Friday, July 19, 2013

Recharging with other Special Needs moms

Happy mama retreat via notthecar
Happy mama retreat via notthecar
Being a parent in general isn't a cake-walk. Being the parent to a child with autism feels some days like climbing out of a pit when they keep throwing dirt at you. Regardless parents usually fall into the trap of not taking time out for themselves. We may make excuses, I can't afford it, we don't have the time, the energy, anyone to watch our high needs children or we may have fallen into the mommy martyr trap. The problem with making these excuses is it speeds up issues within ourselves. We get rundown from exhausting of having to be always ON. We may get resentful of others who do get breaks or our partners or family. We may retreat from other friendships and then wonder where they went after the umpteenth invitation decline. When do we get to recharge?

Last week I attended the Happy MamaConference and Retreat. Its a retreat for mothers of children with disabilities. What??? Can you believe it? An event just for women who have walked in your shoes. Everyone there has the same life. The may be single or married, from various cities and backgrounds, they may stay at home or hold down full time jobs but they have 1 or more children diagnosed with a disability. Autism, ADHD, Downs Syndrome, Visually impaired, Intellectual disabilities etc. You name it and it was represented. When I first heard about it I started putting money aside to afford this trip. The price wasn't too much, there was a payment plan, and bonus for me it was local so I didn't have to pay for the hotel stay.

Friday I headed over to The EmbassySuites Brier Creek for the opening reception and happy hour. When I arrived the lobby was full of people from 3 different on-site events. I grabbed my tag and mingled with several people who were also attending. The main thing I noticed while meeting people was this look of relief, like they were taking a breath for the first time in ages. I had dinner with a group I had just met an hour earlier. We chatted and laughed that night. The next morning were the start of conference activities. After check in and a huge welcome from Adrienne we did some group activities to 1-wake everyone up (I heard the beds in the hotel were amazing) and 2- get us to meet others who had children with the same disability. We then went into the agenda for the day. Topics ranged from Self-care for us moms to Student advocacy for our children lead by an actual special education attorney. There were also breakout discussions both days on various topics that each mom was allowed to attend 1 per day. Those ranged from Local Support Groups to newly diagnosed and the teen years. There was a free relaxation yoga class after the days events and anyone who had prearranged spa treatments had a nice block of time to get those in. I headed back home to take a nap in my nice quiet house then swung back for the dinner. Dinner tonight was provided and gave another opportunity to meet with others and chat. Afterward groups veered off while some stayed around just chatting either in the main room or at the bar.

Part of the agenda from the Happy mama confere...
Part of the agenda from the Happy mama conference.
Sunday morning brought another day of activities. Breakfast was provided for hotel guests, followed by lite snacks and drinks for everyone else. With a few more speakers and the 2nd set of breakout sessions you could see that the women surrounding me were unwinding. The session about finding ways to afford self-care really seemed to resonate with the group. After the last of the door prizes were given and the books were sold, everyone started to head home back to reality.

I am very active in my local special needs community. I even saw a few people who I knew from other circles but I still saw the value in this retreat. Moms came from as far at Canada. Many had no idea some of the services others are have used. Respite was mentioned a lot, school issues, local resources, we all had something to learn. I talked with a mom who has gotten her child into college, something that I still see in front of me and I’m lost thinking about. I talked to a few about middle school which is behind me and an area I feel you need tons of moral support. There was one common thread, we are no in this struggle alone and someone is there to listen to you with no judgment. We also aren't afraid to say what went easy and what was hard. We connected. And isn't that what we all want out of this world to connect with others who understand? I definitely got my money's worth and I’m glad I put the effort into attending. I decided I was worth this trip and you know what? If you've walked this road you are worth it too.  

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