My husband will kill me for this post but it’s important so he can stop reading now (I’m talking to you, Josh). Josh and I usually look pretty happy but the last 11 years have not been a bed of roses unless those roses had long thorns on them, and I kept rolling over them and they hurt really badly.
Josh and I got pregnant on our honeymoon, so in total we had 9 months of married alone time, and I was very sick for most of it! Then we had our perfect baby with all the little concerns. In 2010 I started doing research on autism so I could be more informed. Do you know what the first thing that popped was? It was divorce rates. The divorce rate for couples who have children with special needs is nearly double the divorce rate for couples who do not. NEARLY DOUBLE!!! I was shocked! This really hit me hard! We were a young couple, we had a baby, we were scared, and I had no idea we were also at risk of splitting up!
-Our first professional pictures as a family of 3
The first five years were rocky! Extremely rocky! I believe we survived the first 5 years because I was stubborn and refused to be a statistic! Seriously, we have been all over the place. I’ve tried to leave, he’s tried to leave, there have been ups and downs. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just walk away but that isn’t the life God planned for me and it isn’t the life I want. If I walk away then I miss out on all the good times and there were/are LOTS of good times.
-Josh and Tay playing in the leaves. She hated this experience but I like playing in the leaves so we’re doing it.
We are currently living in Kirksville, Missouri. It feels like we live on an island, disconnected from our family. My family lives an hour and a half away in Keokuk, Iowa and Josh’s family lives an hour and a half away in Hannibal, Missouri. I think that is absolutely the hardest thing about all of this. It is nearly impossible to find someone to watch Taylor for a few hours so we can get some alone time. We can’t just decide we want a date night, because we can’t leave her with just anyone.
Some time ago our parents got together and decided it would be a good idea for them to take our kids one weekend each month so we can have some alone time. That has made all the difference. Each month my parents take one kid and Josh’s parents take the other kid and they get some alone time with our kids and we get alone time with each other. Once a month we all get in our cars and meet in a tiny little town called Taylor, Missouri. It is inconvenient for everyone involved but I LIVE for these weekends. When things get rough with Taylor, I think about how I only need to make it 2 more weeks or 1 more week until I get a break for a couple days. Before they started taking the kids, I always thought about how this was my life forever and I was never going to get a reprieve. I thought I just had to suck it up, but then I would go into this depression that I had a really hard time digging out of.
-Team Taylor! She’s actually the only normal one of the bunch!
If you’re reading this and it’s all resonating with you I encourage you to seek out your own reprieve. (You don’t even need to have a child with special needs to feel this way.) Maybe your family is even further away than mine is and there is no chance of getting help once a month from them. Think about people you trust. Is there anyone in your life you could trust to take your kids for a few hours every now and then? Maybe there is a nice family at your church that would be willing to take your kids to the park for a few hours for a playdate and let you just sit on your couch and be you for a little bit.
My next piece of advice is that you are absolutely allowed to do whatever you want with your free time. Let me say that again for the people in the cheap seats! NO ONE GETS TO DECIDE WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR FREE TIME! I used to think that I needed to use my free time to get all of these things done because there are so many things I can’t do with Taylor at home. My parents were taking the kids so I could get things done and they would be disappointed if they dropped her back off and my house was still a mess. I came to realize the time I get alone is best used to work on my own mental wellness. That’s what I need it for! I don’t care if my floors are mopped, but I do care if my depression and anxiety keep me from taking care of my family. If you want to sit on your couch and watch 3 seasons of Friends while eating a large taco pizza, DO IT! If you want to drive to a winery and just enjoy the day, DO IT! On the flip side, if you want to spend your whole day pulling weeds in the garden or repainting your kitchen cabinets, DO THAT! No one gets to tell you what you do with your free time! I’ve said it 3 times now because it’s important! That is YOUR time!
For me, I get a whole weekend so I split my time up. I usually spend 1/3 of it doing housework, 1/3 doing homework, and 1/3 just sitting on my duff starting at the tube or doing something with the hubs. I like it when I get hubs time but it’s football season so there isn’t a lot of that right now ☹Regardless of what I’m doing or NOT doing, that’s my time, that is what makes me happy, that is what feeds my mental wellness.
-Playing indoor mini golf on one of our kid-free weekends
The next item on the advice list (because I feel like some of you need advice today). Don’t be afraid of accepting help. I cannot tell you how many times people have offered to help me and I have said, “No, that’s alright!” I NEEDED THAT HELP! GOD SENT ME THOSE PEOPLE AND I TURNED THEM DOWN! Accept the help!!! You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to do anything alone. It’s fine to let Joe from across the street help you carry your groceries in! He has 5 free minutes and you are worried your child will run out into the street while you try to get everything in the house. Who is going to look down on you for this? NO ONE!!! And this one’s a freebie: You probably made Joe’s day by letting him help you! You actually accepted help and made someone feel good along the way! WIN-WIN!!!
OK let’s recap, here’s the facts:
*marriage is hard!
*marriage with children is hard!
*marriage with a special needs child is hard!
*Seek out your reprieve!
*Don’t let people tell you what to do during your reprieve!
That’s all for today fam! I’m glad you stopped by! No matter what brought you here today, I hope you found a tiny little nugget to take from this post and you can use it in your life! Take care of you, friends! See you next time!
P. S. For more encouragement and mental health resources sign up for our newsletter here!