Whenever I run across a valuable and inspiring resource penned by women, one designed to help other women improve their lives, I cannot wait to pass it on. This is one of those times.

Throughout my life, the timeless messages of Julie Cameron, Anne Morrow Lindberg, Maya Angelou and others have added fire to my creative soul. So I’m always on the lookout for new writers whose talent for written expression inspires me and motivates me to be the best darn human being I can be. Like most people, I am a continual work in progress. No big surprise there. As long as we are still breathing, there is room for us to discover more about ourselves and to grow and change in amazing ways. Always.

So I’ve got a new name to add to my list of those who challenge me to pursue new personal heights, and I ‘m going to share it with all you incredibly hard-working moms of children with special needs (and those without). I’ve just discovered the terrific works of author Joan Anderson. Like the sacred words of Julia Cameron, a gifted champion and nurturer of the writer’s sometimes fragile psyche and soul, Anderson’s book holds the power to inspire women to take powerful action to improve their lives.

This talented author gives women the permission they desperately seek, (yet rarely find outside themselves—hint: stop looking there!), to take time out for personal reflection and renewal. Think of this read as an invigorating blood transfusion for a tired mother’s soul (chicken soup alone won’t cut it!).

Anderson challenges our gender, one extremely effective at caretaking everyone but themselves, to take time out to reconnect with who they once were, and still may be behind all the societal masks and demanding female roles they have taken on to the nth degree. (I’m exhausted just writing about the subject!). Anderson invites us to ditch the wobbly, painful stilettos (the masks we wear each day) and get real by giving women permission to reclaim their own lives– and wear more sensible shoes as they navigate life’s rocky emotional terrain.

I came across this author’s important works during a much-needed day away from demands as a new author. As I prepare to face some especially important whirlwind weeks involving book promotion and media appearances, I came across Anderson’s most recent work: A Weekend to Change Your Life: Find Your Authentic Self After A Lifetime of Being All Things to All People. I found it while leisurely browsing in a bookstore. (Haven’t done that far too long).

Intrigued by the title (book titles do matter!), I began reading her words before leaving the bookstore. I couldn’t stop! With my discerning writer’s eye, that’s something that rarely happens. With my increasing professsional demands, I must connect with a book immediately to even consider purchasing it. Anderson’s book had me reading before I left the parking lot.

This particular title is a semi workbook/companion guide to Anderson’s bestselling book A Year by the Sea (I’m drawn to titles involving the word SEA!). I promptly got myself a copy of that book, too. I keep going back and forth between the two titles, savoring every single word on each page, finding each valuable reflection and insight a gift. I’m stopping only long enough to blog these words, while forgiving myself for going two weeks without a new entry! The books are working already.

Anderson’s insightful words offer a particularly timely statement for my own life. I have just finished a huge personal goal of becoming an author of a book about a topic about which I am passionate- improving the lives of children with special needs, and the lives of their families. Becoming published by traditional publishing channels is no easy feat these days and it gets harder each year. Plus, I’m still dealing with the grief over the death of my son in 2003.

Reality check. I am at one giant life crossroad. And that ever present nagging question What now? that often faces us gals once we climb one big mountain (or finish a big ‘ol stinkin pile of dirty laundry), is already chanting in my brain. Every so often, I tell it to chill out! Anderson challenges us to say that more often, using stronger language.

It’s just like mothers to barely take time to catch their breath, validate their achievements (if we do that at all) and say good job! before they take on another big task– all the while wondering what we must do next in our never ending quest to prove our value and our self worth and mommy stock. I’m not going to rant about how we got ourselves into this role-playing mess, not today anyway. But here’s Anderson suggests a novel way to help you try to find your way out of it.

How about doing nothing?

How about taking time needed to retreat into silence in order to rediscover who you really are, to rediscover what moves you, makes you cry, laugh or love passionately and celebrate you? How about taking time to reflect on your own greatness as a human being outside of all these other roles you wear, in order to rediscover the terrific person that lies beyond the laundry, homemade lasagna and PTA carnival chair title?

“No time!” you shout!

Anderson challenges that protective chant, too, by citing all the hours, minutes, microseconds in a day (some of which we clearly waste), before challenging you to find some of that time just for you (she did this to an audience member live on Oprah!). Anderson has a critical point to make. We have become a nation of burned out moms, speeding by life moments in gas gulping SUVs. Our children are watching us closely, and they are stressing out, too. We are making some crazed choice to stay on this treadmill of parenting madness.

Anderson works helps us understand that we can and must change this insanity.

This author is right on, sisters! And we should be paying close attention, because ultimately our children are paying the price of our refusal to take care of ourselves and one day, (if we have parented well and can find additional resources where needed), most of our kids will leave us to take flight and create their own worlds in their own space. Then what?

We could all benefit from a slight slow down and reflection, don’t ‘cha think?

While the meat of Anderson’s words are designed to help women in mid-life transition rediscover who they are beyond the exhausting roles of wife, mother, employee, etc. I find her valuable message of self care for women especially powerful for mothers of children with special needs. When it comes to running the parenting race, these women are triathletes.

Like other moms, they often give until they have nothing left to give, but the heightened intensity of special needs parenting demands make these moms the true heros in the non-stop motherhood race. Finding time away to these moms isn’t as simple as it is to most. It requires extra careful, thoughtful planning, and usually great child care, a very supportive husband, or priceless (and hard to come by) respite care. The good news is that where there is a will (and a great need for life-impacting change), there is nearly always a way.

Permission to take care of YOU (and time away from parenting) granted!

Take time out for you! That’s Anderson’s battle cry, mine, too. I included self care (for dads, too!) in my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations (the book you need besides Andersons!), because I believe it is a critical component in the special needs family equation. There’s a reason why flight attendants tell passengers to use the oxygen masks first before offering it to their children. You cannot continue to run this kind of demanding parenting race without taking care of you. You are at increased risk for burnout. I’m deadly serious.

Anderson gives further credibility to this crisis facing many exhausted women today, women who feel guilty for voicing their exhaustion and need for rest. We represent a large generation of women who have tried to do it all, be it all, be the best at it all, at a huge cost to our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health (without any thought that equation might include special needs!). And if you think the family unit and your children don’t notice or suffer as a result, you are mistaken. Kids are remarkably sensitive and insightful to what’s going on around them. They know if you are happy and content, or stressed and rabid beyond belief (maybe even wishing to escape into a romance novel of your own perhaps??).

Is this really the message we want to give about ourselves and our life roles to our daughters and our sons? Do we want to leave them a legacy that defines the woman’s role as one of martydom, with the required skills of juggling all the life balls without ever dropping a single one, while adding more balls to the equation every single day? No wonder so many women are pooped, discouraged, and out of touch with their inner goddess!

We need to stop the madness. We need to take time out. Anderson’s books and words may just give you the added incentive and permission that you think you need to do just that. If nothing else, you will find out that you aren’t alone in this life madness and that yes, you can get off the crazy tilt a whirl, at the very least for a short time. Short escapes can work wonders.

You can find out more about Anderson’s work at: http://www.joananderson.org/.
and more about mine, of course (it is my blog after all!) at http://www.judywinter.com/.

Your family will be better off because mom took needed time away to refuel. Most importantly, so will you. Most moms have a tough time admitting that maybe, just maybe, our children and family can exist without our micromanagement for just a little while (especially tough for some moms to leave DAD in charge!). They can make it without us- for a little while at least! What a relief to find this out before you fall head first from exhaustion into the homemade lasagna, and snort noodles!

So this week, try hard to uncover and highlight at least three blessings your child with special needs brings into your life and celebrate them, together! And then share them with me! …Right after you lock the bathroom door and take a long, hot bubble bath (or even a short one).

Me? I’m gonna go curl up cat like and take a nap in the warm late-April sun, right after I fold the last load of laundry…