Take time for yourselves as parents, together and separate, no excuses

On a personal retreat in Boston.

On a personal retreat in Boston.

Imagine you have a little two-year old that barely speaks.  You are going about your business in the kitchen because you’re getting ready to make lunch.  All of the sudden you hear a scream, so loud and shrill, that you are enveloped by an overwhelming feeling of desperation.  You are so shocked and anxiety ridden that you yourself are shaking as you drop everything and RUN to your child.  He cannot communicate with you and all you do is start checking his little body. Did he hit something?  Did he fall? Did he cut himself? Does he have internal bleeding? (Yes, when you’re a mother, you go there: to the worst places imaginable).  All your baby boy can do is cry and scream.  And all you can do is hold him and rock him gently until he calms down, which can take up to 20 minutes.  

You’re not making lunch anymore.  You wonder what you could do to make it better for him, completely forgetting yourself. You are exhausted and all you want is for your baby to be fine so you can rest and come back from the shock of the experience.  This happens every few days.  You are at your wit’s end.  You need help.  But you see all these moms that seem to do it all without issue.  Somehow they manage life with ease.  And you start thinking something is very wrong with you.  You’re a bad mom.  You don’t deserve the title.  

Then, your husband comes home and you let out on him.  You fall apart and he doesn’t know what to do because he doesn’t even know what happened.  Or maybe he does know what happened, and you have one of those people that understand that, for the sake of everyone, you need a break.  He sends you away and tells you that it’s his turn. His day has not been a walk in the park either, but he had entered this family knowing full well that whatever came, he would do what needed to be done to support us all. He understood that supporting a family was not merely by bringing home a paycheck, but by being present to each and every one of us.  

When we had Will, we had no choice but to take care of ourselves.  The best way to deal with Will’s behaviors was when we were rested. Our health became a huge priority. When I was not rested, I was not the best version of myself.  Patience was thin, and growing up Puerto Rican gave me “permission” to yell at people.  I would feel a release, but then the person receiving my yelling had to deal with my anger AND theirs.  This was how I operated until Will taught me that my behavior didn’t work with him. It made it worse.  We didn’t understand each other.  He would have more tantrums and I would become angrier. 

Once I had my “just love him” episode with my friend (see “Grieving the autism diagnosis: a personal story” on my blog), I had the deep understanding that his behavior was a reflection of his inability to tell me what he needed me to know and my refusal to meet him halfway.  Once we got the diagnosis and we received tools to help decipher him, we finally began to understand each other.

As I learned pranayama, the Sanskrit word that roughly translates into “life extension” and is understood in yoga today as breath work (breath being the life giving force), I saw that this would be beneficial for Will too. I started to catch Will when he would begin to get frustrated with his toys, that if left unchecked, would cause those full blown tantrums.  I would hold his little face in my hands and made him look at me.  I would make an exaggerated version of an inhale, opening my mouth wide and puffing my chest. As I exhaled, I would blow a little air on his face so he would know to breathe out.  As I practiced catching him before he got to the point of no return, he learned to catch himself.  I could go to him, come down to his level, say his name so he would look at me, and make the inhale and exhale face as I would say “breathe”, and he would do the same. I would then ask what he needed, he would show me, and disaster would be averted.  Peace was something that we were slowly mastering at the house.  I became more aware of my emotions and he became more aware of his.  We allowed each other to have our emotions and we learned how to deal with them.  It was okay to yell into a pillow or get a squeeze (a strong hug), but it was not okay to throw things.  I would catch him being good, and I would pat myself on the back for handling situations with grace. This was great practice for when Stevie came along and it was his turn to learn how to deal with his emotions.

One of my favorite lessons that Will gave me was when he was three years old, and we were running late for school.  It was my fault we were running late, but I was putting it on him because he was not getting into his car seat or buckling his seat belt fast enough for MY schedule. 

“Will, put your seatbelt on!!!”, I yelled with anger.

He looked at me right in the eye and then exaggeratedly inhaled and exhaled. 

I melted.

My eyes watered.

I took a deep breath and tried again. “You’re right, buddy. I’m so sorry.  It’s okay if we’re late.  I love you.” 

He let me hug him as tears streamed down my face.  That’s when I knew our pace would need to be much slower.  Mindfulness would HAVE to be part of our lives.  All the time.

It was around this time that I really learned to mediate and pray.  I learned to take time for myself.  I learned how to ask for help and how to receive it.  I realized that I didn’t have to do it all and that help was always available, I just had to be specific and ask for it.

Whether you have a partner or you don’t, know that this is NOT important.  What IS important is the way in which you treat and take care of yourself.  The more internal work you put in, the more whole and complete you will feel and the less you’ll need any one in your life.  The reason why I mention my husband and how important he is for our family is to show those families that DO have partners, who have a relationship with each other and their children, that creating a balanced relationship IS possible.  

Relationships can be very messy, but if there is understanding on BOTH sides, a knowing that no matter if this person decides to stay in the relationship or not, you are each complete and sovereign in your own right, you then allow more freedom to your partner and because your partner sees you trusting them more, they trust you and return the favor.  Then there is a beautiful balance and a sense of equality where there is NO dependency on each other. You are truly happy for each other, each other’s lives and successes, together and apart. This takes work and an acknowledgement from BOTH parties.  

If this relationship does not exist for you, then begin to look at the way you perceive your relationship and relationships in general.  Remember, YOU alone are the one that sees and perceives your world.  Nobody else is in your mind with you.  It is up to you to decide what you want and what you don’t want, and to communicate those things clearly. Just make sure you come to conclusions about your relationship from a place of completeness and love when you need to make hard decisions.  If not, you risk self-sabotage.  This is where I believe it’s extremely important to have a connection to your Higher Power, whatever that may be, to have the guidance and clarity to act for your best and highest good.

A beautiful example of letting go 13 years in the making…

 Martin is like the partner I mentioned above.  He often kicks me out of the house and tells me to go to yoga, go grade or write.  He knows that I am better when I have my time.  And by being so giving to me, I learned to give back to him.

Earlier in our relationship I had such a difficult time letting him go out with his friends.  I didn’t know how to explain it to him, and instead I would be mad at him and at times even cry that he left me alone.  As I explored these feelings of abandonment, and because I was tired of feeling this way every time he went out by himself, I realized that I was allowing them to control me. I knew I was safe and that no harm would come to me, but the feelings were so strong and overpowering.  It took time, but by cultivating self-awareness and self-love, I was able to let go. I knew that he did better and was a happier partner if he had time with his buddies. 

I had a huge breakthrough and I finally let him go on a guys’ weekend without texting or calling him once!  Even I was surprised.  When he came back, he was so grateful. “Babe, I just want to say thank you so much for not calling or texting me.  Everybody else kept on getting messages from their significant others and since you gave me the space to be at peace, I feel like I got all the rest I needed on this trip with the guys.” 

My trusting him completely to be on his own with his friends allowed him to feel like a true equal partner in our relationship.  We both felt like we had been given a gift.  I felt empowered to do it all by myself with confidence and love (not from a place of  “he owes me”, but one of “I really hope he’s having a wonderful time”), and he felt complete freedom being in our relationship that he was happy to be back home. There’s no aphrodisiac like knowing that you see your partner as your equal and he sees you as his.  Two equals coming together to make a whole.  We can be there for each other, lean on each other, but refrain from using each other. A true give and take.

We had a situation that made it very clear there was a choice available: be a victim, or run with it and make the best of it.  I’m glad we chose the second and we continue on that path every single beautiful day.

Whatever your situation, know that a life of love, light and abundance IS available to you at every moment in time, and you always have CHOICE.

My tools to help me stay grounded and centered: 

  • Yoga

  • Breathing

  • Meditation

  • Healing and therapeutic modalities like Reiki, Access Bars and Thetahealing

  • Salsa classes

  • Books on consciousness

  • Blogging

  • Writing

  • Etc… I’m always on the hunt to see what else is possible.

Look for yours and USE them. Above all, be loving and compassionate towards yourself. You’ve made it this far. You can make it so much further.