When you have a child with type 1 diabetes, the condition obviously becomes the focus -- leaving you little time for things like date nights or romance. And that can really put a strain on your marriage. Parents of children with type 1 diabetes often feel wracked with guilt at the mere thought of taking time out for themselves. However, by building a solid relationship with your partner, you are actually giving your child an enormous gift, says Michelle Golland, Psy.D., a psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles. The stronger your relationship is, the better equipped you will be to tackle life's challenges -- like your child's diabetes diagnosis -- together.
"Even just a regular date night can boost your bond and bring you closer," Golland explains. "If you don't carve out enough couple time, the stress and strain of being primary caregivers could easily start to pull you apart. This will give you a much-needed chance to reconnect."
At first, you'll likely feel nervous about leaving your child in the care of someone else. But once you educate a caregiver on type 1 diabetes care, you may feel more at ease. No budget for a babysitter? Try swapping babysitting services with a friend for a no-cost option. Or host an at-home date night once a week after the kids go to sleep. On those nights, turn off the computers and cell phones so you can focus on each other for a few uninterrupted hours, suggests Golland.
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Between date nights, keep the romance alive by flirting on occasion, advises Golland. A simple wink or a squeeze of the hand goes a long way -- and can send sparks flying. When so much of your focus is on caring for your child (juggling doctor's appointments, monitoring blood sugar levels, counting carbs), both you and your spouse can easily feel ignored or taken for granted. Little unexpected gestures like bringing home a surprise bouquet of flowers or cooking your sweetie's favorite dish for no reason are great ways to show you care.
Communication can be key, especially when you have a child with type 1 diabetes. "You have to be able to express your feelings in an honest, open forum -- even if it's frustration about blood-sugar testing or anger about the fact your child got diabetes in the first place," says Golland. "Discussing your emotions together will help remind you that you're in this together."
Remember: Taking time out for you and your partner may also help you reduce your stress level and recharge your batteries, which can make you a better parent, a better caretaker, and a better spouse. That's what we call a win-win!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.