Mothers… of a Child with a Disability

Northern_Pacific_Railway_Mother's_Day_postcard_1916

The first Mother’s Day was celebrated, in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother. When companies started capitalizing on the holiday by selling cards, Jarvis held a boycott of the holiday; as a day of gratitude, Mother’s Day cards should be handwritten expressions of love and gratitude.

Mother’s Day.  It comes around every May, but motherhood is a year-round occupation, if not celebration.  This axiom holds true especially for mothers of children with special needs.  It’s a bittersweet day.  One mother, Stephanie, thought she knew all there was to know about Mother’s Day, “and then came you.”  Her child taught her so much about being a mother, about life.  What she learned – and had to learn – was not in the popular books.  What she learned and had to learn were not in the advertisements, the pictures of the Gerber baby and other indescribably cute infants.

 

Present… and the Future

At times, research promises a lessening of the symptoms of a particular disability.  It is natural for more than one mother to reflect on what that would mean for her child.  Would she want to administer such a pill to her child?  After all, she (like most moms – and dads) feels unconditional love for their child with special needs.  Those sentiments conflict with the sincere desire of any parent to alleviate those symptoms that cause undue hardship constitute.  But at what point would that involve changing the child who he or she is?

All parents have hopes and expectations for their children.  The mother of a child with special needs is no exception.  However, she must consider the question as to what dreams are realistic in light of her son’s or daughter’s abilities – and disability.  Furthermore, will someone actually give her child with special needs a chance to work?

 

Oh, the Places She Would Go… if She Could

What mother of a child with special needs hasn’t read enough books and articles to qualify for an honorary degree?  She did – had to do – everything to become an expert on her child’s condition, knowledge that includes medical terminology, special-education jargon, and acronyms.  And there at least one highly organized star-chart, to keep track of doctors’ visits and therapy appointments, including those with her school’s special-education team.  It’s not a calendar for shopping days or nights out for dinner or movies.  At least with programs such as Parents’ Night Out and in-home respite, there can be some much-appreciated exceptions.  In addition, quality residential supports programs offer supportive environments that encourage and respect the independence of those children when they become adults.

 

Perfectly Imperfect

That said, a mother of a child with special needs find herself needing to make long-term sacrifices, mainly in their careers and financial well-being.  In fact, nearly 30 percent of mothers of a child with a disability live in poverty.  Furthermore, these mothers are more likely than other moms to suffer adverse health effects from their daily stress, even shorter lifespans.  It is tempting to see moms of a child with a disability as superheroes.  They perform an amazing job, it is true, but they are human like anyone else.  Moreover, these mothers do not need the added stress of believing they must need to live up to unrealistic expectations.  Mothers of children whose disability includes behavioral issues, such as ADHD (which often accompanies learning disabilities) often find themselves judged as weak or bad parents; of course, they are not!

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