My ambitious ascent to being a perfect mama came to an abrupt halt when giving birth to our second child. As a new mother, the learning curve to having my first child, a son, was steep; yet, by the time the second one came along, I figured I had developed and nearly perfected the ways I parented. Little did I know that parenting our second child, a daughter, would be completely different. She was born with special needs, specifically a rare genetic disorder that has significantly affected her development. All the go-to information I had recorded in years of previous experience, did not apply anymore.
I once again found myself in the humbling position of knowing very little in regards to rearing children. Whatever learning curve I had with our first was now increased exponentially. We literally had no clue how to care for this seemingly fragile little being. There appeared no room for error. Through years of researching, advocating, and investing, I couldn’t help but feel I must attain some sort of professional mother status; that her needs were to be met solely by me.
But no sooner was burn-out knocking on my door, when I was forced to realize I really needed help in raising our daughter. For most of her life, I had accepted the role of staying behind because our daughter’s needs required my “expertise.” She couldn’t walk, speak, eat or even sleep well. These realities required adjusting our family rhythms and activities. While most of these needs required my presence and oversight to fulfill, I was beginning to realize that in order to survive the demands, I had to seek out support from my husband, extended family, friends, and community.
Allowing others to help me carry the burden of care was not only vital for myself but also our daughter. I have had to learn to let go in an appropriate and gradual manner.
This is something every mom comes to terms with as their children grow and naturally develop, but when you have a child so very dependent on you for their daily function and quality of life, it makes it that much harder to battle the guilt and loosen your grip.
Practically, this has meant my husband and I taking turns stepping out of activities to stay back with our daughter when needed. It was hard at first because I felt he didn’t know all the details to care for her as needed. Not for a lack of willingness or inadequacy on his part, but just due to the sheer reality that he was often at work when I was the one caring for her at home, taking her to therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments. Though it has taken intentional effort to bring him up to speed, it has been well worth the investment and has further aided us in learning to do the same with others we would look to for support.
Rather than being the one to always stay behind, we now take turns. My husband has become more than capable, bringing experiences, joys, and interactions with our daughter that I would not have thought to initiate. While his relationship with our daughter has deepened through this new exchange, I have also been released to do things with our older son, things that are hard or impossible with our daughter. However, pursuing both children where they are developmentally takes balance and wisdom. The last thing we desire is to be a family experiencing life divided. Rather than going our separate ways, we more so look to incorporate activities we can do as a family. This is crucial not only for our relationship as parents to both children, but for our marriage and the valuable bond siblings need with one another. It is challenging but the extra creativity, energy, and intentionality often required are worth it.
The additional reward is a family more unified. My striving to be the perfect mother could have been the very thing to gradually provoke division not only in my marriage but the family as a whole. Now I am a mama being perfected through my weaknesses. I realize that I cannot meet the needs of everyone in my family, especially my daughter; and, I am not meant to. My children are growing up and I must encourage other people’s investment in their lives, not only to meet their needs but to stimulate more well-rounded development. The last thing I desire for my children is to be little clones of an unhealthy me.
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