Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mama Getaways

All mums, by and large, deserve breaks from mothering. No denying that aspects of the job description are rewarding. But for many of us – particularly ones like me who have children with disabilities – the job can sometimes take the living daylights out of us. When the signs are clear that we’re coming to our proverbial Wit’s End, it’s time to recharge. For everybody’s sake. As the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy...NOBODY’s happy.”

In my memoir Not Exactly As Planned, to be published in November by Demeter Press, I describe the strains on my marriage from raising our son with fetal alcohol syndrome. I’ll gently sum them up here with the following understatement:“The cups of tea he used to bring me in bed each morning during the first years of our marriage stopped coming.”

However, Robin and I were fortunate enough to have the resources to get away from time to time.

From the book:  “When Robin and I travelled, our problems seemed to vanish as soon as we hit the road. Travel was the key to remembering what it was we loved about being together. It was a magical elixir to our troubled marriage.

Undoubtedly, one of our trips’ positive attributes was the pact we made before we left: we wouldn’t talk about the children. It was always hard the first leg of a trip, but got remarkably easier as we hiked the Bruce Trail, rambled through England’s Cotswolds or ate our way through a Tuscan hilltown. We still called home daily, but never talked much about the kids afterward.

Since Michael had worked his way through all the babysitters in our community, we were always on the lookout for some strong, level-headed young or older adult to stay with the kids during our absences. Someone looking for a challenge – our version of a “handyman’s special.”

I recently read entries from parents who belong to an online chat forum for parents of children with FASD. They shared their own creative approaches  to “getting away” when times are tough. sometimes known as running away from home. 

The first posting on the thread that opened the discussion was this:

“Well I may get a lot of backlash for this....but I ran away from home this weekend. One crisis too many and I was beyond overload. Called hubby told him it was his turn to parent 24/7 for the next few days. Got on hotwire. Got me a great rate in a 4 star hotel about 50 miles from home. Told everyone no call no text. I will text I'm ok. Which I did last night and this morning. Kinda nice the only noise I hear is the a/c unit. And no FB for me except this post.”

In response:

“To survive the last two years with all the ups and downs (mostly downs) with our FASD daughter, I found a friend who loves musicals and we began following our favorite musical on its US tour every three or four months. We'd book a hotel, get tickets for two or three shows a weekend and I could finally BREATHE. The cast may have thought we were stalkerish, but what they didn't know was that those weekends saved my sanity. It was expensive but my dh agreed it was worth every penny because I came back human. ;). The tour ended last fall, but we squeezed in a trip to NYC to see a few shows on Broadway this winter and next week we found a regional theatre performing our favorite musical so I'm hanging on by my fingernails for that! One week from today baby!!! People who don't live like this just think I'm spoiled. I've just learned that for my mental, physical, and spiritual health I have to get away.”

And another mum getaway tip:

“I think only we, the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder parents, know this exhaustion! And total desperation! There is an orchestra here in Burlington, Vermont, organized by two world class musicians and called ME2, whose members are made up of people with mental illness or who have it in someone close to them. They are just so excellent and their separate string orchestra is to die for. We recently went to one of their concerts called Music From the Holocaust, certainly mental health related, that will be with me for a long time.

I'm not a musician, but I feel a bond with them. I really think engaging your right brain is important in our situations. I've always loved art, although I'm not an artist, and every chance I get, I love going to exhibits and museums. We live between Boston and Montreal, so special exhibits are somewhat accessible.”

Good for you mums!

What’s YOUR secret to maintaining sanity?