We call that respite.
The thing is, we each need to define and honor what respite means to us personally. And those around us need to honor that as well.
Take my daughter’s State case manager. He means well, truly. But his definition of “respite” involves sending our daughter off to a week-long sleepaway camp. “Think of all the time you’ll have for yourself,” he says.
What he doesn’t see is the three solid days prior to camp that it takes me to set out and label a week’s worth of clothing, medication, food, and other supplies.
He doesn’t factor in that camp is a half day’s drive away, nor that I must lug mountains of bulging baggage down to the rec hall once we arrive.
He doesn’t see my worry the entire time my daughter is gone. Worry about seizures, falls, misinterpretation of her communication, missed hydration...the list is endless. Even when I am able to surrender my worries, I can’t stop missing her.
He doesn’t see the illness she brings home every year. Last year, she picked up pertussis and shared it with me. I was sick a full six weeks following her return, sicker than I’ve been since the time I had mono in high school. This summer, she brought home strep and shared with the entire family.
You start adding up the half-week of preparations, the week of worry, the 3-6 weeks post-camp illnesses, and it doesn’t look a whole lot like respite anymore. Sure, it’s great fun for her. But respite for me? Not hardly.
Compare that to my dear husband, who has learned to accept the fact that I really, really like to be around my daughter. After all, she’s a truly likeable kid and I enjoy her presence. Add to that the fact that I can relax better when she is near. Her health issues are ever-present and need to be handled carefully so they don’t blow up into full emergencies. I am not comfortable leaving her in the hands of anyone who doesn’t know her inside and out.
He knows I’d be completely miserable if he whisked me off to some tropical paradise so long as my daughter’s health is what it is right now. He’s a clever man, that husband of mine! (Sorry ladies, he's taken).
My husband planned the perfect “respite” weekend for my birthday last month. Instead of taking me off away from the kids, we all went away on a splendid weekend getaway. We girls schemed and shopped for our fancy evening wear, which was admittedly a whole lot more fun than setting out a weekend’s worth of supplies for a caregiver. We splurged on two adjoining rooms at the hotel. This gave my husband and me our privacy but the girls were still close by so I didn’t have to wonder what health issues may or may not be happening. For me, it was the perfect respite scenario.
That indulgent kind of weekend isn’t something we can afford to do outside of Milestone Birthdays (I’m not letting on which one it was...). To me, run-of-the-mill respite time is most restful if I can spend some time at home doing things I love that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were attending to my daughter’s needs.
Nothing is more restful to me than holing up for an afternoon in my sewing room, uninterrupted, listening to the laughter of my daughter and her wonderful caregiver as they enjoy a game or a movie together. Or I might go lie out in the pasture with a goat curled up under each arm and watch the treetops dance in the breeze.
Respite to me is getting to let go of the duty for a time. It isn’t escaping the girl or even escaping her health issues. In fact, I don’t want to be far from them. I just need a chance to breathe deeply sometimes, to immerse myself in something that isn’t related to care.
What about you? What do you do for respite? What would you do in your wild imaginings (keeping in mind this is a G-rated show)?
(photo courtesy virtualphotographystudio at Flickr Creative Commons)