Have you ever considered having a solitary respite vacation at home?
Seems like an oxymoron concept, right? Vacations are supposed to be AWAY from home to be a real vacation. How can you truly take a respite vacation at home when it reminds you of all you need to do?
Well, that depends on your definition of “vacation”.
If it’s defined as a chance to explore new places and seek thrills, then yes, that makes sense.
But if “vacation” means gaining a new perspective and just relax, then you don’t have to seek it elsewhere.
For five whole days, my entire family was gone. While they were at different camps, I was by myself at home. As in…alone…with no one around…to need me.
It was amazing to find solace in my entire house for more than a day. And not just in a bathroom locked away to escape the kids for a few seconds!
In other words, I experienced the pure bliss of SOLITUDE!
For me, that describes a respite vacation at home perfectly. When you get to a point in your life when you actually fantasize being a jail for a little while just to escape the pressures of home-life, then you NEED a respite away from others!
Respite doesn’t have to be expensive or far from where you live.
In fact, I encourage you to consider taking some time to be by yourself in the comforts of your own home.
Why a “solitude vacation” is “what the doctor ordered”
Have you ever wondered what daily life would be without someone else needing you every second of the day?
I can’t describe how lighter I feel by not having to worry about the demands of anyone else but my own. At least just for a little while.
Well, that’s not entirely true…
I still maintained a semi-normal routine: I still had dogs, cats and chickens to feed. And I did do laundry and dishes… only ONCE this week! I did cook…a few times.
BUT…I didn’t have to pick up and put away loose articles of papers, clothing, or shoes that weren’t mine. I didn’t have to run errands for someone else. I didn’t have to take someone to therapy or scouts or band or piano lesson.
I visited places I wanted to go, when I wanted to go. I could drive to another city and visit a friend. I could stay up and sleep in. Or, go to bed early and rise early…all because I could.
To a person without kids, the idea of staying at home but still having to work in the yard doesn’t sound like a vacation.
But to any parent of children, no matter how many, no matter what age and size, no matter their abilities or disabilities…BEING ALONE IS A VACATION!
Get into the “respite mindset” at home
Since you don’t have the distractions of serving and caring for others, you have more free time. How you want to use that free time is now your own choice. You don’t have to fit it into your schedule around others’ needs.
You do need to adopt the attitude that your home-space can be a vacation-space. That means letting go of obligations that haunt you into feeling guilt if you don’t do them. It may take a day or two to unwind to figure out how to take a respite vacation at home. Be kind to yourself!
First, what are your end-goals for respite?
- Figure out what you want to get out of your time in blissful solitary confinement at home. How do you want to feel by the end of the week? Do you want to feel calm and at peace? Do you want to feel more energy and alive? Do you want to gain a greater appreciation and gratitude for the blessings in your life? Do you want to feel more spiritually centered?
- Be aware of how you feel when doing certain things. If the act of performing a certain task itself brings you joy, then by all means do it. If the process only adds to your stress, forget it! For example, putting clutter away and doing some light cleaning at the start of my respite brings me to joy and peace to see order out of chaos. But I am not about to spend a whole day or week doing that. Blah!
Second, what are the means to achieve your respite goals?
- Create two different lists: “Tasks to NOT do” as well as “Tasks you want to do”. Drop certain task your normally do (like laundry) or at least minimize the time you spend on them if they stress you out. Maximize your time for things you always wanted to do but normally can’t with life’s constant distractions (like taking a whole day for reading your favorite novel or journaling).
- If you have some long-term “bucket list” goals, consider using this time to start working on those. Do you want to create new healthier habits? Do you want to reconnect with others you hardly get to see? Do you want to organize the mass of family photos in shoeboxes? This period of respite could enable you to gain the momentum to form new habits that will carry you through the more hectic days. Just as long as you have JOY in doing those things!
- Here are some specific things I did with my time: (Feel free to steal ideas…)
- Visiting with close friends without rushing back home
- Jumping on my son’s trampoline
- Laying outside and daydreaming as I watch the clouds go by
- Mowing the lawn (no joke, I actually enjoyed this)
- Sipping on a Frappacino at Starbucks while working on my blog
- Doing DVD exercises in which the instructor is in a gorgeous tropical setting
- Organizing my computer desk while watching Netflix comedians
- Hearing a political figure discuss foreign policy at my local university
- Participating in webinars that teach about cool vacation destinations
- Dealing with a thieving racoon at 3 am (okay…that was not on my to-do list)
Recruit others to “lift your load”
Let me guess. You’re probably thinking, Just exactly how am I supposed to get alone-time?
All I can say is…find ways to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
If we as autism parents don’t ask for help in the first place, it’s never going to come.
1. Take advantage of respite camps!
For me, it has become a lot easier now that my kids are teens. We can take advantage of opportunities built for this purpose. My daughter attended an autism camp about an hour away. Not only does it help her build self-confidence and independence skills, but it is designed to provide respite for special-needs parents.
2. Find local special needs day camps.
I urge you to contact local or state autism or special-needs advocacy groups for more information on opportunities like this. Some YMCAs even offer day-camps for special needs kids. If you can’t get an overnight break, then at least a day-long respite would suffice.
3. Get respite help through the Medicaid Waiver.
The Medicaid waiver provides respite as a service for parents. Find an agency that hires skilled workers you trust. Some agencies may even permit you to use allotted respite hours over a few days instead of a couple hours per week. If you trust your respite worker with your child overnight, then try at least a day or two away to see how that arrangement works.
4. Ask family or friends! By all means bribe them if you have to!
For one week my parents took care of our two kids when they toddlers. I went with my husband to the Walt Disney World area for a couples-respite. I didn’t even step foot in the parks. I de-stressed in solitude at the resort while my husband was at work conference. In the evenings we had fun and reconnected after the last few years of 24-hour baby care.
Since then, I have asked family, maybe once or twice a year, to take my kids overnight for a few days. They get to enjoy their grandkids more, and we get a much-needed parenting break.
5. Hire special needs caregivers.
Other avenues include hiring caregivers from companies located on the internet. An Indiana mom started a company called Synapsesitters after she had a hard time locating someone knowledgeable about autism. Another company to consider is Care.com, in which you can hire sitters and nannies who have experience with special needs.
Ask your therapy agencies for help in locating good help. Undoubtedly, they have clients who have probably requested the same thing. They may be able to recommend certain websites or local services over others.
Drop the “parent guilt”…and GO FOR IT!
I love, love, LOVE my respite! I feel refreshed and de-stressed. The daily routine doesn’t feel like a heavy burden. When I see my husband and kids again, I appreciate them more because I missed them. This time also helps me recognize unhealthy parenting habits that I need to change.
Too many autism parents neglect their personal need for respite. The excuses?
No one understands my child’s needs. I don’t have money or time for that. No one is around to help me. My child absolutely needs me all the time.
Guess what? Your child will survive without you for a little while! The compounding stress of daily life without a break over weeks, months, or even years may make you resentful or make interacting with your autistic child more frustrating.
Recognize when you need to take a step back to renew your mind, body and perspective on life. Plan respite time far out in advance like a real vacation.
Do EVERYONE a favor, but especially yourself: take advantage of a respite vacation at home and all the benefits it will bring to you and your family!
For a wonderful therapeutic getaway in an ethereal setting, visit Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. Perfect for a family or friends vacation…but also great for taking time for yourself!