Sometimes, as moms, it gets to be too much. Especially if you are a mom of children with disabilities. This blog is for all the moms, to let you know you are not alone, it's ok to break down and you will find your strength again.
Mother’s Day had me in a reflective mood as I sat down to write this blog. This has been an incredibly difficult year for me personally - a year of immense personal and family transition. On the outside looking in, it may seem like all is great in our world, but it has not been an easy year. I debated whether to post an article whose theme was of struggles and challenges. But, writing it helped me put things in perspective and motivated me to make some moves I had been putting off. I decided that reading it - and knowing you are not alone in your own struggles - might be beneficial to you as well. Here is my journey.
You’ll recall last June we bought a ranch. While it’s been great and I love every minute of it, it’s been a lot to handle on top of everything else.
Conner, our oldest with Usher syndrome, graduated from college last year and moved back near our home in Washington state. He’s been struggling with how to find a job during the pandemic. Even though he's been living independently ever since he left for college, there are a lot of things that he continues to work on to achieve his long term goals. For example, he’s been exploring the types of accommodations that might be necessary when he gets a job - and also those he needs while looking for a job. He’s been working on his orientation and mobility skills - something he’s always been strong in but the pandemic made that a challenge, so he needed a refresher. He has been learning how to cook healthy meals for himself.
Honestly, he’s doing so great with all of this, and I know this is his journey, but as a mom I underestimated how hard this would be to see him struggle as an adult and grow. I’ve always been there to advocate and protect him, but I know that my role now is to support him as best as I can and to let him live his own life. I am so proud of him for persevering through this challenging year. He has a few really exciting opportunities in front of him and I know he will do amazing things.
Trying to get back to “school life as usual” has been more challenging this year than we all anticipated. With Covid and staff shortages, there have been lots of substitute teachers, which has been really hard on Dalton. In a normal year, he experiences more fatigue as the year goes on but this year is far worse than normal and if there is a substitute teacher, it is a meltdown. I think we were all ready for summer break around January!
With my focus turned toward everything going on with home and family, I didn’t recognize that I was also struggling. I had buried myself into my work yet again and hit burnout at the end of 2021 - working 60-70 hours a week. I’ve now cut way back on my commitments but I’m still having a hard time getting back on track - finding my passion again, finding the time to reflect, write, and focus. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s partially because of the emotional impacts of the pandemic - all the stress and uncertainty, on top of my regular stress of being a special needs parent.
Last week all of this hit me - and hit me hard. I found myself crying in the shower, the weight of these past few years finally crashing over me. This forced me to slow down and notice all that I have to be thankful for.
Through all these challenges, I am thankful for the opportunity to be a mom to four amazing boys, 5 doggies, 2 kitties, some pretty cool horses and many other animals. I am also thankful for my husband, Todd, who knows just what I need when I am down.
As I write this on Mother’s Day weekend, I reflect on all I’ve learned by being a mom - mostly about myself. The grief cycle of being a special needs parent is like a roller coaster - just when you feel like you figure something out, something else comes up - like an eye doctor appointment where you pray that your child’s vision hasn’t declined as much as you think it may have.
But through it all, I know I was chosen to be their mom because I am strong and I am what they need, even when I am that vulnerable mom crying in the shower.
This Mother’s Day I give thanks for all that I have. I give thanks to my boys for helping me be my best self and for giving me the best hugs.
To all the fellow mom’s out there, I wrote this blog in case some of what I am feeling resonates with some of you - for you to know that it’s ok to not be ok sometimes.
I see you and all you do for your families - for your kids. Thank you for fueling me to do what I do for children with disabilities. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! Cheers to a great year.
Lanya (Lane) McKittrick is the Chair of the Board of the Usher Syndrome Coalition, founder of the Hear See Hope Foundation, and deafblind education researcher and founder of Lane of Inquiry. Lane received her PhD in Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Her research, advocacy and family support work are rooted in her personal experience as a mom to four sons, including two who have Usher Syndrome, the leading genetic cause of deafblindness.