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  • Paula Migliaccio

What Constitutes A "Break"???

Updated: Dec 4, 2020


Crazy but true, living in the world of special needs sometimes we lose sight of what's important--like making sure we take care of ourselves FIRST so we can take care of our loved ones around us. In the last blog post, I wrote about WHY we should take a break, and in rephrasing the words of one special needs mother quoted in the book More Than A Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs, by Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett---you need to fill your pitcher UP so that you always have something to pour back OUT to your family. So how DO you fill your pitcher up? It's not by reading the next book about your child's special need, or by doing the dishes, or by finishing other chores. It's by doing something completely FOR YOU--such as watching a favorite TV show (uninterrupted!) or phoning a friend just to talk, or having a special treat (like ice cream!) for yourself!


Here copied and pasted below is "What Constitutes A Break," which I had given out at the parent support group meetings I used to run for special needs moms. There are even some suggestions for 5 MINUTE BREAKS if that's all you can do! Just remember--YOU DESERVE TO BE TAKEN CARE OF TOO! Try to carve out at least 5 minutes every night JUST FOR YOU!

(and PLEASE NOTE: List was created BEFORE any stay in place orders, so adjust accordingly!)

What Constitutes a “Break”?

(read with “Things to Do For Yourself”--see previous blog post)

“I look at my energy and emotions like a big water pitcher. Every time I care for my family, I pour out my pitcher. Unless I take time to put something back—by having my hair done, going window shopping, seeing a movie with friends, making Friday “date night” with my husband, or taking a community college class—my pitcher empties. You cannot give what you don’t have in store. Exhaustion and frustration causes you to become irritable, edgy, and angry. Keep your pitcher filled!!!”

--quote by a mom from the book More than a Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs, by Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett

A “Break” is about REALLY “filling up your pitcher.” You may think you know what that means…but we all could use a refresher.


Let’s talk about what “filling up your pitcher” is NOT about. REALLY filling up your pitcher is NOT about using your found spare time to fold laundry, do dishes, clean bathrooms or catch up on other chores. Even though it “feels good” to get such chores done, this does not truly “fill up” your pitcher (have you ever spent all your free time finishing up writing Christmas cards or cleaning up a room and then find…you don’t have patience with your child later and you explode?). Truth is…there will always be more chores to be done, plus the same ones (laundry, dishes, vacumming) come around again and again, and are never really “done.” There will ALWAYS be chores to do, the list continues on and on.


Working on personal projects (such as volunteer work project for your child’s school, studying for a class, writing a manuscript or other projects) can be rewarding but also are…work…and thus are not truly “pitcher fillers.” Helping others with their problems/chores/issues can be rewarding but again…not “pitcher fillers.” And also, going to routine doctor’s appointments, while they SEEM like they can be “time taking care of you,”--think back when you were younger (before kids)…did that EVER make you feel excited, like you couldn’t wait to do that again? Well, then, it’s NOT a “pitcher filler.”

The things that TRULY “fill up your pitcher” are the seemingly “frivolous” ones that you may think you cannot do or do not “have time to spend on”—yet mark my words, if you DO take time to do these “frivolous” things, you WILL have even MORE energy and drive to do the other things that need to get done—and do them with joy too—as well as have more patience and understanding (less stress) when dealing with your child.


The trick is to figure out…what is YOUR PERSONAL LIST of “Things to Do to Fill Up Your Pitcher?” Take some time to write in a small notebook things that you know you come home feeling better after doing—from getting a mani/pedi, a massage, picking up yourself some flowers, or going shopping at the mall, to going to a movie or meeting a friend for lunch. Create your own list of things to do to “fill up your pitcher”—think about this list as a NEW “to do” list, just as important as the other “to do” lists, since it’s a “To Do To Take Care of MYSELF” list!! Everyone’s list will be different, but here are some ideas to get you started:

Ideas for Things to Do to Keep the Pitcher Filled:

* Get a manicure/pedicure

* Get a massage

* Go see a movie/stream a favorite movie

* Meet a friend for breakfast or lunch or a walk in the park (or meet online/facetime while each having some wine or a treat at same time talking together!)

* Go for a hike/walk in nature. Take along your dog or cat if you have one.

* Go to the library and read whatever you want

* Watch favorite TV shows you have saved on TIVO or DVR or tape

* Go shopping at your favorite store (whether it be clothing, bookstore, kitchen store, Target or even Home Depot!!) OR window shop at the mall

* Can’t afford to shop at the mall? Hit the local 99c store and shop for bargains, and pick yourself up a little treat too!

* When food shopping/grocery shopping, buy yourself a little treat, whether it be trying a new fruit or getting yourself a fun magazine, just because!

* Go to an exercise class or yoga or meditation class

* Sign up for an adult class such as sewing, dancing, scrapbooking, crafts, computers or whatever interests you (this will be something that “meets every week” so you CANNOT “forget about” taking time for yourself!!)

* Don’t have time to go every week to a class? Look for “one-time” or weekend one-day classes you can go to once to learn something (look in the recreation and adult ed bulletins)

* Make a reading book club with friends and explore a new title together (we can do this online now through Zoom meets!)

* Buy yourself a small gift or treat or some flowers

* Visit a museum (one that is NOT for kids)

* Go for a walk on the beach

* LEAVE THE HOUSE and do anything…I find that being INSIDE the house, everything that “needs to be done” just sits there looking at me (obligations such as laundry, dishes) and then I won’t take a break when I’m there.

* Go for a long drive in your car w/great music blasting

* Make time for a long conversation on the phone with a favorite friendt and make time to practice/play each week

* Make time for a long conversation on the phone with a favorite friend

* Plan a “day out” for yourself (ex: around the holidays, go see a show with a friend and have a lunch and shop at boutiques)

* Plan and do a day out/mini vacation with your significant other

* Join or start a book club, knitting club, community theatre group, softball league, etc.

* Whatever you used to do when you were in college & young for fun, go and do it

* Do something you used to love but don’t do anymore: swim, bike ride, roller blade, take a dance class, go to a concert (rock or classical?), etc.

* Order in/bring in a special meal—for lunch, by yourself!


Don’t remember what you used to like to do? Get a notebook and brainstorm things you’d like to try, such as photography, singing, playing an instrument, acting, baseball, painting, dance (jazz, tap, modern or ballroom), basketball, yoga, quilting, gourmet cooking, scrapbooking, computer courses, wood working, art docent, etc.

Is there something—a dream or goal—you wish to do in life? Become a teacher? Write a book/novel? It’s OK to dream a bit. Look up how you might become what you want to be someday—and dream about the future. Sometimes, just having info on our dream helps us get through the every day.

If you ARE thinking of going back to or starting a whole new career someday, there are many courses online now for you to do and even get a degree from doing, as well as one day courses offering certificates through the adult education system—explore your options and dream away!

Search your heart and soul…whatever makes you feel giddy like a little child to think about doing—GO AND DO IT!!! (it will fill up your pitcher for sure!)

Smaller Things to do (everyday) to Keep the Pitcher Filled:

Find small things to do EVERY SINGLE DAY for yourself—these are “drops in the bucket/pitcher” and help to keep you going until you can do one of the larger things. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day just for yourself, to help “fill up your pitcher.” If you can’t spare 30 minutes, do 15-20 minutes. If not 15-20, then just 5-10 minutes. Make it count; have it be all about YOU. Here are some ideas:


* Have a hobby you can work on every night (ex: knitting, sewing, scrapbooking, making a wreath or other crafts, collecting hobbies, etc)

* Make hot chocolate/tea and read a good book (fun, like a romance—NOT a book about your child’s disability)

* Listen to good music you like. Maybe even dance to it!

* Do a mani/pedi on yourself

* Watch a favorite TV show or movie (maybe even have popcorn while doing it!)

* Light candles, make a bubble bath and perhaps have a glass of wine

* Buy yourself flowers just because J

* Try out a new recipe (maybe something chocolate-y!)

* Go through old photos/albums and reminisce

* Chat with friends online (thru Facebook or other groups)

* Meditate, do some deep breathing exercises, or if you have time, some yoga for relaxation.

* If you like to write or draw, always have a drawing pad or writing tablet nearby and when you have 5-10min free, write or draw!

* Play video games! (the Wii has games and classes for grown-ups too!)

* Create a mix of inspirational, upbeat songs that put you in a good mood, for you to listen to whenever you have 5-10 minutes of free time.

* Shop for a new outfit or gift for yourself—online!

* Write a letter or card or email to someone you haven’t seen in a while (far away friend/relative)

* Write or journal about the day

* Flip through catalogs and think about getting yourself a little something (like a new top or small kitchen gadget!)

* Work on a puzzle, or book of brain teasers

* Search online for info about things for YOU—such as online courses for a new goal/dream, info about a hobby, etc.

SO—when you have even 5-10 minutes of time--put down that laundry bin and pick up that trashy novel instead!!! Make TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF a priority—you’ll be happier, healthier and able to be an even better mom to your child, for having “filled up your pitcher” first—to pour out for your loved ones!

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