When your child has special needs, it consumes your life. There are so many things special needs parents have to juggle and adapt to in addition to all the typical parent responsibilities. There are therapy appointments, physical care, meltdowns, IEP meetings, special diets, lack of sleep … it leaves little to no time for your own needs.
Of course, we all know self-care is important. You’ve heard all the cliches. You have to put on your own oxygen mask first. You can’t fill up others if you’re empty. Blah, blah, blah … when you’re exhausted and at your wit’s end, self-care advice sometimes makes you lash out at friends and family members who only want to help. Which only makes you feel worse.
One thing that makes self-care difficult is that most options seem so far out of reach. A weekend away with your spouse or friends, hour and a half yoga classes, clothes shopping, fancy dinners or cocktails, hobbies, meditation and pretty much all enjoyable child-free activities require so much time and/or money, self-care seems futile.
Subscription boxes can bridge that gap. There are literally hundreds of subscriptions at all price points, and they conveniently arrive at your door. It’s such a great way to give yourself a little treat and make you feel human again.
Here are three of my favorites.
Remember back when you used to wear makeup, use a facial mask or try a new shampoo? For me, it’s not so much that I don’t have one minute to apply mascara, but in order to apply mascara, I have to go to a store, browse the options and purchase it. That’s a major undertaking for any mother, but it’s even harder when your child requires extra care.
That’s why it’s a gift from heaven when the post office delivers a cute bag or box each month filled with five makeup samples for just $10. I’ve subscribed to ipsy and Birchbox, which I both love, and recently learned that Sephora has one for $10 a month too, called Play!. I’ve received lip gloss, nail polish, face masks, perfume, eye shadow, makeup brushes and more in my boxes. You can customize your subscription to increase your odds of receiving samples you’re actually going to use. For example, contouring, highlighting and pretty much any foundation just ain’t gonna happen at my house, so I request quick and easy products like lip gloss and mascara. ipsy is especially cool because each shipment arrives in a cool makeup bag, and I use them as gift bags throughout the year. If it’s been a long time since you felt pretty, give one of these a try.
Before I had Tosh, I was a regular Martha Stewart. I baked bread, made pies, stuffed pasta shells and probably still have a lovely collection of decorative bundt pans collecting dust in the back of my cabinets. One of the hardest things about raising an autistic child is they have severe reactions to easy-to-prepare processed foods and the chemicals found in most restaurant food, so your choices are either find the time to prepare homecooked meals (which requires aforementioned shopping excursions) or forget about sleeping because the excitotoxins will keep your kid up all night.
Thank god I found Blue Apron. This meal kit service and other like it, like Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot, deliver a weekly box with everything you need to make two or three healthy, delicious meals. You still have to find the time to make them, and admittedly, some of mine occasionally go to waste when I just can’t find the energy. However, the waste is much, much less than the food I used to waste when I bought ingredients at the market and had to buy an entire bottle of rice vinegar I’d never use again or a bag of potatoes that I would never finish.
If your child is autistic, try involving them in the process. Tosh loves to help me unpack the box. He removes each item one by one and I say out loud what it is as he lines them up on the kitchen table. Then I let him put the items in the refrigerator. Sometimes he likes to help me make the meals, too. And once in a blue moon, he even tries something. I keep the leftovers for lunch or dinner the following day, which is a big time saver. The boxes are kind of pricey – generally $10 per plate – but because I eat so well, I rarely get sick and always feel pretty happy and energetic. And I get to indulge in one of my favorite hobbies. These things allow me to be more productive at work and be a better, happier and more patient mama, so to me it’s totally worth the expense.
Not only did I love to cook, I was also a huge crafter. I sewed my own clothes, made home decor and created all kinds of art. I still haven’t found the time to get back into any of those things, but I’m itching to try one of the many amazing hobby subscription boxes. There’s a box for pretty much every hobby imaginable – stickers, scrap booking, coloring books, jewelry making, home decor, craft brewing, painting, DIY natural health solutions, you name it! Most of them are around $25 per month, but prices range from $10 to $50 per month and more. I’m thinking this might be a good way to spend one of my respite care afternoons.
What are some of your favorite subscriptions boxes that fill your self-care needs?
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!