Balancing Work, Motherhood and Self-Care: My Journey to Me-Time
Life as a busy parent can be overwhelming, especially when you have a child with special needs. As the founder of SpecialSaathi.com and a mother to a 5+ year old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I know all too well the demands and challenges that come with such responsibilities. However, I have discovered the importance of carving out time for self-care amidst my hectic schedule. In today’s blog, we’ll delve into my daily routine and the strategies I employ to prioritize my mental and physical well-being.
Life as a parent can be demanding, and when you have a child with special needs, the challenges multiply. Moreover, as a working professional and a mother to a 5+ year old son on the autism spectrum, my days are filled with work- related responsibilities, meeting deadlines, household chores, and the constant need to provide care and attention to my son. However, I firmly believe that self-care is crucial for our well-being, even amidst the chaos.
Let’s find out how I manage to carve out me-time for self-care activities despite my busy schedule and will explore the strategies that I employ to maintain balance and well-being.
Prioritizing Self-Care for Long-Term Well-Being: I recognize that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity for maintaining our physical and mental well-being, especially for parents of children with special needs. By dedicating time to ourselves, we can recharge, reduce stress, and cultivate resilience. Moreover, we should understand that by taking care of ourselves, we can set a positive example for our child and empower ourselves to better fulfill our responsibilities both at home and at work.
Setting the Foundation: We need to understand that taking care of ourselves requires a proactive mindset. We can train our mind to focus on specific tasks and ensure that we are mentally prepared before diving into any endeavor. By establishing this foundation, we can empower ourselves to tackle our passions. I have learned to train my mind over the years. Now, I do it effortlessly as and when required be it to prioritize self-care. I just need to convince myself that it is essential for my overall well-being. Once my mind is ready, I ensure that I dedicate time to activities that matter to me, such as my work with SpecialSaathi and the 100-Day self-care challenge/quest.
The Power of a Routine: Establishing a daily routine has been instrumental in my daily life since childhood. Even now, daily routine and a fixed schedule helps me in ensuring I have enough time for my self-care. While, a little flexibility is required in the routine due to the nature of my responsibilities, I try to stick to a set schedule as much as possible. This routine may need adjustments occasionally, it serves as a guiding structure for my well-being. By adhering to a set list of activities, I ensure that I consistently carve out time for myself. This routine includes physical exercise, swimming, mindfulness practices such as meditation, reading or writing, engaging in hobbies or passions, and adequate rest.
Flexibility and Adaptability: As a parent of a child with special needs, I acknowledge the need for flexibility in my daily routine. While I strive for consistency, I understand that unexpected challenges and circumstances can arise, requiring adjustments. By embracing flexibility and being open to change, I can adapt my self-care activities to accommodate my son’s needs, household demands, and any unforeseen events.
Resilience in the Face of Challenges: After having Yuvaan and his diagnosis, my journey into self-care, testing my limits and challenging my physical and mental endurance began during the unprecedented year of 2020. Despite the uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to participate in the HDOR 100 Days of Running, the world’s largest running challenge. Balancing the responsibilities of caring for my young son, Yuvaan, and managing household chores, I ran over 5000 kilometers during the 100-day challenge. This determination and resilience not only earned me impressive International 3rd ranking with a trophy in my age category alongwith overall 4th rank in women’s, 11th rank in men and women combined plus the city rank of 1. It also helped me develop my own physical and mental strength, which positively impacted my well-being. And all this I was able to do when Yuvaan was only 2 and a half year old and all his therapies, homeschooling, independent skills were my complete responsibility due to the lockdown.
How it goes for me : Each day begins with my meditation or prayers [ 4- 5 times a day, some including Yuvaan], followed by some reading or research for SpecialSaathi projects. Then, after completing morning household chores, I head to the gym for a workout, even if I’m not a gym person rather an outdoor workouts person. To accommodate my son, I engage him with activities or let him explore the clubhouse library while I exercise.
How do I Make Time for Exercisingin Gym: Despite my busy schedule, I recognize the significance of regular exercise for my physical health as its another form of meditation for me. I have been a marathon runner, and a recreational sports person for quite a few years. So, strength and endurance training, practicing for long hours in stadium has been a part of my life. So,currently I have incorporated a daily workout routine [gym, running, walk, or playing some indoor sports] of 120- 180 minutes into my schedule. While my preference and liking lies in outdoor activities and sports, I have currently adjusted my routine to fit my present circumstances, which often means working out in the gym. Schools being closed due to the Summer vacations, I have to include my son Yuvaan in it and I take him along in the gym, engaging him with activities like watching cartoons on TV there, playing rhymes on the Bluetooth speakers, providing him some snacks, giving him his coloring/worksheets time or even allowing him to do minimal exercise on treadmill, crosstrainer and on exercising cycle. And in any case if nothing works, I take him along to the clubhouse library as he loves to read book there, meanwhile I finish my remaining dumbbells and floor exercises. This way, I ensure that my workout time is not compromised while still attending to my son’s needs and even gradually involving him in a healthy lifestyle.
Rest and Relaxation: After completing my exercise routine, I and Yuvaan return home, where we take bath, and a quick lunch and we both indulge in a period of rest and relaxation. While Yuvaan enjoys unstructured playtime in his room, I take this opportunity to rejuvenate myself, whether by taking a nap or engaging in just simple relaxing activities in Yuvaan’s room only. These moments of downtime are crucial for recharging our energy levels and promoting overall well-being and helps me recharge for the rest of the day.
Finding Moments for Productivity: I completely understand the importance of balancing my personal and professional responsibilities. After my quick resting period, I dedicate time to reply to official messages, emails, and calls while still in bed. This allows me to address work-related tasks efficiently before heading to the kitchen to prepare evening snacks for myself and Yuvaan. During this time, I also spend good 15-20 minutes engaging in a study session with Yuvaan, fostering his learning and development. With my son occupied in his studies, I use the time to finish my remaining work be it office or household, juggling in between in his studies.
Swimming and Bonding Time: Soon after Yuvaan’s studies and my remaining work is over, we head to the swimming pool. One of our favorite activities is swimming, and we make sure to participate together. Yuvaan takes the full responsibility of the necessary preparations of bags and changing clothes and getting ready by himself. While he swims in the kids’ pool, I keep a watchful eye on him from the adjacent bigger pool or jacuzzi pool wherever I am. There are 2- 3 lifeguards as well who keeps vigilance in place. Hence, I and Yuvaan, we spend some quality time swimming and enjoying the facilities for around 45 minutes to 2 hours. Swimming has become a significant activity in my and Yuvaan’s routine during summers. This activity not only promotes physical fitness but also serves as a bonding experience between us. If weather conditions doesn’t permit us to swim, we head to the parks, playground and spends time playing, running, interacting with kids, pets and neighbors.
Evening Chores and Special Me-Time: Upon returning home, Yuvaan heads toward his most favorite “Computer time” and I attend to household chores and official work, effectively managing my time between the two.
Additionally, I include two significant quick moments of me-time in my evening routine. ●Firstly, I allow myself to indulge in self-pampering by treating myself to favorite fast foods, chips, chocolates or coffee, providing a much-needed emotional release. ●Secondly, I engage in what I call “shutdown time,” immersing myself in thinking with open eyes, that transport myself to a different world, allowing for relaxation and escapism.
My most relaxing me-time: Before I sleep, I make my son fall asleep in my lap in almost a 45 degree for almost 90 minutes, ensuring his sleep time and he gets adequate rest as he doesn’t sleep in afternoon. Moreover, any acidic reflux or gut issues are avoided this way. During this time, I take advantage of the me-time by watching my favorite shows, web series or listening to music with headphones.
Finally, putting Yuvaan comfortably on bed, I aim for 6-7 hours of sleep to rejuvenate for the next day.
Not only this, I and Yuvaan indulge in restaurant hopping as we love eating out. And specifically on every Sunday I take him to the mall where we both splurge ourselves entirely in roaming around Hamleys or any other toy shops, fun zone/play zone, or shopping. And we indulge in a lot of fun for 2- 3 hours, as we both love to roam around and just be outside..
Conclusion: Finding time for self-care as a busy parent is undoubtedly challenging, particularly when caring for a child with special needs. However, through my prepared mindset to adhere to a set routine, and to a little flexibility and managing it effectively, when needed; by carving out me-time, we not only nurture our own well-being but also empower ourselves to be the best parent, entrepreneur, and advocate for our child. Its possible only with proper motivation, determination, planning, and a willingness to prioritize oneself.
The purpose of sharing all this in my blog is to serve as a reminder that amidst the chaos of life, it is essential to make self-care a non-negotiable priority.
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Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Vinayak Raj