Yesterday I had a lovely phone conversation with one of the blog readers. She had emailed me first, asked if she could call me. This was a big step for me, because I have a phone phobia and as an introvert (yes, really, I am!) I strongly dislike talking on the phone. She’s been having a bit of a struggle just finding a group that she feels comfortable with in the special needs world. I think we all can relate to that. I shared with her some of what I have learned over the past several years….and here is the list of nine traits in women who are either my friends or who have mentored me, or who I just admire! I think that being a happy, strong, successful special needs mom is attainable for all of us…here are some commonalities that I’ve found.
They don’t spend time wallowing and asking ‘why me?’ I have found that most moms who I admire reach acceptance fairly quickly. They tend to be very matter-of-fact and ‘focus on what you can control’ type of people. We’ll never know why…so why waste energy on it? We have more important things to do and mountains to climb. Life is full of unanswered questions, and that’s ok. We’re ok with not knowing everything.
They surround themselves with a great support network. Negativity begets negativity. You have to make a conscious decision to surround yourself with the best. That doesn’t by any means that great special needs moms are clique-y. To the contrary, they are more accepting because they have watched their own babies experience social rejection. But great special needs moms build each other up, even when they are not feeling up to it.
They are resilient and solution-oriented. A few years ago I was doing a day of lobbying at our State Capitol with some other special needs moms. One whom I particularly admire, she is just so great and inspirational. Anyway, it was near the end of a very long day, the adults were tired, the kids were worn out and my child started to unravel. One of our go-to items in these situations is chocolate milk, which one of our escorts quickly acquired from the cafeteria. Thing is–Kevin needs a straw or a sippy cup, he can’t drink from a single-serve bottle like we were just handed. Ugh, right? So I turned to her, and her daughter is tube fed, and I said, “Do you by chance have any unused tubing that I could use as a straw?” We looked at each other, realized the ridiculousness yet practicality of my suggestion and burst into laughter. “I just love hanging around special needs moms,” she said. “We never stop trying to fix a problem!”
They turn anger and anguish into action. When you initially learn that your child is disabled, it’s devastating. I’ve seen some parents get trapped in that rut. I don’t know the secret formula is-why some move past that stage and some don’t. But I have found that those who turn that anger and sadness into action really thrive. It may feel like “I can’t do anything about this” but there is actually lots you can do. Whether it be starting a blog that shares resources and inspiration with others (or just as a brain dump!), or volunteering for a non-profit that assists your cause, I have seen some of these moms do some really great things. I know some who are activists, great fund raisers, great parent support partners, become special ed attorneys and advocates, author books, become Behaviorists or Therapists, take political office, run large non-profits…so many great things. We have lots we could be angry about–our kids are mistreated, we are often shunned and forgotten by society…but anger is a destructive emotion. You have to channel that energy into something productive.
They don’t sweat the small stuff. We have enough big stuff to worry about. We have perspective.
They ask for help. We know that we can’t do this alone, so we ask for help when we need it. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
They take time for themselves. Yes, this is a busy, hard and time-consuming lifestyle. My child requires more care and is much less independent than his age-peers. But I still do lots of “normal” stuff like shopping, vacations, hanging out with friends and more. We realize that we must recharge ourselves if we are going to keep up this busy pace. There are no bonus points for being a martyr.
They find and celebrate the humor in their situations. We don’t laugh or ridicule our kids…that would be cruel. But sometimes they do really funny and odd stuff. And that’s ok. It’s ok to be amused; you can still love a child unconditionally and find humor in what they do. You have to laugh at life sometimes. Laughter is good for the soul.
They accept that life isn’t fair. Or perfect. We see it every day–a Facebook post or a family in a supermarket. All three or four (or more!) kids appear perfectly normal and happy. I could very easily become upset and think “Why me, why did I get so many struggles and their life is perfect?” Again, this goes back to the “focus on what you can control.” I can’t control fate or destiny or statistics. But as Robin Roberts is famous for saying, “Everybody’s got something.‘” They do, don’t they? No one’s life is perfect, no matter how bucolic that vacation photo might be.
“Regardless of how much money you have, your race, where you live, what religion you follow, you are going through something. Or you already have or you will. As momma always said, “Everybody’s got something.”~Robin Roberts
What others would you add?