Any mom knows that the task of raising kids who are kind, confident, loving, hard working and happy is hard.
Today I want to truly honor the moms that have many additional stresses and worries as they raise babies, children, teens and young adults who require more support and skills that you don’t learn in traditional parenting courses or books. These are the amazing moms who are loving and raising children with special needs.
Take all of the traditional fears, worries and jobs we have as moms and then add…
– Hundreds of doctor and therapist appointments with specialists
– School meetings to discuss funding, support and goals for your child
– Having to constantly teach your family and friends how to interact with your child
– Defending your child’s actions to perfect strangers in grocery stores
– Recognizing that when other kids go off to college, your child will need a succession plan for support after you are unable to provide the care they need
My passion comes from generations of amazing moms who have dedicated their lives to supporting and loving children with special needs.
My grandmother adopted a spunky and energetic daughter with special needs long before the world saw the value in a child with cognitive and developmental delays.
My mom dedicated her life to children as a playschool teacher, elementary teacher and early intervention worker. My mom was the first to teach me that it is our responsibility to care for all children. She often speaks of how our actions now will affect the generations of children to come. She showed me how to love all children and how we need to join as women to support all moms.
It just seemed natural that I would follow along and dedicate my life to children. I became an occupational therapist before I had children of my own. My learning and compassion grew exponentially when I had a child of my own who required high levels of medical care from infancy to her teen world today.
Today on Mother’s day I want to honor the women who are raising and loving children and young adults with special needs. These moms take the role of motherhood to a new level. Most of all I want to encourage every single mom (whether you have biological children or not) to join these ladies and create circles of real connection and support.
Let’s first understand the experience and then reflect on how we can support in a better way.
Mom’s of kids with special needs are told daily that they are “so strong” often followed by “I don’t think I could ever do what you do.” But, you see they often don’t sign up for this. Even foster parents or adoptive families cannot know the level of exhaustion and overwhelm this can entail. I have heard so many moms who shared stories that they felt “something was different” early on with their babies. That was met with reassurance and denial from friends and family that might sound something like “oh no, they are perfect. Just leave them be.” Then one day they were told by a doctor or specialist that there fears were right. Something is in fact “different” and this begins a journey on a new path of parenthood.
Instead of saying “you are so strong, I couldn’t do what you do”
Try saying, “wow, I see how hard you are working. You are an amazing mom. How can I help?”
This last part is HUGE. You see I could fill volumes of books with stories from mom who have been approached by perfect strangers in a grocery store or at a playground when they were told how they “should” be raising their kids. Sadly this has included “your kid needs a good spanking, keep your kid away from mine, what’s wrong with him” and multitudes of equally ignorant comments.
Instead of giving unsolicited advice,.
Try offering “it looks like you are having a rough day. Do you want to go ahead of me? Could I load your groceries so that you can get your toddler (having a meltdown) into the car?”
Or try just smiling at that mom and letting her know that you see her and don’t judge her.
We have all heard that saying “It takes a village to raise a child.”
What you may not realize is that when you have a child with additional needs, mom’s have to first find a village that is willing to have them join and then educate that same village around how to care for and nurture their child. I remember the feeling of complete rejection when a family member wouldn’t hold my premature baby because he was “so small” and the exhaustion felt when I couldn’t just hand a bottle over to a friend to feed my baby who required adapted bottles, alternate positioning and sometimes choked when she ate.
Instead of rejecting or holding back,
Be honest about your own fears and then offer to learn or help in a way that you do feel comfortable.
I had some pretty great friends that would take my toddler to the park or over for a play date so that I could rest a little. This saved me from breakdowns many days. Showing up with coffee and making me laugh or letting me cry was also incredibly valuable.
Some moms are seem to be on the defense and may seem irritable to you. What you may not know is that our world is still learning, and these moms are faced with having to fight for services, funding, support and understanding every day. Sometimes we come out of the gate fighting when the challenge hasn’t even come our way.
Instead of holding back and avoiding,
Let us know that we are in this together and hear our fears and frustrations. Even if there is nothing you can do, know that providing a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on or a hug can change everything.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mom’s who have taught me to be more compassionate, less judgemental and to have helped me to know that we need to do this together.