Don’t get me wrong. Parenting and being a mother, has and is an awesome thing, and seeing these two human beings that I helped to make and am bringing into the world, is mostly amazing, and I have many fellow parents around me in our little community both in real life and online, as we navigate this journey with it’s ups and downs, highs and lows. I don’t regret for a minute choosing to become a parent. There are things I would change, looking back, but I think that’s pretty much how anyone feels.
This post is blunt, raw and honest. I will say now, if you are reading this, and it strikes you, and makes you think, then I have achieved what I set out to.
When your child has a few extra needs, that mean your parenting journey is slightly different from those around you and your child’s peers, it can be a lonely business. When you mostly look like life is normal, but underneath you are trying to keep it all afloat, all the while trying to maintain life. Doing all the usual things, but also juggling those extra balls, that other people don’t have to manage. Those needs can vary from being invisible health issues, behavior issues, developmental or mental health problems that are hidden under the veil of normality that we parents are pretty darn good at hiding behind.
People sort of get it, when they can see you are tired, or not coping, or that your marriage is struggling a bit, or that suddenly you aren’t around as much, or your Facebook posts are getting a bit grumpier or more cynical, or you start to say no to things you usually would say yes to. When you make priorities that other people don’t see clearly, because they aren’t what they would choose, simply to keep yourself sane and life running smoothly in a way that works for your family but they don’t get it long term, and frankly they get bored of hearing the same old thing that you are going through, or they are moving on from and you are still stuck in.
When you are constantly tired, other people don’t get it and they don’t know what to say or what they do say isn’t helpful (and they know it but they say it anyway, because saying something seems better than saying nothing at all) and it’s the same old story. It’s boring for other people, but it’s lonely for you.
When you have to step out and make decisions for your child that are different and once again you have to explain and justify and then deal with the consequences before things get better. It’s the same old story you are telling other people, but it’s lonely for you.
When you have to stand firm about how your life is going to run, in order to benefit your family’s needs most, and that doesn’t suit the needs of those around you who have expectations that in reality you can’t meet, it’s annoying for them, but it’s incredibly lonely for you.
When you refuse to take the advice being dolled out to you, by people who don’t get what is going on but feel they should have a say anyway, it’s lonely.
When friends who you supported and propped up, have walked away because “you are always tired and you don’t talk about anything else these days”, it’s lonely.
When you don’t ask for help or support any more from the people around you, because you feel like you have asked too much, already and asking again just feels like you are pushing and being selfish.
When you feel like people around you could come to you and offer support, but they don’t because they don’t really see what’s going on, and you don’t know if it’s because they don’t want to see or because they are bored of your problems and just wish you would get over them…
Before you roll your eyes whilst reading this, and before you go any further, what I have written above, is not just written from my point of view, although I feel all of these things, and some of them are particularly acute right now, I will admit, but they are also the feelings of many other parents out there, battling with “invisible” problems in their lives. Our children are not in wheelchairs, or clearly physically disabled. Our children seem to manage most of life’s daily happenings, with some ability and seem to cope. Most of the time you see us and you think we are coping, or you think we are moaning about stuff that could be solved with a bit of discipline and some tough love in our parenting. From the outside we look normal, and you don’t see what we battle when the door closes and we are alone. I spent last Saturday at a conference on inclusion for families and because of our particular needs was grouped with other parents with children with Sensory Processing DIsorder, ADHD and other issues that don’t present as physical, but are just as hard to manage sometimes as those of a child with a physical disability because on the outside our kids don’t look like they have any problems and society doesn’t look further, a lot of the time than beyond the physical. The one thing we all agreed on (we actually agreed on a lot) was that we all felt incredibly isolated sometimes, and we wished we didn’t but we don’t know how to make that change.
It’s a bloody lonely business, this parenting when your child has needs that other’s don’t or refuse to see… I have decided that I am tired of being lonely, and I am tired of trying to justify and explain my parenting to those around me who don’t get it. I am tired of having to stand alone in a crowd feeling like I want to scream. I am not going to sit quietly not saying anything because I think it will offend those who don’t understand where we as a parenting tribe with our kids who need that wee bit more, are at. I won’t capitulate to the conforms of the community that only sees things one way, and when we put our hand up and say “that doesn’t work for us” we feel like we are inconvenient and causing a problem. I am not going to sit around having a pity party any more.
Lonely, is how I feel, and how many feel but we shouldn’t. How can you, someone who isn’t walking our path, help with that? Maybe you need to go away and think about that, too?