Starting School in a Pandemic

When Thomas was born almost 5 years before I remember very clearly the sit down, we had with his medical team at just one week old telling us what we could expect after his grade 3 HIE event.

The insult had been catastrophic, they were certain he wouldn’t walk, that he would be severely visually and hearing impaired, that he wouldn’t be able to control his limbs. He would be able to speak or eat orally and the final nail in the coffin, he would likely have severe cognitive deficits.

It was a bleak warning of our future, and we started our new life as a family of four very uncertain of the path that lay ahead. We spent Thomas’s first two years in crisis, managing chronic reflux, failure to thrive, uncontrollable dystonia, and his abject misery at all the challenges life had seen fit to throw at him.

After his second birthday, we slowly began to emerge from the shadow of the dark cloud that had been looking over us. He was much more stable, finally growing well, and generally much more comfortable physically. He also started a small specialist nursery.

Quickly we watched him start to blossom, to thrive.

This cheeky personality started to emerge, a lightness to him that we hadn’t fully appreciated before as he laughed and smiled along with us. He was engaging in conversations, looking for external stimulus. Regular ophthalmology assessments eventually concluded that he had good enough functional vision, he was signed off completely by audiology.

He wasn’t walking, but he was rolling and using his feet to push himself around the floor. He started trying to sit. He would weight bear and then started using a walker to move around at nursery. After months and months of struggling to engage Thomas in the basic communication systems his speech and language therapist suggested, we took a gamble and trialled him on a more advanced system of a PODD book.

Suddenly he was flying, communicating all sorts just as it became time to start considering schools. Therapists started to ask me where I thought he might go, I had assumed to the local special school, don’t rule out mainstream they said. Your lad is very bright.

I went home in shock.

Honestly, many a time it had been hard to imagine getting to school age, but I had never considered that he might go to a mainstream school and after having a look at both it was clear that he would be much happier in a mainstream school.

We are very fortunate that we live locally to a mainstream school with a physical resource unit, meaning they are well equipped to support Thomas with his physical disabilities and the additional learning support he will need for managing communication. The day the school accepted his admission I was on cloud 9!

Preparation began in earnest, he needed a more advanced communication system to allow him to participate better in class, nursery began testing his knowledge or numbers, colours, shapes, phonics and transition plans started to be drawn up.

Then a pandemic was declared and the country went into a national lockdown. Due to his physical disabilities Thomas was considered extremely clinically vulnerable and we were shielding.

As the lockdown dragged on and on, I became more and more concerned. Obviously the closure of schools and nursery was having a big impact on all children, but it felt even bigger for Thomas, knowing he was already having to work so much harder to keep up with his peers to start with, this was only going to exacerbate that!

It then became clear that Thomas would not return to his wonderful nursery, that he would be starting school in September with no formal transition. Honestly, a few tears where shed once I realised that he wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to his nursery friends, or attend his nursery graduation, and even more important rite of passage for Thomas and us.

As the summer holidays roll by it’s been hard to believe that he’ll be starting school in just a few weeks.

I had to give myself a stern talking to in order to get his uniform ordered in good time! His new school have been great, trying their best to get to know Thomas and be set up for him. They even managed a brief home visit to meet him and bring him a little pack full of pictures and activities for us to help prepare him.

Of course, given his medical needs there have been lots of other issues that have needed great planning, making sure that staff can tube feed him, or suction him if needed. Looking at how physiotherapy and speech and language therapy will be incorporated into his school day, making sure the school have the right equipment for him. All done virtually or socially distanced in PPE of course!

This really hasn’t been the transition we were hoping for, and there is still a lot of worry about how safe it will be come September, but I am so excited for the next stage to start and I can’t wait to see where Thomas will take us!

Vagus Nerve Stimulation – Alternative Epilepsy Treatment

Hugh’s epilepsy has been a major factor in his life for as long as I can remember.

His first obvious seizure happened at around 10 months but it’s highly likely he was having seizures before this; he was already undergoing investigations for epilepsy due to the fact he was losing skills and regressing in some areas of his development and his brain MRI had flagged up that seizures would be highly likely.

When the epilepsy diagnosis came, when he was just over a year old, I assumed it would easily be controlled and that life would return to normal. Instead I discovered that Hugh was one of the 30% of people who never control their epilepsy through drugs alone. We tried 6 or 7 different anti-epileptics drugs in varying combinations but eventually it became clear that Hugh was in the category ‘medically intractable’- the drugs don’t work.

We tried the ketogenic diet next and the success of this was astounding; within weeks his seizures drastically reduced. We started going out as a family again, we even managed a holiday to Wales, things that were impossible when his seizures were at their peak. Hugh remained on the ketogenic diet for three years but seizures started to creep back in. Thankfully though, never to the degree they were before we started the diet.

The next course of action in trying to control Hugh’s seizures were surgical options – either brain surgery or a Vagus Nerve stimulator Implant.  An MRI of Hugh’sbrain couldn’t find a single point from which his seizures started (his whole brain is affected) therefore he wasn’t eligible for brain surgery.  Instead, we opted for the VNS.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is a treatment for epilepsy where a small device is implanted under the skin in the chest.

This device, similar to a pace-maker, is called a generator. The generator is connected to a thin wire, which stimulates the vagus nerve in the person’s neck at regular times throughout the day. This sends impulses to the brain, which helps to prevent electrical activity that causes seizures.

We were told at Hugh’s pre-operative assessment that about a third of patients see significant improvements, a third some improvement and a third it makes no difference at all.  Side effects, other than those associated with a general anaesthetic are apparently minimal and include intermittent hoarseness and difficulty swallowing while the device is sending electrical impulses.

The surgery to fit the VNS was relatively straightforward and Hugh was discharged the following day with a dressing on his neck and another on his chest.  At no point during the surgery, does the surgeon operate on the actual brain.  Hugh recovered quickly and needed minimal pain relief over the following days.  Although the scar on his chest is a raised keloid scar, the one on his neck is bravely visible. Two weeks after surgery we returned to hospital for the device to be turned on.  This was all done electronically with a large ‘wand’ held over the device in his chest and it was all programmed through an iPad.

Over the coming weeks and months, the settings were tweaked and adjusted to try and get the best seizure control.  The length of time between the impulses sent to the brain can be adjusted as well as the strength and duration.  In addition to the automatic impulses from the device we have a magnet which we can swipe over the generator in Hugh’s chest to give a booster impulse at the start of the seizure, with the intention of interrupting the brainwaves and stopping the seizure or reducing the severity or duration.

We were warned that it may take time to see an improvement in Hugh’s seizure control and initially I was worried it had made them worse.

The frequency increased but thankfully they were less severe and didn’t require hospitalisation as often.  With time though, the frequency reduced too and we began to get longer and longer gaps between significant seizures.

After less than three years the battery on the VNS ran out, which was much quicker than we expected. The replacement surgery was quick and the recovery even quicker than last time.  And the bonus was that Hugh was fitted with the newest VNS device which has an ‘auto-stim’ feature which automatically sends an impulse to the brain when it detects an increased heart rate which could indicate the start of a seizure.

Hugh has had a VNS in place for four years.  He is not completely seizure free but we have had amazing success: It’s been one whole year since he’s had a major seizure, 16 months since he last needed rescue medication and over two and a half years since he was lasted hospitalised for seizures and needed IV drugs.  For a child that was averaging hospital admissions every three months, that’s a great result!

Summer from Inside Four Walls, Again

This time last year, Summer was well and truly in full swing. Families were enjoying days out, making memories and having so much fun. The world was alive with festivals, family fun days and holidays. Social media was lit up with pictures of people in high spirits and precious memories being made.

I’m such a people person that normally I fully enjoy getting a glimpse of what life looks like for others. I love to see other people happy and enjoying themselves. I love looking at pictures of all the joyful activities people are getting up to away from the daily stresses that life brings for us all.

Last year however, I hated it.

I hated the punishing feeling of logging into social media, seeing friends and acquaintances seemingly going about life as if they didn’t have a care in the world, of course knowing this was more than likely not always the case. I felt angry, frustrated and upset when I saw smiling faces, new experiences and fun being had by, what felt like, everybody but us.

I was sat feeling trapped in the confines of the hospital walls with no idea when we would be free to leave and make some happy memories of our own. I tried to tell myself that at the end of each day we were another day closer to going home. I made numerous attempts to convince myself that we would be discharged in plenty of time to experience some of the delights that we were missing out on.

If the worst came to the worst, we’d always have next year I’d unconvincingly try to reassure myself. The reality is I couldn’t be sure if we’d have next year or even next month or next week. Being the parent of a child with such complex medical needs who has a limited life expectancy means that each day is precious and we cannot take anything for granted.

We did get discharged from hospital, just two weeks before the great British Summer drew to a close. It was the morning of my birthday when the doctors came in to tell us they were happy that we could go home after 13 long weeks.

We didn’t get to experience much Summer fun upon discharge as many of the family fun days had already taken place and the new school term was just around the corner. But we were home and that was enough. We’ll make up for it next year I thought.

So as we fast forward to quite possibly the strangest, craziest, in some ways saddest year that many of us will ever likely experience, once again our Summer is being spent in the same four walls. Only this time it’s not just us. Everybody has been affected. I wouldn’t say it makes the fact that we can’t be out in the big wide world enjoying all the usual Summer family fun that would normally be going on any easier, the fact that it’s not just us, but it’s slightly more manageable knowing that it won’t be in my face every time I log into social media.

I’m not seeing families go about their lives without a care in world in the same way.

We’re still shielding despite the fact the scheme has paused, so to some extent we are doing a lot less than many other families are doing. But the fact that we’re all living in these very unusual, frightening times together whilst all trying to do our part to protect our loved ones and our communities, well it makes it somewhat more bearable. We’re all in this together so to speak.

So as I sit inside the same four walls in the comfort of my own home, doing everything in my power to protect my child from the worldwide pandemic that currently has no known cure, I’ll look to next year to be third time lucky. All being well, next year will be the year that we will be able to experience all the Summer fun alongside the rest of the world with hopefully no pandemics and no hospital stays to hold us back. Next year I hope it’ll be just me and a relatively healthy child making happy memories.

The Stress of Fire Season

I could smell it as soon as I opened the front door, and I could see it laying heavy in the sky. Thick, grey smoke that meant that there was a wildfire somewhere close. Not close enough to worry, but close enough for the wind to carry the smoke right over us.

It’s a familiar smell here in Northern California in the summer, as peak fire season runs from August to November, give or take a couple of months. Many people living here are still traumatized by the fires that swept through the state in 2017 and 2018. My in-laws lost their home in one of those fires, and then the next year, one-third of my town was decimated by a fire tornado, a rare phenomenon I hope never to see again in my lifetime.

Our family has an added reason to be anxious during times like these.

Our 9-year-old son, Chance, has chronic lung disease, so in addition to the stress of the Cold and Flu Season in the winter, we now have to worry about the fire season. Wildfire smoke can be extremely harmful to the lungs, especially for children, older adults, and especially in our case for our little guy with compromised lungs.

The air quality was so bad in the summer of 2018 from the numerous back-to-back wildfires in our area that Chance ended up being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. We had an air purifier in the house, and we wore masks each time we had to go outside. We did extra breathing treatments and kept him well hydrated. We did all the things, and he still got sick. To say it was frustrating and scary would be an understatement.

It turns out we weren’t alone.

According to the American Lung Association, “studies of children in California found that children who breathed the smoky air during wildfires had more coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, colds, and were more likely to have to go to the doctor or the hospital for respiratory causes, especially from asthma.”

So now every time there is smoke outside so thick, I can taste it, I go straight into a state of hypervigilance.

All windows closed, air purifier on. We have central air conditioning now as opposed to the swamp cooler we had in our previous house, which makes a world of difference in keeping the smoke out.

Fire season is something I have had to adapt to, although I’ll never get used to it. Like cold and flu season, it’s one more thing we have had to accept, and do the best we can to get through it.

Summer Fun, Making Memories

This month I just want to share a few thoughts about how, during the holiday season, it is so important that we focus our time, our energy, and all that we are trying to do on spending time with our children and having a really great time together.

Wherever you are, whether in the UK or overseas, during this holiday season the time that we invest in our children and young people, especially those who have additional needs or disabilities, is time that is so precious; building those memories, creating those wonderful moments that our children will look back on in the future.

Times when they will be able to recognise that we were there for them.

And whatever that looks like for you, whether it’s taking them on a trip to the shops, whether it’s taking them to a leisure park, whether it’s taking them somewhere where they can go on roller coaster rides and have an amazing time, whether it’s coming to somewhere like the beach, or even if it’s just spending some quality time on the sofa watching a film and eating some popcorn together.

Whatever that looks like for you, let’s make sure that during this holiday period we’re making the most of every one of those opportunities, because, you know what it’s like, our children are only children for so many years and nobody ever looked back at their life and wished that they had spent more time working or down the pub with their mates.

What people look back on, and regret, is that they didn’t spend enough quality time with their kids doing amazing memory-making things that will last with their children throughout their lives.

So, whatever you are doing this summer holiday, I just hope that you are having an amazing time, that you are really enjoying the quality time that you are getting with your children, whether you see them every day, whether you’ve got holiday time off from work with them, maybe you only have access to them once a week or more, but whatever that time is let’s make the most of it shall we. Let’s make those memory making moments count.

Let’s scrapbook those moments, let’s take photos and video, lets gather it all together so that when it’s dark and wet and gloomy, when summer has long gone, we can look back and share those moments together again and be so thankful for them; so thankful for the times we spent together and celebrating the joy of being family together.

Whatever you are doing, I hope you have a fabulous time and make the most of each of those opportunities.

It might involve some food, sometimes just getting together and going to get something to eat, or getting some take-away, or making something to eat together at home, can be great memory making moments as well.

So, let’s make the most of this wonderful summer that we’ve got; let’s enjoy every precious time that we can spend together with our kids, and let’s make those memories ‘stick’ forever and count forever and be memories that our kids can look back on. And maybe, in the future, when they are thinking about their life, maybe when times are hard, they can remember the good times that they have had and that can encourage and inspire them and help them.

So let’s have fun! Let’s make those memories and let’s enjoy them together!

Home, School, and Family

The Stripey Socks Crisis Homeschool has an Ofsted rating of Absolutely Abysmal. We have one pupil, one unqualified member of staff and hardly any appropriate equipment or resources.

We have gone from sitting down for a period of formal learning on the key subjects of English, Maths and Science, through telling ourselves that it might be ‘more beneficial’ (i.e. easier and less stressful) to focus on practising functional skills for living instead, down to simply keeping Freddie busy doing any old thing so that he will sleep at night. Basically, we’ve descended to the level of my own education at a 1980s Comprehensive School, which made little pretence of teaching but simply kept us kids off the streets and out of mischief for the day.

There seems to be a very clear demarcation in Freddie’s mind between home and school. School is where we sit down and do learning and school stuff and home is where the pressure is off, we relax and bumble about doing nothing very much. We’ve tried to explain to him why he cannot go to school at the moment, using ‘fun’ ways to get the information across, like Dr. Ranj’s ‘Get Well Soon’ programme.

Some of it has clicked with him, especially the bit about washing hands. Unfortunately, he has turned this into yet another power struggle, resisting hand washing, and touching everything in sight if we go out and then licking his hands. Lately he has become an angry, challenging and thoroughly provocative child. As the weeks have gone by each day has become more of a battle to get him to get him to engage in any kind of meaningful activity at all.

I have tried taking the learning to him, sitting on his bed with books and my laptop balanced on a chair, but then it becomes a physical battle to stop him from kicking the chair away and tipping my computer onto the floor.

Just How DO you get a child like Freddie, with learning difficulties and a very short attention span, motivated to work and focussed on the task in hand? How do you differentiate, break things down, so that he can ‘get it’? I simply don’t have the knowledge to be able to manage this effectively at home.

As a result of this period of enforced ‘home learning’ I have developed a very deep respect for the incredible skills and dedication that today’s teachers bring to the job, especially those in Special Education Schools.

Now before you start trash-talking Special Schools or trying to guilt-trip or undermine me for choosing to send Freddie to one, don’t waste your breath. For some children, a Special School is the only way they can get a truly accessible and meaningful education – one where they are able to focus on learning rather than just on trying to cope in the environment.

One thing the lockdown has made me realise is just how lost Freddie would have been in a mainstream school, where the teachers do not have the specialised training, experience and expertise that the teachers at his current school have. It has also made me more aware of the level of challenges that Freddie faces, not only compared to his typically-developing peers, but also compared to many of his chums in Special School. It has confirmed to me, if I needed any confirmation, that I did the right thing in sending him there.

Towards the end of the summer term, several of Freddie’s friends drew pictures and wrote messages to say that they would miss him, which were sent home with his school report, or arrived via social media from their parents. With the best will in the world, Freddie would not be able to reciprocate in kind – hypotonia makes writing and drawing legibly difficult and tiring, meaning he is reluctant to pick up a pencil at the best of times.

Also, his expressive language skills do not match his receptive language skills – he can understand far more than he is able to express. He has thoughts, ideas and feelings just like everyone else, but finds it difficult to frame them as words. There is so much that he cannot tell me, and this was brought home to me forcibly on the last day of term.

Freddie’s school arranged a Drive-thru Art Gallery to give those children who had not been in school a chance to mark the end of the school year. The teachers created displays of the pupils’ artwork accompanied by photos of them and lined them up along the driveway that sweeps past the front of the school. Families were invited to drive slowly through in a one-way direction to view the art from the shelter of their cars, and wave and call out goodbye to the teachers lined up alongside.

We spotted a photo of Freddie’s best friend, a girl he’s known since nursery. He looked at it and said, so plaintively, ‘I miss you.’ It was the first time he had been able to express his feelings about lockdown and the effect it had had on his life. No wonder he has been acting up. We were both crying as we drove away.

The end of the summer term was always going to be emotional.

Freddie is now in Year 6, and this was his last year at his current school, where he has been a pupil since he was three-and-a-half. Since he started, this school has been our only source of support, and being without them for so long has brought home to me just what an unfailing ally they have been for us as a family.

The teachers were strangers when I first took Freddie to the school, and entrusting my precious, vulnerable, misunderstood and discriminated against little boy to strangers was very scary at first, but by the time we parted, eight years later, we did so as fellow members of a very special school family, and driving through those gates for the last time felt like leaving home, and safety, behind.

The prospect of starting all over again at a new school was always a scary thing, too; but I knew his current school would hold our hands all the way through the process. Then Coronavirus came along and barged in between us and made everything uncertain and even more scary.

It’s Hard to Explain…

We may not be through the global coronavirus pandemic, but in my part of the world anyway, lockdown has been lifted. To be honest though, while the freedom to go to open spaces has been so very welcomed, things never really felt hugely different. We were adhering to shielding guidelines as both myself and one of our triplets would be classed as “medically vulnerable”.

We watched as life continued relatively unchecked for a number of people, including members of our extended family.

They were able to visit and see us through the window, which at least felt a little more “normal” than the zoom meetings etc we also took part in. Due to the nature of my disability (Multiple Sclerosis, managed by an immunosuppressant) and my son’s (spina bifida, hydrocephalus and epilepsy) we are very often on the edges of normal life, so things didn’t really feel hugely new to our family. I have read a quote that I always feel so deeply, “From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.” Let me try…

As I write this, my husband’s side of the family are all away on a trip away to southern Ireland. Ryan, me and the kids were invited, of course, but had to decline despite their best efforts to accommodate us. It turns out to have been the right decision as our son has just had to face a huge health crisis. His epilepsy is so easily triggered at the minute that we can’t even take him to the park without him becoming very distressed. What if we’d been due to go on holiday? That doesn’t mean we don’t feel sad that we’re the only ones not there, or that our children are missing out on those experiences with their family.

In all honesty, we’ve never been able to travel with the triplets.

It is just so difficult to even consider going on a trip because of the degree of planning that would need to go into it. How would we transport two adults, three children, a wheelchair (possibly two if I’m unwell!), protective sides for a bed, rescue medication, regular medication, catheters, nappies, AFO’s (ankle foot orthosis) on top of the standard luggage?!

Jacob also has a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt for his hydrocephalus which has malfunctioned five times requiring emergency neurosurgery, so we need to consider if we are close to a hospital that could provide this. With his epilepsy being so unstable, we also need to know that we could transport him to a hospital if he went into “Non-Convulsive Status Epilepticus” (which is when he has persistent focal seizures of either type i.e. aware or unaware), which he has done several times. I also have bouts of extreme fatigue so planning a low energy trip with all those factors also in play is no easy task!

Ryan and I very genuinely don’t blame anyone for this situation.

People have every right to live their lives as they want to, including any holidays that may come up. We also do not blame our son for his disabilities and I know Ryan doesn’t lay any blame on me for having MS. Unfortunately, though, it does bring a degree of isolation that is so hard to explain to people who aren’t living it. In truth, even a simple day out can seem like an enormous task with the amount of additional things we have to consider. If we’re visiting a friend, for example, do they have a house that Jacob can get around in his wheelchair?

We do the very best we can to make sure we give our children happy memories, even if they are being made closer to home than most! I truly hope they look back and know that we tried everything we could, but sometimes it is just too hard to try and “keep up” with everyone else when we’re running a whole different race!

Nothing to Prove

My son recently acquired his very own eye-gaze communication device. We have always known that he is incredibly sharp. He is funny, friendly, caring, and smart. Having this device has given us an even greater window into his incredible mind and heart.

It has been a pure delight watching him use this device as a megaphone for the voice we knew he already had. However, many people have seen it as a change in his worth. It is as if now that he is “verbal” he is worthy of being acknowledged, spoken too, and included. Honestly, it’s been disheartening to see the switch that has taken place in people’s perception simply because he gained new equipment.

Those who used to ignore him because they “didn’t know if he was cognitively aware” are now willing to consider that he might be a human being with thoughts and feelings.

The thing is, his awareness was quite obvious before he ever had the device, as he has multiple other means of communication. Simply put, people didn’t see worth in putting forth the effort to get to know my son.

Now that he has a device they are intrigued by the technology and the fact that this precious boy might have thoughts and opinions to voice. But those who took the time to truly know my boy before he had the device speak to him the same way now as they did before. They already knew how amazing he was and now they get to hear him a little louder. They chose to see him and hear him regardless of what technology he did or didn’t have.

I must admit, I love that my son can now show off his cognition more boldly.

He has been telling friends, family, therapists, nurses, and anyone else he runs into all kinds of things. He has been advocating for himself. He frequently says “I can understand everything you say” or turns the volume louder when people continue to ignore him. He tells knock-knock jokes and requests certain people and activities. He also refuses to speak to a number of people. At first, this was frustrating to me because the people he refuses to speak with are the very ones who seem to need spoken proof of his intelligence.

Since having his device, when those who ignored him in the past try to speak to him now, my son will say “bye” or “I don’t want to talk right now” or simply power off his device. My frustration with these instances didn’t last long. I quickly realized that my boy is so in tune with others that he can tell who has changed simply because he has a device. He knows he has nothing to prove to them. He knows he shouldn’t have to earn his worth or his preciousness as a human. He couldn’t be more correct.

My Two Non-Negotiables to Make ME a Priority

As soon as I announced I was pregnant with my first baby, I began to be inundated with advice.

You should get [insert random baby product]….You shouldn’t let the baby sleep in your bedroom…. You should wear the baby all the time….You should sleep now, because you’re not going to sleep again for 18 years.

All those shoulds led me to start speaking to myself the same way when I had my first and started to get my hands dirty (literally and figuratively) as a mother.

I should put her to bed earlier…. I shouldn’t let her have that much sugar….

I could go on and on and on.

So, when my second baby was born with special needs, the shoulds certainly didn’t go away.

In this season of my motherhood, I’ve learned that I can should myself out of anything. Instead, I decided to start talking myself INTO things instead of out of them.

In the craziness of motherhood, it’s easy to talk myself out of the things that I do just for me. For me, those two things are exercise and quiet time. I fiercely protect these times of my day, refusing to schedule in just about anything that will conflict with them.

Exercise was the first thing to go when my second baby was born and spent months at a time in the hospital. Of course, I give myself grace for the difficulty of that time, but I came up with all sorts of imaginary reasons why exercise couldn’t happen for a long time outside of those difficulties, not because it was too hard or I was too tired, but because I should have been doing any number of other “unselfish” things instead.

When I prioritized exercise, I discovered how much it changed me and brought positivity into my life on even the hard days. Now, I schedule my exercise first thing in the morning, ideally before my kids are out of bed, and, if something happens to get in the way, I have the whole day to figure it out.

My other self-care non-negotiable is quiet time. Now that my oldest is four, naps have become a thing of the past. I still hold that quiet time sacred, though, more for my own quiet than for her (although she benefits from it equally as much).

I often feel guilty about it, but I don’t allow myself to do any housework or work-work during that one hour in the middle of the day. I read a book, play a game on my phone, or sometimes–gasp–take a nap. This hour to reset makes me feel so much more refreshed than I would have if I tried to cram some jobs into that time.

I’m not sure where we as moms learned that taking time for ourselves is selfish. I’m here to tell you, it’s not. For me, it’s exercise and quiet time. For you, it could be any number of different possibilities. What matters is that it makes you feel like, well, you.

When we prioritize ourselves in just a few little ways, the ripple effect is huge. I believe I am a better mom, wife, friend, employee, sister, etc. when I am a better ME, and prioritizing myself makes ME better.

How will you start prioritizing yourself?