Life of a Special Needs Mom: Mom Guilt


We went to a brunch on New Year’s Day. Kids were welcome, so we took all three of ours. Cooper, our oldest, has special needs. He’s nonverbal, eats through a g-tube, and is in a wheelchair. A lot of times, he is just fine at parties, especially if he has been to the house before, but that day he got overwhelmed. He’d been up late the night before (for New Year’s Eve), there were a lot of people in a relatively small space, and it got louder and louder as the morning progressed. Finally, he had just had enough. He lost it, screaming and crying in the middle of their living room. So I took him back to their son’s bedroom, laid him down on his bed, and tried to calm him down. Most of the time, when things like that happen, he just wants to be in a bed (preferably his), alone. So after trying to calm him down for a few minutes, I left him in there. 

We stayed for another 45 minutes or so, occasionally checking on Cooper, but we spent most of the rest of the time we were there chatting with friends and drinking mimosas. Did I feel bad about the situation? Yes. I felt terribly guilty that he was basically alone while we were having fun. BUT, if I left a place every time Cooper lost it, we’d never do anything. Which ALSO sounds like a terrible thing to say. And then my brain and my heart run in circles. Is this fair to him? To us? What is the best solution? Is there even a solution? 

                 When taking pictures with Cooper, we often just take what we can get.

Look, I never knew how much could be expressed without words until I had Cooper. He may not speak, he may basically be a 9-12 month old in a 7 year old’s body, but the kid has opinions. He lets us know when he’s happy, and his smile and laugh are the absolute best. But he can also be very angry. And he will scream and throw himself backward and scratch at you until he is appeased. And usually what calms him down is being by himself. Laying down. So if that is truly what he wants, it is what I’m going to give him. Even if it means feeling ridiculously guilty about it. 

Parenting is hard. Really hard. And parenting a special needs child comes with additional struggles. It’s part of the package. And I have learned in my 7 years of parenting that there is no one right answer. For anything. You state a parenting opinion and someone, somewhere is going to think that that is literally the worst decision you could make. As a mom, you can’t win. So I’ve learned to tuck my guilt into the back of my mind. If being alone, in the quiet, at a party is what Cooper wants and needs, I’m going to give him just that. Even if it means I kinda look like a crappy parent because of it.

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Crady is a native Memphian, but she left for twelve years only to return at the end of June 2016. She is wife to Brad, who is a pediatrician in the ER at LeBonheur. Together, they have three children: Cooper (August 2010), Semmes (March 2013), and Katherine Cobb (September 2016). Cooper has special needs, so she is constantly balancing being a special needs mom and a typical mom. She lives with her family in Central Gardens, where she spends her days wrangling children and trying to limit screen time. She loves vacations, book clubs, dinners with friends, and a hoppy IPA at the end of the day. She hates kids’ TV shows, people who park in handicap spots when they aren’t handicapped, and tomatoes.