There’s a disturbing trend happening among a handful of parents who are raising children with special needs, developmental delays, medical needs, trauma, etc: the lashing out on those raising children without these extra labels. I’ve read words from obviously hurting mothers that literally express hatred toward any mother of a typically developing child who dares to share the joys of parenting … or worse, those who dare to complain about how hard being a mom can be.
I get it. I really do. It’s hard work being the mom of children with special needs. Some days go just fine, but other days I long for “normal.” It can be frustrating to hear a mom complain that she can’t get her picky son to eat his broccoli when I worked for months, literally, to get my son to eat anything other than oatmeal… anything at all. It can sting for a moment when a friend shares a funny story her child told her, or something sweet he may have come running to tell her when I’m longing to hear what my son thinks and feels… longing for even just one small sentence.
But, those are my issues to work out in my own heart. Just because things can be hard in my home doesn’t negate the struggles my friends go through. Special needs or not, parenting is hard work. Just because my hard is different from your hard doesn’t give me the right to silence you or belittle your experience. No, you may not know what I go through on a daily basis. It may be difficult to imagine some of our emotions and struggles… but that’s not your fault. It’s not a fault at all.
So please, please keep bragging on your children. If I can’t find joy in your joy then I am not being a true friend. To feel anger because something good happened to you that hasn’t happened to me is immature at best, but the reality is that it’s a complete lack of love.
We need to love and support one another, not just those who walk a similar path to our own. If you’re tired and frustrated because your little one has a cold and has been extra cranky, it’s okay to share that and ask for support. Don’t feel awkward about saying that to me, knowing that we’re in post-surgery recovery mode and having a rough go of it. I mean that. If I am a friend, if I am being a loving and supportive person, then it won’t make me roll my eyes and utter, “if she only knew how bad it could be…”
We can’t measure the level of celebrating or grieving that our peers experience, compare it to our own level, and make a judgement call on whether or not the celebrating or grieving is acceptable and/or equal to our own. We simply need to enter into their world, grab every ounce of compassion and empathy that we can muster, and be a friend.
Our job, as parents of children with special needs, is not to make others feel guilty and constantly remind them how good they have it. Our job is to love our children (and yours!), support and advocate for them, and to be a good friend. Your job, as parents of typically developing children, is not to hide your struggles and joys. Your job is to love your children (and ours!), support and advocate for them, and to be a good friend.
We who may feel like we may have a steeper path to climb in this parenting journey shouldn’t just shut our mouths, grit our teeth, and make the journey alone. No, it’s good to share the heartaches and struggles… but to do simply that, and not tear down or silence others in the process.
Can we all just agree that, at times, motherhood is hard for everyone? And truth be told, I don’t think for one second my friends of typically developing children have it better or easier than I do. Because I have the two most beautiful and amazing children on the planet. I have more than enough to celebrate!
*originally published in 2013*