“You cannot pour from an empty jug”
…A short period of relief from something difficult or unpleasant
The dictionary gives Mummagrizzlybear this definition as she tries to establish if she has had a holiday or taken respite? What the dictionary does not offer is guidance on the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of respite and whilst I was sat on the beach on the last morning of my break last Sunday this is what I contemplated most.
When I had children, I anticipated the odd occassion here and there where spoiling grandparents would want to whisk my babybears off me to have their special time with my little cherubs. I’d call those a ‘night off’ or ‘date night’ with daddybear. Heck we might even build up to a ‘dirty weekend’ but I’d never considered those breaks becomig respite. Because innocently the word had never been something i’d connected with parenting. Sure as parents, you’d reach out for help or support but not respite. Respite was something different. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I officially embraced being a carer as well as a parent. Mostly because I’d neglected to be made aware that with a child with a disability there also came this new title; and with this new title, a whole new level of expected roles that i’d fulfill. In recent months I’ve even had to resign from half of my beloved job to facilitate being that parent-carer and the truth is I have resented having to do this. That said, mummagrizzlybear can see light at the end of the tunnel (she whispers this in her head only to avoid tempting fate) and since becoming a less over stretched parent-carer, life seems to be falling into a bit more of a manageable routine. But shit, the last 6 months have been tough and on more than one occassion I’ve had random encounters with the word ‘respite’, ranging from advice that ‘I need it’ to information about how ‘I do not qualify for help towards it’.
Months ago, friends invited us out to Spain (kid-free) to celebrate a 30th. Even back then, I know in my head somewhere I wondered who would take over the parenting role for us but we were in a good place and excited by the prospect of saying yes. Fast forward a few months and in contrast we were then in the midst of the worst period of our lives. Babybear was critically vulnerable and we were enduring trauma as a family. We were broken. Emotionally exhausted and we had lost hope. We’d given up on any chance of holidaying. I couldn’t see how I could leave my boys. They needed me. Daddybear and I had sat in each others arms crying, sad that we had no idea if the future would get better, scared that we had lost any aspirations for our baby bear and fearful that we might not survive the stress. I was giving everything I had in every area I could. Ironically at work I started delivering a course on self care and it was this that forced me to reflect on our capacity to continue to pour from empty jugs. We needed to refill. Health professionals, support workers and family alike were pointing this out to us but we didn’t know how to achieve this.
“You cannot pour from an empty jug”
Queue grandaddybear. I’m a massive daddy’s girl and he’d been a rock to me, checking in on me, phoning for no reason, remembering to scoop me up whenever he could and reassure me that I’d get through this. On hearing we had the offer of a cheap getaway he made it simple. “Book the flights, I’ll book it off work”. No questions. No hesitations. Just GO.
Skip on and months later we were kid-free in an airport choked by a mixture of anxiety and excitement. My brain was racing with panic. Had I left enough ‘to-do’ lists? Written enough notes? Would grandaddybear survive? Will the kids resent us? We were all in a far more stable place and some of that I credit to the optimism that booking this trip brought about.
This brings me to the HOWs
R ealise that you require this for you and your children’s benefit
E mbrace the idea and look forward to it
S ource the support you need to be able to get away
P repare the stand in caregiver because you’ll feel better by having done so
I nvite them to stay with you before you go, let them see the stuff you do that you just can’t describe
T rust that they’ve got this covered. Let go of the reigns
E scape. Just go.
Daddybear and I enjoyed 4 days of Spanish sunshine, copious amounts of alcohol and time with no agenda. We relaxed, walked and talked, slept when we needed to, ate when we wanted to, stayed up late and laughed like we’d not laughed for years. We reconnected as a couple and found ourselves as individuals again. We were fortunate to be in fab family company who understood just how tough things had been and just how important this break was. They helped us relax and giggle and this combination for me led me to pee my pants!!! Oh the shame!
On our last sunny day I sat alone with my coffee on the sand with the sound of the sea typing out a version of this blog, attempting to justify why we needed respite. After an hour of typing away I accidentally deleted the blog, something which would usually push me over the edge in frustration. But not that day. I could let it go. Sure I was gutted but I was so refreshed and rested that I felt able to overcome anything.
And now for the WHYs
R est to refresh yourself
E xcitement to bring back your spark
S tress reliever
P reventative measure against mental health and stress related issues
I nsight into just what is possible, who you are aside from a parent-carer and just how well your kids can cope without you
T ime for yourself. Taking care of you is just as important as the care you give to others
E nergise your mind, body and spirit ready for returning to your caring role
Whether you believe we have holidayed or had respite is neither here nor there. We arrived home and hit the ground running, straight back to the ups and downs of ordinary parenting combined with the complexities of parenting a child with PDA. Grandaddybear gained an up to date insight into our parenting world and told us he doesn’t know how we do it. They all survived but I’ve no doubt he needed a rest! We cannot thank him enough, we are so grateful. One week home and we are reminded of how tiring our reality can be but we’ve had our pick me up so we know we can plough on.
*ironically, this blog post has crashed on me 4 times in its creation and each time I’ve tried to re type it I’m certain I’ve forgotten a really good point I meant to raise…if its shown me something, its that resilience and patience can be restored from a little self care.