I want to have a conversation. Not just talking about self-care because been there, done that. What I wanted to discuss was that moms with special needs kids ensure that they pay special attention to their mental health so that they are pouring into themselves as much as they are pouring into their kids. However, this is a difficult balance when you are a special needs mom.
A special needs mom is a mom who has a child or children with a unique need that requires tremendous patience and attention. It can be a mental health condition, a developmental difference, or physical impairment or medical condition. The mother may have to spend additional time with that child going to doctor’s visits or meeting with specialists because of the child’s condition. Things may be left undone at home or at work because the mom has to drop everything to take care of this child when something comes up. What you must do when you have a special needs child is not for the faint of heart and tends to be beyond the line of duty of what most mothers must do for children who are not special needs.
Being a special needs mom requires a certain amount of mental energy. You have to always be present, able, and capable of tackling the challenges that come with having a child/children with special needs. Children are part of so many systems (extended family system, the school system, the healthcare system, etc.) and managing and navigating all these systems can be tiring. Therefore, it is crucial that we pay special attention to when we are drained. There is no way we can properly function in these systems if we are. As a special needs mom, you are an advocate, a warrior, an essential support to your child and it is vital that you don’t get overwhelmed so you can stay on top of things. So be sure that you pour into yourselves and find time to de-stress when you can.
Do you have a community? It’s important to have a community or village. We become so hyper-focused on our children and stressed out with what we must pour into them, that we forget about our own needs. A community could result from connecting with a support group for parents or caregivers with a child like your’s. Community could be your local church or maybe a group of girlfriends you enjoy hanging out with. Community is anyone or anything that helps support YOU in managing the additional stress of having a child with special needs. But it’s not just important to have a community but to reach out to them when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and need to vent and release some of your negative energy. It’s your opportunity to let loose when you are so used to holding so much together.
Another thing to consider with being a special needs mom is that you don’t feel guilty when you take time to yourself. Time to yourself is valuable to recharge and get your mind right. If you have no one to watch your kid due to their specific needs, then find a way to create time for yourself when you are at home with your child. This could be sitting in the car a little while before you walk through the front door, taking an extra long bath or shower, or just sitting on the toilet a little longer than you need to. It’s whatever moment of peace you can steal for yourself while remaining present for your child if they need you.
Of course, with this being Mental Health Awareness Month, it would be remised for me not to recommend therapy. Everyone can benefit from therapy, not just those with chronic or acute mental health conditions. It is an opportunity to gain awareness about yourself and how you can evolve into something better for yourself and your child. Going to a therapist does not always mean your mentally ill, it can mean you are ‘mentally challenged.’ Sometimes you need a sounding board to talk about your frustrations with all the burdens you carry, lack of support you receive, or perhaps discussing the grief you have from not having the child you thought you would have. Therapy can give you the closure that you are longing for regarding any unresolved issues you are dealing with.
There is so much more I could say but what I want to leave you with is really take care of you. Do what you need to do to recharge and recommit to facing the daily challenges that come with being a special needs parent. Don’t just put yourself last. Putting yourself last means that you are probably not going to take care of yourself and then unfortunately fail to take better care of others. Find respite however you can and remember that treating yourself good will indirectly affect your child’s welfare and well-being.
Love and light,