September 17, 2012
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, a baby due any day now, 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 seven? 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 cleaning or just sitting and taking the last days of pregnancy easy 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.