Mother’s Day is celebrated annually to appreciate and honor mothers and mother figures who bring love, nurturing, and security to the lives of children. Once a woman is a mother, she is a mother for life.
Many people are unaware of the history of mother’s day, and think of it as a day we shower mothers with gifts and cards, and treat them to extra attention and appreciation. Mother’s Day actually evolved from a women’s movement in the mid-1800s out of the mission of three women who wanted to empower women and educate all Americans about the vital role women and mothers have in our society.
All mothers want the best for their children, and every mother faces unique challenges and joys when it comes to raising them. For mothers of children with disabilities, whether a child is born with a disability or it is a result of an illness or accident, motherhood often involves reframing expectations, learning how to advocate and care for their child, and prioritizing self-care so they can be healthy and present for their child’s unique needs.
Here we discuss what motherhood is like for children with disabilities, support resources for mothers and ways to show your support for mothers with children with disabilities.
Mothers of Children with Disabilities
Mothers everywhere wrestle with society’s expectations of mothers, the desire to provide the best for their child, and letting go of ideals about what motherhood should be and embracing what it is when it comes to their child.
But, motherhood looks and feels differently for mothers of children with disabilities.
For mothers of children with disabilities they also often face judgment and lack of understanding from others, embracing the reality that their child looks or acts differently than other kids, and the challenge of finding and accessing resources that empower the whole family to have the highest quality of life possible. Finding a supportive and informed community is key to finding the understanding, information, and resources needed to help their child – and themselves – thrive.
In an article written for the Today show’s parenting team, one mother describes the challenges and joys of being a mom to a child with a disability this way:
“Being a mom is nothing like I expected it would be, but I wouldn’t change it. What I have learned as a mom has transformed me into a stronger, more confident person. But motherhood is more than what I’ve learned–it’s what I’ve felt. Motherhood has brought out more feelings, more emotion, than I ever could have experienced otherwise. I have three very special children: a child on the autism spectrum, a child with a rare blood disorder, and a child born with a birth defect.
This Mother’s Day, I want to write a tribute to all those moms of special needs children, because even though our challenges have all been unique, I feel you.”
This heartfelt message touched us, as many of the members of our Enemeez® community are mothers of special needs children.
Support Resources for Mothers of Children with Disabilities
Each child’s disability and situation is unique, and there are online and in-person communities and groups for mothers of children with specific disabilities of all types.
While we’re unable to highlight them all here, there are national resources more broad in scope that are a helpful place to begin if you’re searching for a supportive community of your own.
This is a parent-run non-profit organization with a mission to support parents or other caregivers of children with disabilities and help them access the community, support, and resources they need to make informed choices for any child with a health, physical, or mental disability.
A virtual Facebook support group for mothers of children with disabilities of any kind. The group provides members with peer support, products, resources, and information that empower and connect mothers.
A monthly online magazine that is a “source for information on children who are medically complex or have disabilities”. Parents can submit and/or read posts from other parents of children with a disability, connect with peer support, access information and resources, and share their collective experiences and knowledge.
This resource hub offers access to parent communities and resources for school services, therapy, local policies, funding sources, transportation, medical facilities, and more.
An organization that provides advocacy, health, peer support, workshops, and educational information and support to parents of children with disabilities and their professional partners.
This is an online magazine that provides support, information, education, and community to parents of children with disabilities and special needs of all types.
Ways to Support a Mother of a Disabled Child
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do, or say, to a mother of a child with a disability. We want to be helpful and supportive, and don’t want to inadvertently say or do the wrong thing.
Here are four ways you can support a mother of a disabled child not just on Mother’s Day, but all year round:
- Ask: If you don’t know a mother of a child with special needs well, and you’re not sure about the best way to help, just ask. It’s helpful to say “how can I best help you?” or “is there anything you need?” rather than presume to know what is most helpful, as even well-intentioned support may not be what a mom needs most in any given situation. Over time, you will understand more intuitively how to be the most helpful.
- Listen: We can never truly understand what another person’s experience is like. When we try to identify and/or offer unsolicited advice it can feel invalidating. Often, what a mother needs is a non-judgmental and supportive shoulder to lean on. Simply allowing a safe and supportive space for sharing and being there is often enough. Hold space for her and listen with love instead.
- Offer Childcare Assistance: Being a mother of a child with a disability can be very isolating. It is sometimes hard to find childcare or schedule a playdate with other moms, because people often shy away from situations they don’t fully understand. Offer to babysit, or provide another opportunity for her to get a break.
If a mother has other children, they can struggle with the ways in which their disabled child needs a lot of daily attention to attend to their needs, so offering to take siblings on a playdate, or spending time with her disabled child so she can do something special with her other children can also be helpful.
- Go Out and Have Fun: Take her out for a nice dinner, go to a spa, a night on the town, a walk, or other activity is another way to help. Motherhood can be exhausting, and caring for a child with a disability requires more time, energy, and attention than a typically developing child. Going out and having a good time can provide a much-needed break.
Join the Thrive Community!
We’ve gathered a number of inspiring individuals with disabilities in our very own Thrive Community! The Thrive Community Facebook Group is a private space for any person with a disability, as well as caregivers and healthcare providers that touch their lives. Our purpose is to provide a safe, educational space for group members to ask every question, connect with their peers, and empower each other through communication and connection. Our conversations are led by incredible individuals who themselves are living and thriving.
For more enlightening resources, information, and discussion, join the Enemeez® Thrive Community today!
Disclaimer: The material contained is for reference purposes only. Alliance Labs, LLC and Summit Pharmaceuticals do not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2020 Summit Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Labs, LLC.