It’s funny, this world of Special Needs. I used to think I was at least marginally aware of what was going on in the world of SN. I have plenty of customers with widely varied special needs, and have learned about a variety of childhood challenges through their experiences. Growing up with cousins with hearing impairments gave me a glimpse into the SN world, as well.
But nothing compares to actually being IN the special needs world yourself.
First, there’s the clear distinction between “special needs” and “the rest of us” sometimes called “medical needs.” “Special Needs” generally seems to include everyone, but in reality typically just refers to autism, intellectual disabilities, and other issues like sensory processing disorders, etc. So moms like me join a special needs parenting group or read an article about special needs issues and then end up still feeling excluded. But we get over it. (for the record, for the remainder of this blog post, I’m going to write “special needs” to refer to ALL of those with extra challenges.)
Second, special needs or medical needs parenting is tough. It is tougher than “regular” parenting. It just is. It’s harder and it’s more tiring. And, perhaps in response to this, there seems to be a huge need in the special needs community to feel “better than” regular parents. The internet is rife with articles discussing the many ways that special needs moms are superior to you regular peon parents.
Regular moms relax with their kids during the summer.
Special needs moms start their second job as home teachers, therapists and skills coaches.
Regular moms soak in the tub when they want to unwind.
Special needs moms consider a bathroom break a luxury.
Regular moms enjoy reading the latest best selling book.
Special needs moms should receive an honorary degree for all the disability books they’ve read.
Regular moms go out for dinner and a movie with their husbands every month.
Special needs moms have a date night with their husbands every…wait, what decade is this
Regular moms have time to cook a full dinner every evening.
Special needs moms will never admit how many times we’ve picked up fast food.
Note that the descriptions of the “special needs” moms are pretty accurate. But I don’t know any regular moms who fit the description of the “regular mom.” (this is called a “straw man” argument, FYI.) It’s not as though “regular moms” have nothing to do all day. Parenting is tiring and time-consuming whether your children are regular or not. Regular moms do not, generally speaking, watch the soaps and eat bon-bons.
(I’m not saying that I don’t agree with the idea that sometimes “regular moms” just don’t get it. How can they? Sometimes other special needs moms don’t get it either. Oftentimes, I find that “special needs” moms don’t understand the “medical needs” moms and vice versa. That’s not because the other moms are in any evil – they just simply don’t get it, because they’ve got no personal experience with it. That’s OK.)
This tripe is no different from the working mom vs stay at home mom, or breastfeeding mom vs formula mom crap that’s out there, except there’s always at least some degree of outrage following those. But nobody dares to call out the SN moms when they post stuff like this… because they feel sorry for them.
Is that what we want?
Or is our self-esteem so fragile that we have to tear down our fellow moms in order to make ourselves feel better about who we are? Is it not enough for each mom to know that she’s awesome in her own way?
How are lists such as this helpful in ANY way?
(edited to add: ALL moms are hurt when we try to make women feel shame for taking care of themselves. All moms need a chance to de-stress. All marriages need time together. )