When I first read this month’s theme, I had to force myself away from the comical and sarcastic responses that I usually give when people ask me the question "What do you do to get time for yourself?"

“Hide in the toilet and only emerge if there a loud bang or a child crying" doesn’t really fill a blog post, nor does it portray my parenting in a very good light. What people rarely ask is "What does it take, to make that happen?" The truth of the matter is since becoming parents we don’t really get moments to ourselves.

We have three girls under the age of six, and our eldest is disabled and requires the parenting of a toddler on a good day, so in reality we have three kids who are developmentally under three. We’ve spent much of the last six weeks of the summer holidays at home or in the garden, because frankly, trying to get three kids out of the house alone seems an unclimbable mountain if it’s anywhere further than the Morrisons across the street. 

I turned 30 in April this year, and my husband and I decided that it was time we had our first night away together in six years since before we were parents. For most families, this would seem like an easy enough task. Rope in a babysitter - a trusted family member or friend - book a flight and a hotel, and then off you pop. But when you have a disabled child, it’s more like preparing for a polar expedition.

For us it meant flying my mother and her partner in from Ireland and having my sister stay overnight with us the night before, so we could get away to the airport early in the morning to maximise our time away before my mum arrived in the late afternoon. We had to ensure everyone knew where the epilepsy rescue meds were located, how to use the oxygen if it was required, let everyone know where the seizure management plan and daily meds are kept, write out doses and instructions for exactly how she likes to go to bed, with what animals, and how to make it all go as smoothly as possible. 

The biggest task of all though was the art of letting go, and trusting that our children were in safe hands. We had never left them overnight before. One at a time? Sure, that’s happened before with hospital stays, but to fly 500 miles away required a lot of self-encouragement and trust that everything would be ok. And it was! We had a blast, the kids had a great time with Nana and there wasn’t a single emergency.

These one off birthday trips will probably happen again in the future without the six year gap, but it’s made us realise that we can’t wait that long again to get time to ourselves. We have sat down and examined our lives and realised that we have to make changes. My husband is a chef. A fantastically talented and hardworking chef, but the industry is not forgiving to family life. It gives little to no regard to work/life balance. Working weekends, holidays and long days means that he misses out, not only on the time when the kids are out of school, but occasions where we could get a babysitter and head out for a meal, to the cinema or to a party we've actually been invited to.

My maternity leave was coming to an end this month and so we had to decide who was going to stay at work and who would stay at home. Because of the way our home life is, with all the appointments, we need one parent at home. I have better, more sociable hours and I get paid for what I work, I am not expected to work several hours over my salary for no extra pay. I get most weekends off and not only can we have time as a couple, we can have time as a family. We can go to weekend events, days out while the kids are off school and there will be days where the kids actually see both their parents.

So my husband is giving up his career of 15 years to be a stay at home Dad. This works for us on so many levels. I love being a mum, but honestly I’m a much better mum when I don’t spend 24/7 caring for my kids. My mental health does better when I go to work every day. I am far more patient with the kids when we have time apart. I use my commute to write my blogs, connect with other families and build my network so that in the future I can be self-employed, doing what I’m passionate about, allowing even more flexibility with our work/life balance. (Plus don’t tell him I told you, but he is much better at housework than I will ever be). 

It takes a lot of work to get time for yourself as a parent. It takes creative thinking, sometimes more expense and even challenging stereotypes to get time to yourself as a special needs parent. It’s absolutely doable; it just takes some patience and thinking outside of the box to make sure that the balance is there. That and the odd sneaky alone coffee before/after work or the holiday that is doing the grocery shopping alone, but that’s another post in itself.

We are not doing anything extraordinary, we are doing what we believe will work for us so that we don't get to a point of crisis - the point where everyone falls apart, because we've spent so long trying to hold everything together. Before we've forgotten what it's like to just be us. Self-care is so important for our mental health, for our marital health and for our family’s happiness.

It might not work the way we want it to, but luckily we are quite fluid in our approach. Our family motto is "adapt, improvise and overcome" because let's face it, the life of a special needs family doesn't always go to plan. All that we can do is embrace each challenge, see how it goes, and go back to the drawing board if it isn't working.

Rebecca is a new Family Fund blogger. To read more of our Family Fund blogs, click here