Special Needs Mama

Posted by on Apr 6, 2011 | 5 comments

Special Needs Mama

There was a convention in Texas not too long ago for mothers of special needs children. More than a support group, rather, encouragement for “special needs moms” to find solace and healing and strength to continue in their everyday lives.  I was shocked that I hadn’t thought of it before.

I am a mother of a special needs child.  I am not a hero, I am not special, I am just a mom.  I have two neurotypical children, and I have one child with high-functioning autism.  I often wonder which of them is more demanding of my resources.

Autism is a roller-coaster, but so is parenting in general.  My days are filled with laughter and tantrums, and sometimes the laughter is manic and the tantrums are epic.  I plan my life around my children, as all moms do.

As I looked at the website for the event, though, I took a step outside my life and saw it with a more objective eye.  What I saw exhausted me.

I have accepted the constant stress and anxiousness and hectic aspects of my everyday life as par for the course.  Who wouldn’t expect to be beaten down a little with three kids under the age of five?  Children, especially very young children, require constant care.  They are needy and want love and attention and games and Mama at all times.  It’s a tough job that is unrelenting.

What I was missing, though, is the fact that there is someone who is not being taken care of in this equation.  Me.

I don’t expect to coddled or supported, other than the emotional (and occasional housework) support I get from my husband.  I am a stay-at-home-mom (sahm), and I feel like I’m constantly having to justify that by being busy every second of every day, as if I weren’t already. I don’t want to be seen as a slacker in pajama pants, even if that’s my go-to uniform.

(They’re comfy and I’m in my own home.  If you come over, I’ll put on real pants. Promise.)

My point is, I think I need help.  Not help cleaning my house (although a little more effort from my husband wouldn’t hurt).  Not help raising my children (hubby does a bang-up job in that department).  Not help seeing my own self-worth.

I need help admitting that the day-to-day effort of raising a special needs child, in addition to two quite “normal” children, is a herculean task.  It’s hard, and I need to give myself a break before I have to take a time-out.

I have been so ensconced in making sure my children are cared for and loved and nurtured and encouraged that I forgot about me.

That’s a lie.  I didn’t forget, I just thought it would be selfish for me to think about myself.  I believe that once you have children, they come first.  Always. I have no problem taking a back seat to the needs of my children.

But to be frank, autism has worn me out.  Autism wants to fight every day.  It wants to make mealtimes and bedtimes hard.  It wants to be rigid in routine, yet throw seemingly trivial situations into complete chaos in the blink of an eye.  Autism wants to wear me down.

My child needs me to be strong and fight back.  All of my boys need me to be the calm in the eye of the storm that never really goes away.

So I’m learning to take the moments when I can.  Right now, for example, I’m sitting in my quiet house while my husband has the kids out at a playground.  I could be baking or catching up on taped shows or exercising or cleaning or any number of things on my endless to-do list, but I’m not.  It’s silent in my home.  The cacophony will resume soon enough, but in this moment I can almost feel my soul healing.  My brain is resting.  I’m recharging.

I would really like to go to one of those conventions for special needs moms someday.  Until then, I’m going to find my happy place in bits and pieces along the way.

A little bit of happy.

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  • Tracyherring

    Wendy, I have a son that has high functioning autism as well, he is 10 and his neurotypical (you speak my language :)) brother is 8 1/2.
    I could have written your words … Except you write it more eloquently 🙂 than I would have lol!

    This week my younger son was very sick , vomit, diarrhea, dehydration, er vist, dr visits … You get it … My husband was in China on business .. And my asd son “feels SO sad because he is working so hard at school and my brother is just home laying on the couch watching tv all day”
    UGH!!!! We had a long talk about it including the needle his brother got in the arm for the IV fluids he needed … Which freaked him out and he decided going to school was a bit better.

    I just found your blog via Mary Beth Henry on fb …. I will follow along 🙂

    Thank you for sharing .

    Tracy Grice Herring

    • LOL perspective, huh? Glad you’re here – welcome!

  • Tracy TC

    Beautiful piece, Wendy!

  • you are sooo right
    I was just about to write on this topic for Hopeful Parents – for it sometimes seems that there is no room in our lives for us  

  • Kris

    I learned a long time ago, having natural triplets under the age of 5, all three – on the Spectrum, that I had to reevaluate my time in order to save my sanity.  I had to prioritize what was important to me.  My kids (all 5) come first and I remind the older 2 that they mean just as much to me but there is a difference between the two of them and the triplets, they get it.  I remind my hubby (2nd marriage), that he got the one thing he needed to complete his “circle of life”, it just came out in multiples and with a surprise bonus – crap happens…  Granted it took 2 years and a health issue (me) to get him there, but I’ll take what I can get.  My second priority is me.  I found a middle ground w/house duties, and if I need extra time for me, I take it.  The hubby makes sure I get as much time as I need to “loiter” when I go out for groceries.  I stopped feeling guilty about the laundry piling up, the beds not getting made daily, feeling like I’m not pulling my weight, etc. I remind myself, that my husband gets something I don’t.  He gets to socialize at work, have adult conversations, meet people, every day is different for him and he loves his two jobs (he’s in the medical field) , he has a life, a career.  I take care of everything, all he has to do is work, lawn, spend time with his children and fix things around the house.  If I’m not doing the laundry when he thinks it should be done (most of the laundry is his) – he is a capable person.  I have few moments of “why me”, very few because I wake up every morning with the knowledge that each day is a new adventure.  If they want me to put on a T Rex hat and chase them, build a horse farm from Lincoln Logs, or build a tent out of a sheet and pillows – duty calls and my kids come first.  I get to live, learn, laugh, cry, meltdown, etc. right along w/them.  Most of it is book worthy and gives over 300 friends on FB comic relief.  The times that are not so funny – I have always found a way to find the humor in it, they are only 4 years old, that ability to put it into perspective has kept me grounded.  I enjoyed reading and relating.  :O)