Starting the New Year Off RIGHT – Parenting, marriage and self-care
Well folks, it’s that time of year again; the time where we are supposed to look back over the past 12 months through rose tinted glasses and reflect upon our achievements. Setting goals and challenges for ourselves for the New Year that’s upon us.
Well, not me… I’m rubbish at sticking to my resolutions anyway!
You see, when I look back on the last year, all I can think about is how the heck did I survive it? What did I achieve last year? Well I’m still here and smiling, so that’s good enough for me right now!
We’ve had the most stressful year I could have ever imagined with my son needing to be homeschooled due to his all-consuming anxiety which crippled him. And I’m not ashamed to admit to you that as a result of this I ended up on anti-depressants, as I was simply buckling under the pressure of holding it all together for my family.
And finally I feel like things could just about be settling down for us. He’s adjusting to a new school, and my depression fog is slowly beginning to lift … so I almost don’t wanna tempt fate by making any wishes or resolutions for what I want next year. And besides which, I don’t know about you, but living with autism means we tend to spend our lives in the here and now, as I just can’t think too far ahead into the future. It’s too daunting, so we get through each day. We celebrate the little things, and then usually collapse into bed utterly wiped out, but deeply satisfied that another day is over.
So as I smugly wave goodbye to a stressful 2015, I reckon my focus has to be to make 2016 a simpler year for all of us. There was just too much drama last year.
You know another thing about me; apart from the fact that I can’t keep resolutions, is that I am keen baker (stay with me here as there is a point to this.) And I love to spend a few hours in the kitchen every now and again whilst the kids are at school, experimenting with new recipes. But every time without fail I always find myself coming back to my favorite cake. A good old Victoria Sponge. It has to be one of my all-time favorites, and you know what – out of all the cakes I have ever made – it also has to be the simplest. Not many ingredients and only a few steps involved, but if it’s done right the results are just scrummy. It works for me every time. I suppose you could say it’s my signature bake.
So I am going to ‘generalize my skills’ (you clued up autism folks will see what I did there) by saying that 2016 is going to be my Victoria Sponge Year. Simple… that’s my word for the year.
So what will this look like? Well let’s take a look at my life and how I am going to inject a little simplicity into it:
Me, myself and I…
I know us parents don’t like to be told what to do, but this really is essential and, if I’m honest, took me a long time to get my head around too. But in order to look after our kids, we need to look after ourselves. I need to accept help when it’s offered and stop beating myself up for being human.
- So I am going to make life easier on myself by simplifying my day. I will reduce my commitments and learn to say NO without feeling guilty.
- I will also try to accept myself for who I really am, and stop wishing my life was easier. My life is here and now. I will stop over-thinking and over-worrying about things. People can think what they want… does it really matter…The simple answer to that is No!
- I will try and pause for five minutes a day to notice the little things. To savor a sip of coffee, to smile when my kids are getting along, or walk in the rain like my son loves to do so much. He sees the pleasure in the simplicity of things and feels every raindrop on his face with a smile.
My marriage – “Do you take this tired exhausted mother to be your lawful wedded wife…”
Hmmm. Remember when we married Husband? We were young, fresh-faced and youthful. Well, we may be none of those things anymore, but I reckon we can learn a lot from those simpler times.
- Maybe we could have a date night in 2016? Now there’s a thought. Does it matter if little man doesn’t stick to his usual routine occasionally? Nah, I don’t think so. We need to be together, and laugh, and talk, and to simply just be ourselves sometimes.
- Another simple thing I think could help is switching off the tech every now and again. Our lives have become so saturated with instant information and social media, that simply to sit and watch a movie together sharing a bag of popcorn is something that very rarely happens So this year I aim to spend some of my evening (once the kids are in bed!?) With no mobile in hand, watching Netflix.
- And finally – and probably most important of all – I am going to try to remember why we married…Love. I love you with all my heart. It’s a simple as that! And I know sometimes life has a habit of taking over, but if we can remember that simple truth every day, then we’re not doing half bad.
Home – is where the heart is…
Home is where I can truly be myself. I laugh, cry, worry and try to make memories that last a lifetime. But it can also be a pretty stressful place to be at times. So this year I aim to put the needs of my family above all else, simplifying our commitments.
- We will do what’s right for all our children – including our son – and if people don’t understand that, then the new simpler me isn’t going to stress about it… as it’s their loss and not mine.
- I will worry less about the cleaning and what people think when they come round (they know where the Hoover is if it’s causing them that much distress).
- Accept there will be good and bad days and stop worrying about things out of my control.
- Embrace the bonkers! My house is a mad-house, plain and simple, take us you find us I say.
Parenting – The most rewarding and yet challenging job known to man…
There is so much advice out there for mums like me – the latest fad, recommendation, or therapy. Who do you listen to? I could drive myself round the bend with worry if I tried everything out there. So this year I aim to simplify things by having more faith in myself.
- I will trust my own gut instinct more than any other manual or advice sheet. That’s because I simply know my child better than anyone. And the honest truth is that if you’ve met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.
- I will have more courage and faith in my own knowledge when talking to professionals about my children. I won’t worry about how I come across because it’s my job to be their voice.
- I am going to try not to take so much on myself (ha ha). But seriously, teamwork makes things so much simpler. I don’t have to be the person that does everything. We are a family unit, and my husband and I are a team. We will disagree, but we need to be a united front to make life simpler for everyone.
So you see there is so much I can try to do in 2016 using just by focusing on one simple little word. I don’t need resolutions, or objectives or aims because my life is so crazy I would be setting myself up to fail.
Like a good Victoria Sponge, for me 2016 is going to be the year I do less… but do it much better!
Complicated isn’t always a good thing. Love, marriage, family, home and our kids are what are really important.
The simple things in life are!
2016 will be full of ups and downs, I am sure. Because I am simply a woman doing my best and that means I will make mistakes along the way. And often the simplest things to do are the hardest to achieve, as we fight to keep our head above water in our very hectic lives.
But if my son has taught me anything it’s this…to live in the here and now, to enjoy what you love doing and to not worry about what other people think.
Live everyday of this New Year for you and your family…
It’s a simple as that really!
Michelle Myers is a mum to three kids, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. She is a blogger and full time carer for her son. She also founded a Facebook page that offers a judgment-free place for parents and professionals to discuss all aspects of autism; no question is ever too silly! She has particular interest in sensory therapies and holistic approaches, and she likes to share her story “warts and all.”
In her ‘spare’ time she likes walking her dogs and reading.
This article was featured in Issue 42 – Autism: Fighting the Stigmas