Have you heard the statistics about the divorce rates in parents of children with special needs?
When a family has a child with special needs or medical complexity, there is an unusual amount of pressure that comes with the diagnosis. Raising children places strain on any relationship, but throw in all the extra challenges and it can create a pressure cooker. Too many don’t survive.
Rick and I are not immune from the challenges that come with raising three children, one of them a three-year-old with Down syndrome and medical challenges. Rick, my steady, stable, gentle husband, has struggled with the diagnosis as much as I have, but his way of handling things is significantly different than mine.
We’ve had some major challenges in the last few years – things that have pushed us beyond the limit of what many people ever bear. We’ve done things wrong, hurt one another, and found ourselves looking around, bewildered, at parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed.
On the worst day, the one that left us questioning if we could survive these things, a wise counselor pointed out to us that our circumstances had affected our behavior. He offered a helping hand to teach us new ways to manage the pressure we were under. Although it was hard on our pride, we chose to take his help and it’s working!
As we’ve talked and prayed and worked on managing our emotions in a healthier way, we’ve grown so much in our relationship with each other. To celebrate our eight-year anniversary, the one I wasn’t totally sure we’d make it to, we were managing the flu. I mean, why not?
To make up for it, we went away for a couple days in February. No kids. Three days and two nights.
I found a good deal on a beautiful hotel outside of Chicago, arranged for childcare, and then we worked around some serious logistics to carve out those three precious days. I couldn’t even get excited about it until we were on our way, so concerned that we wouldn’t be able to work it out. But we did and it was wonderful. Our amazing view from the balcony off our hotel room. We were right on the river.
We had no agenda but to spend time together. We relaxed, watched movies, ate in some good restaurants, walked around the quaint suburban town, talked without interruption, and laughed a lot. I got a massage and a manicure. He was happy not to. I was a little sad when it was time to go home, but I missed the kids too.
Rick wasn't too sure about the hip restaurants I dragged him into.
There have been times in our marriage where there was absolutely no way we could do something like that, and I’m incredibly grateful that this year we could. I’d encourage all parents, no matter what your circumstances, to spend time away alone together every year. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. I mean, if you can, go for it, but don’t let those expectations stop you! You could go camping and have a blast making s’mores and enjoying nature.
Let yourself unwind and relax together without anyone else demanding your attention.
Lastly, if you’re in the middle of that pressure cooker season, don’t give up hope. Please consider everything your family is going through, how men and women handle hard things differently, and give one another grace. Ask for help if it’s something that’s beyond your ability to manage. The future of your family is worth it.
When we got home, it was right back to life as parents of a child with special needs. Redmond had surgery just two days later, and thankfully we had energy to care for him because we’d taken some time to take care of ourselves.