I was at a camp for kids with special needs. There was a young woman in charge of several kids in need of substantial care. It was obvious this woman cared deeply about each kid and had her game face on to take care of them for the week. A friend of mine was in charge of the camp and a special needs expert. As she talked to this young woman to see if she could help her, she realized that the game face was bravely masking her emotions. My friend sent everyone out of the room, put a hand on the woman’s shoulder, and gently said, “It’s okay, you can lose it now.” She tried to hold it in for a second but the emotions were too overwhelming. The tears came pouring out.
Being a mom brings tons of emotions, but having a child with special needs adds another layer of complexity to the job. And, often, these mothers expect so much of themselves thereby adding even more pressure to their lives. Here are 3 emotions it is okay for moms of children with special needs to feel.
1. It’s okay to feel tired.
Motherhood can be exhausting; motherhood with a child with special needs is doubly so. Children with physical needs require more physical output from you, whether it’s helping them with mobility and giving them extra physical care, or driving them to medical and therapy appointments. Children with mental and emotional challenges can drain your mental and emotional reserves as well. So, allow yourself to be tired. Even if you feel like you don’t have the time cushion to do that, taking care of yourself will benefit you and your child.
2. It’s okay to feel discouraged.
Parenting a child with special needs compared to parenting a typical child is like comparing a ride on the scariest roller coaster ever built with a kiddie roller coaster. They both have ups and downs, but beyond that, there’s no comparison. You’re dealing with things other moms aren’t—fighting insurance companies, trying to help your child fit in with his peers, and processing the stops and starts of your child’s progress. When you do feel low, which is okay, the key is having a plan to get back up again. Have at least one person you can call in a pinch. Reach out, no matter how difficult it is.
3. It’s okay to feel sad.
As you watch your child struggle, it’s only natural that you will feel sad. You might feel sad for what she can’t do, or for what her special need causes her to miss. You might also feel angry that this would happen to your child. I once heard a mother of a baby with special needs say, as she waited for him to get out of surgery, “You know, I would understand if this had happened to me, but why would God let it happen to an innocent baby?” Facing your child’s special need every day can be heartbreaking. But, the same mother who said those words above, has now, 13 years later, channeled that sadness into admiration for her son who has come so far in spite of his physical challenge. Yes, she still feels sad and angry, and, yes, she would take away his physical challenge if she could, but she knows that she can best help him by moving beyond the sadness and anger as much as she can.
Being a mom brings tons of emotions, but having a child with special needs adds another layer of complexity to the job.
What emotions are you tired of hiding?