All parents have guilt. Am I doing enough for my child? Do I spend enough “quality time” with my child? Am I reading enough to my child? I know everyone worries that they haven’t done enough for their child, but I would bet money that parents of a child with special needs worry more and feel more guilty about what they did or did not do for their child. There have probably been studies about this, but I’m not really interested in empirical evidence. I know that some might say I didn’t do enough, but I did do the best I could.
When my kids were little, I truly thought that every day had to be a “developmental extravaganza”. I felt guilty at the end of the day if I didn’t feel this had happened. Not like I can’t sleep because I feel so guilty, but guilty just the same. I can’t sleep anyway, so feeling guilty or not doesn’t really change this. Even when it was a busy day developmentally, I worried that there was something else I could have done to teach them one more thing.
The reality is, this is a marathon, not a sprint and even though my children are now young adults, the marathon is not over. The fact is, it won’t be over for me until I am no more. That sounds scary to say, but it is the truth. Once I realized there would be no quick fixes and the day to day stuff didn’t make that much difference as long as you don’t skip too many days, I started feeling better about things in general. Persever8ing about the autism 24/7 wasn’t doing me any favors and definitely wasn’t giving me enough objectivity to really understand what my kids needed from me on a daily basis.
Speaking about marathons, many years ago, I realized I needed to do something for me to give me some perspective, so I started running. I didn’t have any intention of running marathons, but I found that running was a time that was just for me and a time that I could clear my head and focus on each mile rather than thinking about autism all day long. This started helping me right away. Running helped me regroup and prioritize. Since I tend to eat when I’m stressed, I found that spending time running allowed me to stop stressing about the stress eating because I could keep the weight off. I also started eating more healthily because I needed good quality fuel in me so I could do the running. True to form, I started persever8ing about running, but I don’t see this as a particularly bad thing. There are much worse things I could do with my time
I’m now better equipped to handle the autism problems, have more perspective, less guilt and a better ability to see the big picture. I realize running isn’t for everyone, but I think that even though it seems counter productive, being a little selfish about your own time leads to less guilt rather than more guilt. I feel I do a better job making decisions with and for my children than I did when I was constantly worrying about doing the right thing. I do run marathons and half marathons and I don’t feel guilty about the time I spend training. Everyone does better when mommy is happy.