Have you heard her sneering, nasty thoughts?
“Can’t get it together!”
“Doesn’t do enough for her child!”
“Gosh, no one else complains at the school like that!”
“So demanding! So chaotic! What a mess!”
“If only those signs weren’t missed, there might be a better outcome.”
“Oh, my goodness! Should have caught that problem much sooner… Missed some important opportunities… Hope it’s not too late!”
You know this woman. She’s the special needs mom’s worst critic…
And she’s YOU.
She’s always doubting and questioning, deriding herself for making the wrong moves:
“Maybe I should have gotten my child that new treatment.”
“Am I terrible because I got my child vaccinated?”
“I should have gotten that laundry done instead of resting.”
“I’m such an idiot for missing my child’s appointment!”
“Why does every mother seem to be handling this so much better than I am?”
“I should have insisted on those accommodations in that IEP meeting!”
Truly, no one can beat up on a special needs mother more than she beats up on herself. I hear it almost daily from friends and those I serve. I have comforted a mother who slept through her son’s middle-of-the-night insulin shot, tearful that she could have killed him with oversleeping. I have had to stop myself short questioning if I was a terrible parent because my kids had consumed foods with Red Dye No 3 and gluten in them. Sure, there’s plenty of criticism and unsolicited advice from relatives, friends, even strangers. Yet, that internal voice always seems to have the most unrealistic, oppressive expectations of all.
I caught myself in one of these negative thought patterns recently. I questioned if I was doing enough regarding my son, who is marching ever-closer towards adulthood. He is at an interesting phase in living with his severe hemophilia. On one hand, my husband and I want him to be taking more responsibility for his health and his treatment decisions. At the same time, he just wants so badly to fit in with the rest of his posse, afraid of being seen as weak or different. I find myself fighting back worry, silencing myself as he takes increased risks. He has to face the consequences of his own decisions, but I wonder if I am giving him too long of a leash when it comes to personal safety.
It’s times like these that I have to take myself back to the words of my old friend, Ann, who reminded me early in my journey that one of the names of Satan from the Bible is “the accuser.” It was she who taught me that I needed to stop doing Satan’s work for him by constantly accusing myself.
She’s right! Still, that’s only part of the story. When we take a long look at WHY we question and beat up on ourselves, there is much more than the simple activity of self-recrimination. It is not that we are self-loathing or trying to be falsely modest. It is tremendous FEAR. We doubt ourselves because moms are supposed to be able to make everything all better for their children, and yet, our child’s diagnosis makes us face the stark reality that we can’t always make it all better. That is a terribly frightening place to be. When a mommy can’t protect her baby (no matter the age), her mind races, scrambling to create the best possible outcome. While being a strong advocate for our children is important, we can’t always be there for them, and endlessly questioning ourselves doesn’t put us in a healthy emotional state.
For me, the solution has been as simple and as hard as trusting God.
He alone has numbered every hair on each of my children’s heads. He goes with them no matter where they are. He loves them infinitely more than I ever could (which often seems hard to imagine). His plans are for their good and not their harm. His matchless redemption can redeem any mistakes I make while doing my best to raise them. With all of this in mind, why should I be so critical about my parenting, as if everything depends upon me alone?
Mamas, doubt your doubts and show that self-accuser the door! Join me as we lean into the promises of our Faithful Father instead. We all face enough adversity on this journey without being our own worst critics.