I don't know if I need to vent or hear suggestions, but I'm just spent. DH and I have zero- ZERO- time to ourselves or time to spend with one another and it seems like that is just not going to change. We are both frustrated with this current situation and cannot figure out how to change it.
We have a almost 4 yo DS who is a wonderful, wonderful boy who also happens to have SPD. His SPD needs are definitely life altering for him, as well as us. We are constantly trying to keep up with his sensory needs throughout the day with a regular sensory diet, but he always requires 100% out of one of us. He cannot be left alone anywhere in the house, he does not really play on his own for any length of time, and many of his seeking behaviors are very physical and can be dangerous. If we leave the house, he needs to be in constant physical contact with one of us, as he bolts frequently. To say the least, taking care of him means you have to bring your A game.
Our 11 month old daughter is a pure joy. But she is terrified of anyone besides me and DH. Howls, cries, and is miserable around other adults. I know it is likely just a phase, but it certainly seems to be a long one. So having someone babysit her is pretty much out of the question. Besides that, at night she wakes every few hours and is only soothed by me (ok, and my boob).
So what on earth are we supposed to do? I would love a date with my husband, but I feel like we have no options. We have no family nearby. My inlaws live 40 minutes away, but they are no help and would not drive here to watch our children. Besides that, they have no idea how to care for our son.
We have a babysitter but there's no way she could safely put our son and daughter to sleep at night. I'm certain it is not possible. DH can't even put them both to bed. Its always me. Our son goes into extreme sensory overload when the nighttime routine is altered in any way.
We have one couple that we've been friends with forever and I know they are really upset that we don't go out with them anymore. They are childless and have a bit more freedom than us. How do I even explain our limitations to them? I've tried but it always comes out sounding lame.
Not really. My 11 year old has SPD, anxiety disorder, etc... We couldn't leave her for years and years. Especially not at night! It hasn't gotten easier, just worse because we added kids into the equation. My time to myself is any bit of time I manage to squeeze out to frantically catch up on household chores, errands or the back log of other must do stuff.
DH and I just last summer decided that we really needed to spend a little bit of time together every now and then. After 10+ years of barely getting 5 minutes to talk. We try to have a sitter come 1-2 times a month for a very early dinner. If everything is timed right, I meet DH at his office at 5pm and then we have to be back home by 7pm to start bedtime. It is better then nothing! This is going to be the extent of our time together for many years.
We do not have friends or a social life. We tried to keep up some connections when DD1 was younger but it just got impossible when we added autism into the mix with another child. No one wants to hang with us and our kids and we certainly can't leave the children to go hang out. We haven't done anything socially since we had children. Most people do not understand. I don't even try to explain anymore, they either understand or they don't but I simply don't have the time or the energy to help them see what our daily life is like.
I just want to add that my 11 yr old DS was a handful when he was younger, and we never got a babysitter (except occasional out-of-town grandparents) until he was 4. He has had many diagnosis over the years including developmental delays (including speech), dyspraxia and SPD. When he was almost 3, a psychologist told us he had borderline autism, but he was re-tested before kindergarten and was not near borderline. He has tested high for Aspergers, and when he was 7, it became clear that he had tics (a PANDAS-like disorder is suspected by some). He recently started with OCD as well. In any case, he is such a good boy now, that we sometimes will leave him by himself for a little while. Also, he has always been well behaved for babysitters, which we started hiring on occasion around age 4 1/2.
Now my daughter had severe separation anxiety for part time pre-school for years and years...starting at age 9 mos...all the way up to almost 5 yrs old. It would get better for a little while, and then kick in full blast! Even the first day of kindergarten she was freaking out. She finally found her groove, and only had one or two "cry-ful" days at kindergarten the whole year. For some reason, she was fascinated with the babysitters we hired, and never had the anxiety with them...only at school....and doctors! It was bad. She would get physical and everything! She's better now, but I am wondering if she has internalized some of it...as she has had a lot more stomach issues lately, and has been panicking about things that never used to bother her that much (fear of flying, etc.)
I guess what I am saying is, it will get better.... but other issues will come up, as they get older. It seems to come in waves!
My son also couldn't go to sleep without me until about 5. I got alone time during the day, coffee while my mom played with my son at my house 5 min away. Even with your cell on, and being so cloze by, it was worth the break.
I became so much more relaxed when the kindle paperwhite came out. Seriously, it means time spent soothing my child to sleep (boob, or just my presence) is time I get to READ, snuggled up in my warm and comfy bed, and it even helps my kids relax because I am relaxed. So cool. So that's time for myself.
About having more time with your husband? For us, at the moment, the worst time-together killer is that I am just so exhausted I fall asleep with the kids, or even if I stay awake reading until after they've dropped off, I often do not manage to make it out of my warm comfy bed. And if we're both up, we're often too exhausted to do more than catch up with our emails or taxes or load the dishwasher or whatever. We try to do "nights in", surprising one another with a movie that we feel the other might enjoy (we don't even bother with hiring them, because it usually takes us weeks to finish them, watching in half-hour instalments or so once we've done the taxes or whatever it is and before we both panic and go to bed because we know 6 am is rolling around so fast.
If there is a movie we really like to see at the theatre we prefer matinee showings, say 3-5, and maybe have a quick supper afterwards somewhere, be back in time to put the kids to bed. Way less stressful than trying to get them to sleep in time to catch the 8.30 showing or whatever, worrying about whether the little one will go back to sleep without me and if we do happen to feel energized enough to go out for a quick drink after, worrying that it'll be too late for the grandparents sitting up in our house.
Not sure whether this works with your kids but we have learned to really enjoy taking our kids out - asking at nice restaurants whether it's okay to bring the kids for lunch, planning special outings doing stuff we know they'll enjoy so we get to relax as well. Cooking really nice Sunday lunches for all of us, and making sure it's stuff they'll actually eat (some of their sensory stuff is worst around food).
Your friends are childless? For heaven's sakes, they can live with coming to see you at your place for a couple years longer, can't they? How about theme nights - make your own alcohol free cocktails to enjoy with the movie (because on of them will be driving, they should appreciate that, and the other one can just spike their cocktail), have them bring a really nice bottle of wine (having one glass of wine being considered perfectly breastfeeding-compatible in Europe, YMMV), or shell out together for one of those dinners where they actually come to your house with the food, serve it and all.
I feel for you!
Self care is so important when we are in give mode and or survival mode pretty much 24/7 due to SPD or other issues with our kids. And yet it is SO HARD to actually find the time, let alone energy to actually find a way to have some sanity time or quality time with partner. My social life is pretty lame the last 4 years or so!
I've found that adjusting expectations has helped - an evening out might not be very do-able in this season, but taking an hour away to grab a starbucks and read, meet a friend, or yoga or gym or whatever you do that recharges you is so important, and I'm rubbish at fitting it in, then i get burned out, and realise I must start having some kind of break somehow, so i try and do better, then forget again...rinse, repeat...
Not having help / family nearby is so hard. I am blessed to have in-laws who help once a week. Our OT reminded me today that I have to find a way to take little breaks because as the mom with a kid with SPD and delays I am basically being a therapist all day and much of the night (sleep deprivation is the other thing - isn't it awful!?!) and it is exhausting as much as we love being mom and adore our kids it. is. hard. work. and It's nice to get some validation sometimes so i appreciated her saying that so I'm repeating it for all of us - you're doing great! now go find a way to treat yourself or have a little break whatever that can look like right now :)
Thanks for all the feedback, guys! It is reassuring to know that at least we are not alone in this situation....
I think DH and I have somewhat committed to a few afternoon hours out every once in a while. As some of you mentioned, this is more doable than trying to get the kids to sleep and then have enough energy to actually go out at night. We have also been splitting the kids up recently and doing things separately with each of them. Though its not ideal because we don't get to see one another, we can actually get a few things done when we are just with one child as opposed to two. Lunches or dinners out with the whole family is a nice suggestion, but really more stressful than its worth. DS can barely sit still for 10 minutes before he starts sensory seeking....
I don't know how to address our childless friends, though. I fear we may lose them. Visitors in our house is a huge trigger for DS, so having our friends over for dinner would not work. I've encouraged DH to try to go out with them on his own for now.
Part of me just really needs to make peace with the fact that very few others understand what this scenario with our son entails on a daily basis. And I have to get over the fact that we will not ever have family help, even with our inlaws nearby. :-(
Very few people get it. Very, very few.
While you many not ever have family help, your kids are still super young and this will most likely get a bit easier in a few years. I know how long that sounds, and I understand the concern about losing friends who just don't get it (and may not ever get it depending on what their own kids are like). I just think it would be best to not take "never have family help" to mean that things will always be as rough as they are right now.
And your childless friends -- you could leave the kids with dad on a saturday morning and meet your friend for breakfast? I love meeting a friend for breakfast.
but everything has pros and cons
We spilt our family up all the time. It is actually very, very rare for all of us to be together. We have severe aggression issues with the boys so our most common scenario involves one parent and one boy each. We even have to often taken separate cars. We don't do lunches or dinners out at all because of behavior and sensory issues. In the summer we will often "do dinner at the park" which is quite nice actually. My family lives right by us and they don't help either so I understand that angle as well. We just have to hire the help we need.
The breakfast out idea that Linda mentioned is awesome!
ElderSon is 32, and my youngest 2 Dumplings still at home are 17 and 18. For a time, I had 6 kids in the home - the Dumplings were 14 and 13, 2 therapeutic level foster kids (very high needs and high supervision), and my 2 grandbabies (2 months and 2 years). Plus my elderly Mom. Yes, I "get" exhaustion! I completely lost touch with ALL friends, and had no social life at all. Period. I have been doing this parenting thing pretty intensely for over 3 decades! YoungSon had severe separation anxiety (in addition to autism and other diagnoses) until the last few years, and babysitter was out of the question. And like you describe, being with him and the foster-dumplings was 100%. They all needed full attention. Plus an active toddler, and an infant with night feedings. I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling single parent, and really NEVER got a break. I don't mean to sound like I am trying to one-better anyone else's situation. Just mean that I GET IT! In spades.
It really does get better, I promise. Today, the grand-dumplings have returned to their Dad, my Mom lives in a Personal Care Home just a few blocks away, I am no longer a foster parent, and the 2 at home are pretty darn independent. I work full time outside the home, and YoungSon calls me once or twice a day to check in. I still have no friends or social life, but I plan to start working on that. But the really big news is...
I am planning a vacation, my first ever, in 2 weeks. I will have a cheap hotel room at the beach, 3 hours away, for 3 nights. 2 full days! A pile of books on one side of the bed, a basket of knitting on the other, and NO PHONE!! I can't describe how excited I am. Only another parent, who has parented so intensely could understand how big a deal this is. We all deserve a vacation.
Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)
Thanks, Linda! Good reminder, I know this will all change eventually. My in laws have actually made more of an effort to visit briefly over the course of the last year, so I suppose I should be grateful for that! To be honest, I'm not sure that I could take them for more than an hour or two, anyway.
I have tried meeting my friend while DH is with our kids. Finding a day we are both available is beyond challenging. She is only available on Sat/ Sun, yet that's when DH often works. I've suggested breakfast, but she likes to sleep late on the weekends. But I'm going to keep at it.... breakfast does sound really nice!
It can definitely be hard to get "me time" or "couple time" or even any down time when your children are very young. All I can say is that it does get better as the kids get older.
I'm wondering whether you have respite care available? I don't know how funding works where you are or what kind of support systems are available, but this may be something to consider. Such people are professionals who are used to handling children who need such close attention.
Also, when your son is older you may choose to send him to school or even if you homeschool, as we do, there may be after-school programs, camps, etc. available. We homeschool and my son (HFA) goes twice a week to an after-school program where they go on outings, do crafts, etc. and they run spring break and summer camps.
If you have no funding but can spare some extra money, you should look into finding a therapist or aid who would be willing to do some one-on-one work with your son either in the home (ideally) or outside the home. It may take a while of you being there supervising visits until your child and this person got to know each other but then you would have an option to go out and do something.
Finally, I will highly second the notion of reading books while doing such things as laying in bed waiting for a child to fall asleep (had to do this for many years with my two on the spectrum).
Homeschooling, Homesteading Mama to DD ('02) and DS ('04)