Self Care for the 2E Mom

Once upon a time, a well intentioned family member wanted to treat me to a day at a spa. I was in my early 30s and had never even had a manicure or any kind of pampering outside the home. I was a single parent at the time and intensities ruled the roost.

Looking back, I could have used that day away from it all. But, the very idea of walking into a social situation by myself – where I had no social script and no idea of how I would be required to interact with people – petrified me.

So, I made some vague excuse about not having time. Life went on in a chronic sleep deprived state and I continued to dream of getting away from it all.

Raising gifted children can be a challenge. Adding in a healthy dose of exceptionalities – be it your kids’ or your own – can be, well, exhausting.

Green background picture with quote that says, "Self care starts with crafting a life that you don't want to escape from."

Well meaning folks will talk about the need for self care. They’ll tell you, “If Mama ain’t happy, then no one’s happy.” And, deep down, you know it’s true.

But, really, what is self care when you’re an introvert or on the spectrum?

Go out for a coffee with a friend. Might be nice, except for all that noise and being around other people could very well aggravate personal sensitivities.

Treat yourself to a massage. Sounds great, but what if you’re on a tight budget such that a $75 indulgence is out of the question?

Get out in nature and take a walk. Now you’re talking – except no one’s taken the damn dog for a walk in over a week and you know you’re going to feel guilty if you don’t take him with you. So much for alone time.

Getting to the Heart of Self Care

Self care starts with crafting a life that you don’t want to escape from. Having been a 24/7 single parent, I get it. There will always be bills to be paid and not enough time in the day to get all your chores done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise control over the small things in life that add up to big aggravations.

For me, boundaries were at the heart of my self care needs. Bedtime was often the hardest, as it could drag on for hours. If you have a kiddo with low sleep needs or one who really just needs to tell [in D.E.T.A.I.L.] about the book they read, then you know the struggle.

My solution: Maintain a nightly bedtime ritual and then stick hard to the door-closed-at-9pm rule. Exceptions, of course, were made for going to the bathroom independently. Otherwise, medical emergencies and nightmares were pretty much the only way to get me to clock back in to nighttime Mamma duty.

Admittedly, it took a couple of weeks of push back before the bedtime rule was unquestionably accepted, but it was a life changer.

The result: I had sacred time for myself. I could read. I could surf the Internet. I could have late night telephone calls with friends in different time zones. I could go to the bathroom without frantic knocking to let me know a squirrel had just jumped onto our roof and ran past the window.

That precious alone time taught me the value of valuing myself. Learning how to establish healthy boundaries with my kids gave me the critical time I needed each day to have no other responsibility except to myself.

Self care for introverts idea chart: Stay home, take a nap, go for a walk, snuggle with your cat, put yourself first, take time for yourself, organize something, say no, set boundaries, read a book

You can love your kids to the moon and back and still struggle with dreams of running away from it all. That’s not a poor reflection on you as mom or your whether you have good kids or not. That’s just the simple reality of being stretched too thin.

Scheduling intentional self care while you work on creating that life you don’t want to escape from is definitely important. If you, yourself, are an introvert or on the spectrum, don’t let yourself feel bad if you opt for an activity that others may not understand.

If organizing your spice rack brings you soothing comfort, then do it! Want to put on headphones and listen to a smutty podcast while snuggling with your cat in your bedroom? I’m not judging. Me, personally? I find immense satisfaction with ironing clothes. I find it to be more like a spiritual practice to steam every last wrinkle out of a shirt than a chore.

As long as you feel recharged by the end of your self care time, then you’re doing it right.

Oh, but if someone offers you a trip to the spa, I encourage even the most die-hard introvert to try it. I eventually went to one. It wasn’t as hoity toity as I had feared. And the best part? The silence is glorious when you get a massage.



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.