Special needs moms are fully aware that they are in desperate need of more self love. But it often feels unrealistic for so many complicated reasons. It is not just the daily demands that get to you, but the compilation of the days. It is the day after day after day routines and caregiving that weighs on us. This leads to feeling a heavy weight at times. That weight can hold us back because it can become so big it is hard to focus on anything else. Some moms feel overwhelming, debilitating stress and anxiety about the constant caregiving. Some children cannot be left unattended or always need a close eye on them due to behavior or medical conditions. It often feels as if you never get a break. The responsibility of everything lies on your shoulders. You are required to make sure every need is met. Every decision is made. Sure, people may come in temporarily to give you a moment away, but that weight doesn’t leave. The responsibility is hanging over your head. Sometimes it can be worse when you do get a break as other people don’t understand your child the way you do so it is hard to leave knowing they may not get the care they need. The guilt of this and the guilt of asking others to step in and help can feel overwhelming. It almost isn’t worth it at times. Every special needs family is like a unique puzzle piece. There are no 2 families that are the same or have the same challenges. But we do have a lot of similar emotional and mental challenges we face especially when it comes to self love.
Having a child with special needs automatically implies that our child requires extra care and attention. Just like all parents, we want our children to thrive and learn to their maximum potential. We realize if we don’t step up, this won’t happen. This awareness prompts a desperate attempt to teach and help our child in any way we possibly can. We become consumed with anything and everything we can do to make sure they develop, learn, and grow. The guilt of not doing everything we can to support them weighs on our hearts. We desperately need to know we are giving them the best chance at life. We want them to have every opportunity possible so they can have a good life.
We dedicate so much time and energy to our children that when it comes to thinking of ourselves and self love, we don’t have the mental energy to even know where to begin. Self love becomes less of a priority because we are so consumed with all we need to do for our children. We put our needs to the back burner, but then they stay there so long that we forget about them. Until we start feeling the random twinges of disappointment.
We feel like we lost ourselves in caregiving and parenthood. We may feel passionate about our children and purpose driven with being the best mom ever, but there is a lingering missing piece in our life. We try to ignore it, but it creeps out at times. We may be driving or lying in bed at night or notice someone else doing something we no longer do, and it hits us. It hits us that we lost ourselves into special needs parenthood and it hurts. It weighs on our hearts. But we push it away, because we know we having something more pressing we must do. We tell ourselves that our mission is different now and none of that stuff matters any more. And we temporarily believe it. We convince ourselves that becoming a parent means we have to sacrifice ourselves. We tell ourselves that no longer deserve to care for ourselves when our children need so much help.
The truth is we feel guilty for taking the time for ourselves. We think that if we take the time for ourselves then that means we are sacrificing time that our child could potentially be learning. Time seems to be an ongoing constant battle whether we feel guilty for using the time or feeling like we don’t have enough time, it holds us back.
The reality is our time is limited and we do have to be conscious with how we spend it. We have to learn quickly to use our time wisely. Activities, people, and choices that aren’t top of the list no longer have a place. We have to become selective with time. Caregiving, parenting, teaching, helping our children all takes up time. On top of that, we have relationships, careers, family, and other responsibilities that take our time and energy as well. It is hard to think about self love when we are so consumed with all the responsibilities. We think to ourselves how can I take the time for myself when there is so much to be done for my child and family?
We must learn to overcome this and start recognizing that we actually do deserve the same love and care we give our children. We deserve to have passions and dreams and hopes and time to do the things that matter to us. Ultimately, we can no longer ignore that little voice inside us that feels disappointed in life no matter how hard we try to push it away. That voice is telling you something important. It is nudging you and reminding you that you are worthy. You deserve self love. You deserve happiness.
We have to learn to change how we think and look at self love. It can’t be how it used to be or how it looks for other people. We have become a new version of ourselves, and we have different needs now. We have to reconnect with ourselves and spend some time self-reflecting on what is missing and what we want and need in our life to be happy. We have to become more intentional about our days and our time. We must learn to prioritize not only our children’s care but our own.
This is challenging because many parents are limited to figuring out self care options in our own homes. And often lack support of family and caregivers to take the time away for self love. It is hard to feel like you can care for yourself when you feel stuck and unsupported. We get caught up in focusing on our limitations due to our situation and this holds us back.
The truth is we are justified for feeling disappointed. We are justified for wanting more for ourselves. It makes sense that we feel discouraged about self love. It really can seem like an impossible struggle especially during high stress or times when are children are sick or going through really challenging periods of time. This occurs in special needs families at higher rates than other families. Even if you were working on self love, you have to be prepared at any moment to pause, pivot or stop as the acute needs requires all your attention. This can lasts days or even weeks and it feels so disappointing. It can make you question whether or not it is worth it. You wish you could continue to work on your dreams, but the caregiving responsibilities force you to wait. You longingly desire to continue what you started but know you can’t or are unable to do so. It can feel like a vicious cycle. It means that our goals take longer to accomplish. It means self care gets put on hold. It means you get put on the back burner again and again. It requires you having the ability to constantly pick yourself up and begin again.
You must decide you are worth it. You must accept that your path will be slower than others and never give up. You must keep fighting not only for your child but for yourself. You must find that determination you must help your child get the best chance they have at life and apply to yourself. You must light the fire inside of yourself and look within. Because the reality is that no one can do it but you. The truth is that you are right, most people don’t get it. They don’t understand your journey or your struggles. They don’t know what it is like to care and love so deeply and desperately for your child that you would do absolutely anything in this world if you knew it would help them. The constant caregiving and worry and stress are never ending. It is all up to you. And, once again, I am telling you that your self love, your life, and your happiness is Up. To. You.
That may make you feel overwhelmed. You may want to cry. You may feel like you just can’t do it. You can’t handle much more. But I promise you that you can. I know this because special needs moms step up. When we think we can’t handle much more and something new comes along, no matter how hard it is, we find a way over and over and over again. That thing may temporarily slow us down. It may cause us to fall, but we pick ourselves up and keep fighting. It’s what we do.
You can find that same fight within you when it comes to fighting for your own self. You may have only used it for your child in the past. Now, I am asking you to use it for you. I am asking you to decide that you are worth fighting for.
Make no mistake, you will struggle. You will have to adapt how you look at self love. You will need to adjust, pivot, change, pause and even stop at times. You will have to be realistic with your situation. The options are not endless for you. They are limited. This is your reality.
You must stop focusing on what you can’t do and focus on what you can do. How can you realistically add more self love. What can you realistically do in your already jammed pack day? Even if you only have a few moments to spare, how can you make the most of this precious time so you can feel better about yourself and your life again. What matters to you?
Make no mistake, I get your challenges, your struggles and your quiet moments of desperation. I see how hard it is. I know you are doing this alone most of the time. But I believe in you. I know you are an amazing person with so much to give and offer to the world. Stop playing small and stop hiding away because you don’t think you are worthy, or you don’t feel like you have the time. Something is always better than nothing. Decide that you are going to fight for yourself with every ounce of strength you fight for your child. And I promise you, that when you do this not only will you benefit, but your family and your child will as well. Because they will get the version of you that is inspired, motivated and happy about life again instead of the version that feels weighted down, disappointed and emotionally drained.
It’s time to step up. Are you ready?