We’ve been at this special needs parenting thing for 11 years now. It’s intense, scary and overwhelming more days than we will tell you about. It’s never ever getting to let your hair down, because somebody in your home is counting on you to do CPR, save their life, or monitor their vitals. Even nurses and doctors get time off, but as the parents, we don’t.
We sometimes get respite in the form of nurse or personal care attendant. And for the really lucky ones, sometimes a family member will step in and step up to help too. But this isn’t an overwhelming majority of special needs households.
So how do you give a break to a parent who really can’t take one? How do you even know what kind of gift to give them?
Well, it’s a two-fold gift, and you truly need both parts for reasons explained in this post.
- You HIRE one of their current respite workers and pay for that person to care for the child.
- THEN, you give them a gift card to go do something nice for themselves. Or you make the plans and just take them with you and treat them.
This works on so many levels because most of the finances in the home go to support the needs of the child, and rarely do we get an opportunity to treat ourselves, or feel like we even can without the guilt of where that money could be used or the guilt of time away from the child who needs us. Hiring someone we already trust to take care of our child means we might actually get to relax and not worry the whole time we are away.
There was a season I didn’t have the time to cut, highlight or color my hair for 3 years. Apart from the financial aspect, which we were already paying medical bills with fundraisers. Then there was the actual TIME that was incredibly difficult to even find. Trying to work a job (and few of us are able to), shuttling said child from therapist to doctor to next therapist, calling insurance and medical providers to sort out billing errors and getting pre-authorizations … it’s just a black hole that sometimes we can’t get out of unless a loving friend or family member just makes it happen. We make hundreds of life altering decisions on a daily basis – won’t you please just decide where to take me to get my hair cut, or steal me away for a massage or pedicure and lunch and just TELL ME where we are going? I’ve been known to have massage gift certificates for well over a year or longer before I actually make the time to use one. So while the gift card is so very thoughtful and appreciated, if I don’t have the respite care to go with it, it may never get used.
Take my husband to a movie or golfing or to the shooting range and dinner with the dudes. He probably won’t talk about his feelings, but he needs that sense of community with other people who appreciate him as a friend or as a fellow special needs parent.
This kind of two-part gift is the best kind you can offer to a parent who needs to recharge and relax for a few hours. It’s like taking a mental health day to just breathe in air outside of home or work and talk to someone other than medical professionals. Because sometimes, we just need to breathe on our own. It’s like taking the oxygen mask for ourselves for a moment and taking a mental break. Don’t we all need that?