Being a mom is one of the best things that has ever happened to me! And it’s also one of the hardest. I love my children just like you love yours, but it’s still so hard sometimes. I used to feel guilty when I admitted—even to myself—that being a mom isn’t always easy. I thought it meant I didn’t love my kids—or at least that I didn’t like them, but after being a mom for 2 decades, I realize that isn’t true and that there’s no need to feel guilty.
And while it’s true that bringing up children is difficult at times, it can be even more difficult when you have special needs children. At times it’s much harder. At times we moms of special needs kids feel so hopeless and helpless.
At times we ask for help from those around us and get rejected or ignored. Sometimes we even get a pat on the back and an “I-think-you’re-doing-such-a-great-job” from those to whom we’re crying out for help. I know I’ve been there.
For years everyone thought I was doing such a wonderful job coping with my severely autistic daughter, my son with Asperger’s, and my younger daughter with ADHD. I tried asking for help. I tried letting folks know that things were getting to be too much for me. But nobody took me seriously. Nobody realized that things really had gotten to be too much for me to handle alone. Until one day I crashed. I completely fell apart.
Looking back, I can see that I wasn’t making myself clear. My family and friends simply thought I needed reassurance and encouragement. They didn’t realize I was warning them that I literally. could. not. keep. going. any. longer. I tried to explain to them in words what I needed, but I couldn’t. I really couldn’t quite admit it to myself, and I certainly couldn’t figure out how to put it into words for someone else to hear. So I gave up. I quit trying to explain it to them. I hung in there as long as I could…until I couldn’t any more.
At that point, several close family members said things like, “I thought you were handling everything so well. I didn’t know you were asking me for help. I had no idea you felt so overwhelmed and buried and burned out. I feel so terrible! Why didn’t you tell me?” The answer was that I had tried to tell them. Over and over I had tried. And they had listened, but they hadn’t understood.
Whether you have “typical” children or special needs children, whether you have one child or 10 children, whether you’re handling things really well or whether you’re struggling, you need support and encouragement and help from others.
- If you have friends or relatives nearby who are willing to help, let them! Don’t feel like you’re the only one who can take care of your special needs child. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your child. Sooner or later it will catch up with you. I found that out the hard way.
- If you don’t have friends or family close by, go to your church family. Many churches—especially larger ones—have ministries for families with special needs children. Even if your church doesn’t have such a ministry, you need to make your needs known and ask for help.
- Find out if there’s a caregiver support group near you. If so, other parents of special needs children can provide true understanding and emotional support. Or perhaps you’re friends with another mom or two have children with special needs. Talk to those moms. Share your struggles and ideas and encourage one another. It can help so much just to know that you’re not alone. I know that sounds cliché, but it really is true!
- Keep a list of specific needs that you and/or your special needs child have. Be prepared so that when someone says, “Let me know what I can do to help” you’re ready to answer! Jot down ideas for things others can do to help as you think of them. These could be one-time things or something you need on a regular basis. When we’re on the spot or in a hurry, we don’t always think clearly. Keeping this list will help you let folks know how to help you when they offer.
- If it is at all possible (and sometimes I know it’s not), give yourself a break and get away—even if it’s just for a few hours or overnight. I know from experience that it’s very hard to leave my special needs kiddos, but I also know that, at least for me, it is absolutely necessary. I’m very blessed to be able to get away once in a while—even if it’s just for a few hours of browsing in the book store or going to see a movie with a friend. If you can possibly get time away, take it! It will be great for you and your child.
We would love to hear your ideas for helping moms with special needs kids or your ideas for how you, as the mom of special needs children, would like to be helped. Please share!