This isn’t what I signed up for. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m overwhelmed. Parenthood was supposed to be joyful. I was supposed to be happy. I was going to spend my days cuddling and reading books and my nights resting while my children slept. There was supposed to be peace. I never expected to have children with special needs. What I got was more tantrums than cuddles. More exhaustion than rest. I feel more overwhelmed than peaceful.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mom. I am sooooo glad I had my kids and I am truly blessed to be their mom. There are also moments when I feel like I’m drowning. I feel like I’m caught on some never-ending merry-go-round of evaluations and therapies. These are the moments when I want off this ride! I want help but I either don’t know how to ask or I won’t let myself. That would be admitting weakness. It would be putting a burden on someone else. This is the hard side of having kids with special needs.
Have you been there?
Are you there now?
I wish I could say I had some magic formula to make it all smooth sailing. I don’t. No such thing exists. What I can do is tell you what DOESN’T help.
- Living in denial of special needs
- Isolating yourself
- Refusing to ask for help
- Refusing to accept help
- Beating yourself up
Living In Denial of Special Needs
I spent a lot of time denying the fact that my kids had special needs. For a while I just believed I was a bad mom. If I had been stricter, or less strict, or more cheerful, or less silly, or overall better, we wouldn’t have these problems. I was sure of it. Even as my boys began speech therapy I didn’t (or wouldn’t let myself) see it. It’s funny how we can blind ourselves to things sometimes, isn’t it? I saw my kids as ‘intense’ and ‘struggling’. I always pictured kids with special needs has having BIGGER needs than my kids. That was for kids who were severely disabled, or non-verbal, or autistic, or something like that. That definitely wasn’t us! So, I lived in denial.
When we live in denial we don’t seek out the help and support we need. Sometimes it means we won’t seek out any help at all. We close ourselves off and try to figure it out on our own. Other times it means we look for help in the WRONG places. Oh man have I ever looked for help in the wrong places! I’ve researched discipline techniques when I should have been Googling coping techniques. These resources may be great, but if they don’t address your child’s needs, they’re NOT going to help.
“I can’t go to playgroup. Something is bound to set him off and then he’s going to MELT DOWN! I just can’t deal with all those looks.”
“I’m so far beyond overwhelmed it’s not even funny. I’d rather just skip church and hide out in my room.”
“I know she asked, but I can’t tell her how I’m really doing. She’ll think I’m an awful mom!”
It’s so easy to isolate ourselves as a special needs parent. Going out with our kids means navigating the minefield of triggers and judgmental looks. Our friends offer us well-intended but hurtful advice when we share our struggles. It all feels like too much to handle. So, we decide it’s better to just stay in our own little bubbles.
Except it isn’t.
Isolating ourselves may FFEL safer, but we’re really making our lives harder. When we isolate ourselves we eliminate the community that could be supporting us. We become lonely, overwhelmed, and depressed. You NEED a community of people who will stand by your side through the victories and the struggles. Only by stepping out of your comfort zone will you be able to thrive!
Refusing to Ask For Help
I know what you’re thinking. You can’t possibly ask for help. It would be too embarrassing. Nobody would say yes. There is no one else who can handle your children’s needs. You have nobdy to ask. These all seem like valid reasons to avoid asking for help, but let’s be honest. It’s really about fear. Fear of rejection stops us from asking for help.
I get it; three are certain forms of help that are harder to come by when your children have special needs. Friends may not know how to care for a child who is medically fragile. Family may not understand dietary restrictions. Please don’t let that stop you from asking for help. You need it!
Even if your loved ones can’t help in some ways, there are things you can ask them to do.
- Order groceries online and ask them to pick it up.
- Ask them to drive you to an appointment so you can rest on the commute.
- Have someone help with chores around the house.
Refusing to Accept Help
Asking for help is WAAAYY out of my comfort zone. It takes strength. How do we get muscles stronger? We exercise them! If you have ever started an exercise routine when you’re VERY out of shape, you know you must start small. That’s where gratefully accepting help that is offered comes in.
I get being unable to ASK for help. Why can’t we accept it when it is volunteered, though? Make your life easier by accepting help that is freely offered! Take a deep breath and let someone be a blessing to you. If your best friend offers to fold your laundry- let her. When your mom offers to drop dinner by- say yes! Once you’ve adjusted, asking for help when you need it will be that much easier.
Beating Yourself Up
We’ve talked a lot about stepping out of our comfort zones. That’s a cake walk compared to this last issue. Stop beating yourself up! Getting mad at and punishing yourself for every struggle is making your life so much harder than it has to be. You know it as well as I do.
I’ve been there and done that. It’s a HARD habit to break. The other night I had multiple nightmares about people telling me what a terrible mother I was. How I didn’t keep the house clean enough or do enough for my kids. I cleaned like a mad woman the next morning. Throughout the day I kept telling myself what a failure I was. I was wrong. Satan was feeding me lies. If I’d heard someone saying these things to another person I would have called them a bully! If I spoke to my kids like that, would they be successful? Not a chance. Berating someone only makes it harder for them to succeed. The same is true for when you are doing it to yourself.
Cut yourself some slack, moms! It’s okay if the dishes sit in the sink for a while. Let the kids watch TV while you rest, no guilt necessary. Costco makes fantastic rotisserie chickens and Instacart now delivers from there. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING. Be as kind to yourself as you would expect others to be to your family.
You CAN Do This
Parenting is never easy. Parenting a child with special needs is that much harder. There are appointments, therapies, sleepless nights, and judgmental stares to contend with. There are also our own demons that make our lives harder. Today I want you to find a way to let go. Let go of the burdens that are weighing you down and making your life harder than it has to be. Reach out to others. Join a support group (online or in person). Ask for help. Above all, show yourself the grace you show others. Jump in and help another mom down the road. For now, lean on God and those around you, and love those precious babies God gave you.
Heather Gonzales is a Christian, wife, and mom to 5 beautiful children. She has been homeschooling for 5 years and how has ‘students’ ranging from kindergarten to 4th grade. She blogs at Fearless Faithful Mom about conquering the fear of failing as a mom and embracing the adventures God sets before us.
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