One of the truisms about having children in general – and especially when you have children with special needs – is that being a parent can do horrible things to your relationship in terms of giving time for one another.
I’m not saying that I regret having kids – the Monster and R are wonderful critters who make life fun, and I adore being a father and spending time with them. But, it definitely puts a cramp on spending meaningful time with my wife, both in terms of mood and energy, and when you factor in the attempts we make to still sustain independent lives for ourselves in addition to our marriage… it’s a lot.
So a while ago, the wife and I decided that we had to make an attempt on a regular basis to actually get away and spend time together.
Just like raising children, keeping a marriage going is a lot of work. It’s easy to put our heads down and concentrate on the necessary things for life, and suddenly realize that it’s been weeks or months since we’ve had a conversation about something aside from the children’s needs, or about the taxes or maintenance of the house. It’s easier still to lose track of these things when you add in the needs to manage a child with special needs, with the mix of IEP meetings, therapists, support-group meetings, doctor’s appointments, and weird school schedules.
I’m very fortunate to work for an employer that has a very generous vacation policy, and with a little bit of effort, can save up for a vacation now and again, in addition to an annual trip with the kids. (You’ll hear me say this frequently in real life, for those who know me, that if you go away with your children, it’s not a ‘vacation’ but a ‘trip’.) We’re also very lucky that my in-laws live nearby and can watch the children during the school year, so we can step out when the flow of my work really permits me to be gone for a week, and that we have service providers who’re flexible about where they provide their services. (Of course, we weren’t completely disconnected from life back home. I had a phone that had service, so we could be reached, as evidenced on Thursday when R’s school nurse called to say that he’d been in because he got hair in his eye. We had email and Facebook, and we were still talking about things related to the children, but still, it was a good breather from the day-in-and-day-out.)
This year, my wife and I got away for a week in Mexico, while the children were in school. The whole point, to me, of going to a resort is that we’re not having to worry about every-day things, and can concentrate on just being the two of us again for a little while at whatever pace feels right, in a place where no one knows us or cares really who we are. Around the occasional activity, we could talk, get things off our chests, and remember why she made the mistake of saying ‘yes’ to going out with me or marrying me in the first place.
Equally important, though, I feel like getting away for a week lets us be better parents when we get back. In the downtimes while we were away, we got back on the same page about a couple of things with regards to how we’re handling the kids. The trip gave us time to restore some of our patience for their quirks. And while I’m sure the latter part’ll wear off fairly quickly – it always does with children – for the moment, it’s not feeling like such a slog, which in and of itself is a much-needed lift.
So, moral to the story – you need your own life, children with special needs or no. Take the time for the self-care aspects. You owe it to yourself and your kids.