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No spare capacity

By Joanna Griffin

Often, as parent carers, our lives are full. Being a therapist, social worker and advocate for our child as well as continual worries about the future can take up an inordinate amount of time and headspace. Nevermind already being a parent, looking after siblings, working, and trying to keep on top of the household chores.

There isn’t much spare bandwidth for dealing with other things that pop up along the way.

Furthermore, during the pandemic parent carers have found their (already limited) support disappear. Additional requests from schools, Parent Teacher Associations and social networks can sometimes feel overwhelming. The expectation to provide a costume for a school play or world book day, attend meetings or remember to reply to messages and WhatsApp texts can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Although I started writing my book before the pandemic, its resonance and key messages remain the same. In fact, the need to look after yourself is even more important than ever.

No to attempts to shoehorn our child into a world that wasn’t designed for them. No to those who don’t understand our life and make unrealistic demands. No to unimportant things that take up our time. No to inner voices that tell us taking time for ourselves is selfish.

As someone commented on my Instagram feed recently: “No” is a complete sentence.

It can be powerful and, at times, necessary. By using the word, it may help us create the spare capacity we need, but rarely allow ourselves.

Joanna Griffin is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and parent carer who has been undertaking doctoral research on this topic. Her book is Day by Day: Emotional Wellbeing in Parents of Disabled Children. 

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