Autism Family Self-Care Special Needs Type 1 Diabetes

To The Mom Who Feels Like a Failure

Mom and kids

My daughter absolutely despises doctor’s visits. I usually have to give her a week’s notice to mentally prepare for the anxiety a simple check-up will inflict. She recently confessed that her anxiety stems from the fear that the doctors will find something else wrong. It’s a type of PTSD she’s reliving from the time she was whisked off to the hospital with a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes at her 10-year annual check-up. I told her I completely understand how that would bring about anxious feelings surrounding doctor visits.

But, I started to realize that I experience anxiety on those appointment days, myself. For me, however, it’s a particular kind of anxiety: performance anxiety. These checkups and specialist visits are like the parenting version of a dreaded school test. This is the time the specialists analyze how well your child is doing. And, of course, this analysis tends to indicate a direct reflection of our parenting job. Usually when we put in the effort to study and practice the methods our teachers (or in this case, the specialists) have provided for us, we see this reflected in our grades. The doctor’s visit feels like a parenting report card for me. And, sometimes I don’t always get an A.

Report Card

This is extremely difficult for an overachiever like myself, the former competitive academic performer growing up. The problem is when you have kids, you don’t always see the steady fruits of your labor. We can pour our hearts and souls into the growth of our children, but the progress and feedback are not always clearly visible or measurable. It is even harder when you have a child with a disability or multiple diagnoses. It can be hard to pinpoint the right benchmark for how well we are doing. If we then measure our worth by the progress our kids make, we might spend a lot of time feeling like a failure. We forget that in reality, we are sometimes dealing with circumstances that are just outside of our control.

That’s where approval addiction can set in. I thought I was past that, personally. I thought I had done a good job of getting rid of the need to please people. It took a long time to get to the point where I no longer seek the approval of other friends or parents for how I raise my kids. Part of it is knowing that a lot of other parents are just ignorant about my kids’ conditions and it is not always worth it to try to justify their behaviors or medical logistics. However, I realized I still crave approval from the professionals in my kids’ lives. The doctors, the specialists, the counselors, even the teachers. They are the ones who know child development. All of these experts are supposed to be the authority on what is right for my kids. These specialists are not ignorant of my kids’ conditions, therefore, they have a little more leeway to accurately judge. Successfully implementing their strategies and advice should be a sign of good parenting, right? And, boy, do I look to them to reinforce that to me. But, why do we do this to ourselves? Why am I so desperate for their acknowledgement that yes, I’m a good parent? Why do we struggle to wonder if we measure up? Why can’t we have the confidence to know that though we do make mistakes and aren’t perfect, we are fantastic parents to our kids?

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Hear me, mama of diabetes: Your worth as a parent is not defined by your child’s A1C. Did you hear me? Likewise, hear me, mama of autism: Your worth is not defined by how fast your child is meeting developmental milestones. Could I do better at monitoring my daughter’s blood sugar? Sure. We could always stand to improve our numbers. But, I have to remind myself that answering to our endocrinologist is only one piece of the puzzle. He’s not the one who is also dealing with my daughter’s sensory aversions where she only eats carbs and vegetarian food. I’m the one who navigates the sensory issues on top of the other multiple diagnoses with Type 1. He is only the endo. There are 10 other experts involved in my daughter’s care. At the end of the day, I’m the one who is juggling all of those saucers on her behalf.

I also encountered similar issues in early intervention in autism. There are just so many specialists to keep up with, including the OTs, PTs, speech therapists, ABA therapists, pediatricians, and even the school officials. Each specialist is approaching our child from a different angle based on their area of expertise. But we as the parent are the primary manager, a “case worker” that has to find a way to make it all fit together. Sometimes I do wonder even though I know my child the best, how can one person make ALL of these decisions and keep it all together? It’s a bit bewildering that I make a million little decisions each day for five different diagnoses in my household. The fact is, I am exhausted and I can tell that maintaining this role is adversely effecting my mental and physical health. There are many days my brain is in a fog, paralyzed by the overload of being in constant demand.

Special Needs Mom

When the teacher wonders why my child didn’t bring in the school supplies they were asked to bring (because mom hasn’t had a chance to get to the store), they don’t realize just how many thousands of other things mom has going on, as well. Sometimes remembering for the 10th day in a row that it is “crazy sock day” or “crazy hair day” or “blue day” at school is just not at the top of my mile-high priority list. Yet, despite this, when I do forget, or when my child’s grades start to slip or there are skills they haven’t yet learned, it is myself that I blame first. Somehow I will always see it as a failure on my part. I was inadequate to provide the support my kids needed. Surely the teacher will brand me as inadequate, as well.

It’s not just the teachers and specialists at times. Sometimes it’s my own husband or family members. There are times my husband might observe that we should be reinforcing more consequences for our kids. Since I’m the one at home whose primary job is managing them and the household, the duty to discipline lies with me the majority of the time. Whatever challenge my kids are facing, it must be my fault. I didn’t push hard enough. I wasn’t consistent enough. I wasn’t firm enough. It is always about me. But, I have to remind myself that it is easy to assume you have the solutions when you are not the one in the heavy trenches each day.

At the end of the day, we are the ones who are going to carry it out. We are the ones who have to juggle and manage how to implement the strategies offered into our lives realistically. I think we have to go back to the knowledge that we simply know our children better than anyone else. Do we listen to advice and heed the recommendations of the specialists involved with our kids? Of course, we do. Chances are, you probably don’t have a medical degree. You haven’t pursued a degree in every one of these specialties required to care for your child’s needs. But, here’s one credential you do have: You are your child’s greatest advocate. The one who will love your child like no one else. The one who was there in the beginning and who will be there till your end. The one who will never give up. And, you know what? That makes you the MOST qualified for this job. So, to the mom who feels like a failure today, you are so much more. There may be doctors who come and specialists that go. Teachers will change with each school year. But there is one constant that remains for all time: there will never be another YOU. There is no one else like their mom.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9

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