Sometimes Parenting a Child with Special Needs Feels Like It’s Killing Me


I’m about to be the brand of honest that makes people uncomfortable.

Friend, it starts and ends with these two pictures.

These pictures were taken just days apart but some days as an extreme parent, this dramatic juxtaposition could be mere minutes from each other.

The picture on the left is why #MamaMondayLIVE didn’t happen today. The one on the right is my feeble attempt at smiling through a lot of weighty emotions.

Today, I smiled through child drop-offs and packing lunches.

Then I went home, put on my grandma’s old sweater, and didn’t get out of bed for the next six hours except for the bathroom.


My bed-ridden morning was in part caused by it being my turn with the stomach bug, but also due to my having alllllllll the feelings.

See, my grandma’s sweater is where I go to feel things.

Because usually, friend, I numb.

I make a choice–consciously or subconsciously–not to feel.

Because if I did, that’s all I’d accomplish.

Crying over behaviors.

Sulking over medical bills.

Yelling about IEPs.

Spiraling because of debt.

Grieving over how I’d pictured this part of parenthood.

Drowning in my own anxiety.

Comparing myself to other moms who OBVIOUSLY have their S-T together.

Wallowing in my unmatched ineptness at navigating explosive behaviors with the tender-hearted kid who emerges after the dust settles.

Attempting to understand but floundering in exhaustion from hypervigilence and what is likely PTSD.

So I numb.

I used to do it with food.

For a while I did it with exercise and diet pills. (College is weird.)

Then I turned to overworking myself.

Now, as my husband says, I “Take my feelings out on the kitchen,” meaning I get all ‘Monica’ in cleaning mode.

No matter the method, the result is the same.

I. Numb. Out.

Because raising an extreme child requires you to always be “on”–where you can’t ever really sleep or rest or relax or breathe because you are constantly afraid–
of their meds
of their doctors
of their teachers
of their friends (or lack thereof)
of other parents
of random Karens
of their safety from themselves
of the safety of others around them
of your home
of yourself
of absolute crushing debt…

This is raw and uncomfortable and…HONEST.

I spend most of my time wearing a mask.

The happy mom mask, the fierce advocate mask, the master insurance negotiator mask, the snack wielding parent at practice mask…

But if I dropped all that, I’d be wearing my grandma’s sweater, laying in bed, surrounded by Netflix, a Route 44 ice water from Sonic, and a sh*t ton of broken dreams.

And someone HAS to start saying these things out loud.

So, here it is.

I love my kids and would go full out crazy town to defend them, but being an extreme parent sometimes feels like it’s killing me.

And that’s okay, friend.

If you are feeling this now or felt it 20 years ago, you are in good company.

And maybe you aren’t willing to start speaking your truth out loud yet.

That’s okay, too.

I know most people don’t ‘get it’.

Just make sure you are aligned with a friend, a therapist, a church, a group…SOMEONE who hears you. Really HEARS you.

Just because your ‘hard’ doesn’t look like the next woman’s doesn’t make it any less valid.

I'm about to be the brand of honest that makes people uncomfortable. Friend, it starts and ends with these two…

Posted by The Mama On The Rocks on Monday, January 27, 2020


  1. I am that mom. I have 3 sons on the spectrum and I survived the younger years. Yes I had a mental breakdown when oldest was 11, but I never stopped. It was not just the kids at that point but the addition of my mothers death and neighbor baby murder. I always kept going to appointments, to the school, working. But when I didn’t HAVE TO do anything, I’d sleep. The only way for me to shut down completely.
    I still fight the fight bc youngest is 24 but forever 3. I work 10 hour days. I still sleep to relax. But I cannot stop.

  2. Yes! I feel it. I have felt it for over 17 years but I have had my spouse jump ship and sometimes I’m so alone. He told me that I wasn’t there for him. The other adult. I had a teen daughter run away from home then come back and in those years bring havock in a life of trying to figure out what was going on with our son who was struggling so hard. To find out that he was on the spectrum all along but high functioning. I also had a toddler who desperately needed me. Top this with me working full time. But I was not giving enough to him.

  3. I hear you and am proud of you mama. I have 4 kids. One is epileptic, adhd, depression and a cognitive disorder. One it in a wheelchair do to a brain injury as a baby by a babysitter, hasn’t had a seizure in 12 years and had one just over a month ago. Another has depression and anxiety. And last but not least dyslexic and add. My husband is former military and now a cop. With my youngest i started having hormone induced seizures and now 10 years later I have to have a hysterectomy in 3 weeks.

  4. Yes. I drop him off at school and then I go to work where I am meant to be building a department and coaching others in pursuit of their best life. I dont know how to cycle between all the people I am meant to be, or maybe I refuse and then feel guilty.


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