The Loneliness Of Special Needs Motherhood

by Shawna Wingert
Originally Published: 
special needs motherhood
Yuri_Arcurs / iStock

I have amazing friends. I do. They are generous and encouraging. They are willing to overlook how many times I ignore their text messages. They make me food, pour me tea, and offer me wine.

They are the difference between me completely losing it, and me just partially losing it.

Related: 8 Ways To Overcome Loneliness While Taking Things At Your Own Pace

They love me well.

But the truth is, they have absolutely no idea what it’s like to raise a child with special needs.

It has become increasingly clear that my youngest son has some neurological differences, beyond dyslexia and processing delays. My days have been a haze of his increased anxiety, meltdowns, mania, and depression.

The more he struggles, the more I realize I have been clinging to the idea that I will still have a “normal” experience of motherhood. I have been reassuring myself for years that no matter how tough things are with my oldest son, I still will have the chance to experience motherhood the way my friends do, because of my youngest.

That I will have a child who easily fits in and freely socializes.

That I will have a child who eats food without anxiety.

That I will have a child who is joyful to be with friends, easily enjoying the day.

But more and more, this is just simply not my reality. I am mourning the loss of motherhood as I hoped it might be.

Please know I realize this sounds a bit narcissistic.

I realize it’s horribly selfish to be whining about my lack of a normal motherhood when my sweet son is struggling just to make it through the day right now.

I realize that normal never really is anyway, no matter what the brain function.

But in all honesty, I see my friends’ children on Facebook and feel a pang of envy.

I leave every girls’ night out a little bitter that they all are going home to children that are already asleep. Mine will not only still be up but struggling, out of routine and anxious due to my short absence.

I feel a deep, almost visceral sense of loneliness when I hear other moms talking about their children — their struggles, their education, their crushes, their room decor, their hobbies, their sports, their birthday parties, their lives.

The older my children get, the more apparent the differences become.

And the older my children get, the more lonely I become.

My children are both struggling, and often in pain right now. It is inescapable.

On my worst days, my heart feels so broken I can barely breathe.

On my best days, my heart feels so broken I can barely breathe.

The only difference between the two, my best and my worst day, is how I respond to the loneliness that inherently comes with the circumstances I am facing.

At my worst, I am focused on all the differences, on all the seemingly unfair, on all the things I might be able to do to “fix” our lives.

At my best, I am encouraged by all of you. I am aware that no matter what it may feel like, I am not alone in this. I am aware that so many of us tell the same stories, feel the same feelings, and pray the same prayers.

Being a mother of children with special needs can be lonely work, to be sure.

But it is also inspiring work. It is work that matters. It allows me to celebrate progress with abandon because every single victory matters. It gratefully brings me closer to moms that I will likely never meet in person but nod knowingly with every day online.

Motherhood brings out the absolute worst in me.

Motherhood also brings out the best in me.

It’s true for all of us I think. We are more alike than we are different, us moms.

And this is the antidote to my loneliness — because we all hurt when our children hurt. We all dream of a bright future for our little ones. We all hope. We all struggle.

We all want to give up sometimes. We all love with everything we’ve got.

Special needs or not, a mom is a mom.

I am grateful to be in such good company.

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