Habits of Happy, Strong and Successful Disability Moms
Yesterday I had a lovely phone conversation with someone whose child was recently diagnosed with a disability. We have mutual friends who referred her to me. She’s been having a bit of a struggle just finding a group that she feels comfortable with as far as our different parenting. 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 mom is attainable for all of us. Here are some commonalities that I’ve found.
They don’t spend time wallowing. 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. 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 disability moms are clique-y. To the contrary, they are more accepting because they have watched their own babies experience social rejection. But great disability 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 disability moms. One whom I particularly admire, she is just so great. 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 disability moms,” she said. “We never stop trying to fix a problem!”
They turn their uncertainty into action. When you initially learn that your child is disabled it’s a weird and at times overwhelming mix of emotions. I’ve seen some parents get trapped in that rut. I don’t know the secret formula. Why some move past that stage and some don’t. But I have found that those who turn emotions 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 fundraisers, parent support partners. Or they become special ed attorneys and advocates, author books, become Behaviorists or Therapists, take political office, and even run large non-profits. 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 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. Just like our other kids, 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 are confident free thinkers. If you ever want to instantly receive hundreds of pieces of unwanted and unsolicited advice, have a baby with a disability. Good grief! It’s everywhere. Social media has only made it worse. Complete strangers feel compelled to tell me what I should be doing with my child. At times, it can cause you to doubt yourself and wear away your confidence. We’re always on the learning curve and weighing out different options for our children. But the ones I admire are able to tune out all the noise and investigate for themselves.
“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
- Also read:
- Don’t tell me how to feel about having a disabled child.
- 10 New Year’s Resolutions for IEP Moms
This post was originally written in 2014 but was recently updated. I really struggled with the idea of even updating it, or just deleting it. I have since been introduced to the concept of ableism and being ableist, and how some moms contribute to ableism. I can see where this post, by merely existing, could be construed as ableist, because it implies that moms with disabled kids need special traits or characteristics to be successful, due to the existence of their disabled children. However, I decided to leave it be for two reasons.
One is that the moms whom I most admire are not ableist. Or, in reverse, the moms who I do find to be wallowers or ableist tend to not have most of these traits. For that, it might be helpful.
The second reason is, whether I like it not, society treats me differently in regards to how I parent my children. One is disabled, one is not. Out in the community, at the doctor, at the dentist or any place else, really. I may be feeding into that by validating that there are two types of parenting when there shouldn’t be. Parenting should be parenting. My disabled son’s needs are not special, they are the same needs as his brother. The only difference is access and approach.
Anyway, now I’m starting to ramble, but in the end, I just decided to leave it.