Monday 2 November 2015

Being a couple while being parents to our autistic + kids

I spend a lot of time talking about the autism in the family via the kids and mostly via our two boys who have a diagnosis with ASD along with a few co-morbid conditions.  Truth is as much as I love my kids, their condition often affects the whole family.  Having kids with additional needs can have significant impacts on some relationships. 

I read an article which discussed various findings about couples with disabled children.  One survey of couples raising a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) found that 65% were divorced or separated or experienced marital problems. The Families and Children Study found that more SEN children (Special Educational Needs) live in lone parent families than couple-headed families.  90% of parents with a child with learning difficulties say they don’t get to spend enough time together.

This weekend The Times magazine had an article about 'MAMs' or Middle Aged Marriages.  It had nothing to do with being middle aged and was mostly about marriages being focused on the children instead of the couple or family as a whole.  There was one of those questionnaires at the end to discover if your marriage was in danger of becoming a 'MAM'. As I scanned the questions, I knew the answer.  How could our marriage be anything but a MAM.  When your children have additional needs, a lot of life becomes focussed on them no matter what else is going on. 

Most of our half-term activities were for the children. When my other-half and I get time together we can still spend it talking about the kids; how they/we coped with the day, upcoming appointments and which one of us is in need of more sleep than the other.   It's easy as a mother to be constantly thinking of the kids first and having kids with additional needs makes this feel like a necessity.  My husband is much better at thinking about the overall 'family' than I am.

What was best for the overall family recently included a parent only trip to the cinema this weekend and previously a parent only trip to the Rugby World Cup.  We don't live far from one of the stadiums hosting matches in this year's Rugby World Cup and had managed to get two tickets.  Our instant thought was whether my husband could take one of the children.  But I suggested we go together instead.  It was a brilliant decision.  Retrospectively, our eldest would have struggled with the environment.  But that's not why it was a good decision.  It reminded us both of how much we enjoy each others company.  Just like our discussion about 'The Martian' did on our way home from the cinema.  These occasions give us time to be a couple again.

Every marriage and relationship has its strains and it is true that having our wonderful autistic and neuro-typical children gives us more to worry and think about.  But looking after 'our couple' is important whether our kids need extra support or not and we need to constantly remind ourselves of this.  We are extremely fortunate to have family who can help us spend this time together alone.  Some people may be able to use a support worker to get this time too.  If we enjoy time together, it's easier to be less stressed and enjoy being part of the family too.  There is no doubt, we are definitely a family that focuses a lot on the kids. And we are probably more MAMy than society's ideal, but that's ok with us.

Other blog links
Five ways to get more sleep if you have an autistic child
Hyper-what else?  Co-morbid conditions in the family

External links
OnePlusOne, Strengthening Relationships - bringing up a child with a disability

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