’t enough services/supports for families. And parents (especially moms) are putting their own health at risk as they do their best for their kids. Parents need respite (a break and someone to watch their children) so they can work, exercise, care for their other kids, get a hair cut, see a dentist, or just take a breath. But so many moms seem to be going it alone. They wonder what’s happened to their own needs and dreams.
 
Bottom line — there’s a huge community of moms who are starting to speak out. And there’s a lot we can do to care for ourselves IF we get creative. Check out Cafe Mom to learn other moms’ stories and to read my advice. 
 
Feeling lucky? Want to win a free copy of More Than a Mom? Post a question at the Cafe Mom site before Friday night. Winners will be drawn randomly. Bon chance!
 
Now — a question for you:
 
1. Do you have a regular caregiver, respite provider or respite program for your child? How did you find that person or program?