Self-care is about taking care of you, finding your time, embracing your moments. It’s that bath with lavender, that movie with popcorn, or that ice cream with chocolate sauce. It’s those little things that give you a break. Today, I actually had a revelation. Self-care is also about NOT doing EVERYTHING!! To be honest, that’s a hard one for me. I have always been the person who works extra hard to excel, always reaching for and achieving new goals while pushing for excellence in all that I do. I don’t say this to brag. I say this to show the enormity of what I am about to reveal. And believe me, this is hard. Here it is… I CAN’T DO EVERYTHING!

There’s a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes just saying it. I am at a crossroad in my life where focusing my energy in one place means closing the door on another. For me, that door is being a full-time Professor at a Research University. Is research something that I like? Yes, it is! Is it something that I am good at? Yes, it is! But here’s the hard part. When my head is buried in data analysis, literature reviews, and research meetings, I have very little time for the things that bring me true joy – my family and the families that I serve. It’s not enough for me to produce great research if my efforts do not benefit my children – the main reason that I was doing research in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, having a paper published is a great feeling. It is often the culmination of years of work. However, seeing my own children take leaps forward in communicating, seeing a child that I work with learn a new skill, seeing a parent express joy and hope for the future, resonates more intensely within my heart and my life. Letting go of this path actually shocks me, because I just knew that I could do it all. Making a choice not to, felt like I was giving up something. However, when I truly look at my life, I find that I am happier and more content when I focus on those things that bring me joy. CARES™ Consulting is that thing! Running CARES™ allows me to be close to my family while also helping other families. What I am realizing is that making the turn in this direction opens more doors than I thought. Not doing ‘everything’ that I thought I ‘should’ be doing, has given me more time to do ‘everything’ that I ‘want’ to be doing. The relief and joy is beyond words.

For parents who may have had to make life changes (e.g. quit your job, miss the social mixers, limit family outings, change your career path, etc.) to focus on your child with autism, please know that you are not closing doors. You are choosing to walk down another path that leads to new doors – doors that lead toward your family and connecting to your child/ren with autism. This door is more precious than anything. Ultimately, it is the door to your heart. Open wide and walk right in!

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