As a parent of a child with special needs, ok, in my case, two children with special needs, a lot of people ask me ‘how do I do it?’ Or, ‘I don’t know how you do it’ on a regular basis. It is such a hard question to answer and my response comes back in the form of another question…’Why do I do what I do?’
There is no doubt ‘how’ I do it, is because of ‘why’ I do it…for my children. As a mom, we love unconditionally. Well, other than keep your room clean, set the table, take the garbage out and don’t hit your brother. We DO love unconditionally.
When our children are young, we don’t mind wiping their bums, their snotty noses, letting them eat off our plates, sitting up all night when they have the flu. It is that instinct to care for, to nurture that bubbles its way to the surface even more when you have a child who has special needs.
My eldest turned twenty yesterday, so I have been a mom of someone ‘special’ for a long time. Along the way, I have learned some simple survival tips.
- Take time for you - this could mean a bath and a good book, a weekend away with girlfriends, a routine coffee night, a run, a walk or simply tucking yourself away in your room to talk to your best friend on the phone
- It is ok to be ‘off’ - we all have bad days, parenting a child with special needs means our bad days can be really bad. And it is ok to have bad days. We don’t need to put on a brave face all the time, we are allowed to curl up in the corner and cry. We are allowed to admit we feel defeated or helpless. Let those around you know when you are ‘off’ and try to balance it out with taking time for you
- Be an advocate - there is nothing better than taking your experience and making a positive impact on your community. Volunteer for an organization that aligns with your child’s needs or your family values, join a local board, speak to your local or national politicians on the kinds of services we, as families, need. Some of the best changes that have been made at a political level have been because of committed grassroots advocacy. It can provide you with a sense of purpose in what may otherwise be a sense of loss or helplessness
- Seek Support - the best thing we can do as parents of children who are ‘special’ is seek the support from those around us. It can be family, friends, other parents who have similar children or circumstances. Maybe a professional organization that supports your child’s needs. Surrounding ourselves with like minded people who understand can some times, get us through our darkest moments
We are parents AND people. We are more than our children’s disease or disability. And yes, it can be all consuming.
At the end of the day, we love our child, no matter what…and that is the ‘why’ of ‘how we do it’ when someone stops and asks you.