We all got thrown a curve ball as 2020 got underway. The lifestyle, routines and our expectations got turned on their heads as we were left scrambling to adjust only a couple months into the year. Suddenly we were asked things that we could only imagine being asked in a Sci-Fi movie. The world shut down. There were no places to go or things to do. The school requirements were shifted to our kitchen table and work now took place in pajama pants and virtual calls. Surviving this is challenging for us all. Having a child with special needs means maybe a few more things to consider along with all the rest.
Every parent struggled with finding a balance of home life, educating their child, and squeezing in work requirements. The added challenge for a special needs parent is trying to crack the code of how academics had been taught in the classroom for cohesiveness and continuity, this can be tricky if your child doesn’t communicate or is limited in communication. Another obstacle is virtual therapy, children that are using therapy to expand their attention span or skill set may not be attracted to the limited interaction a computer can supply. But the biggest challenge the hardest part is the social element.
As a parent, we try to fill all the gaps, although shaken we will rise to find a way to meet all the new responsibilities. We will get the work done, the school assignments submitted, and the house kept. We will be inventive with therapy goals and find ways to help our children reach goals or at the very least stay on track to meet goals. But how do you become the social network of friends and outings? My son filled that gap naturally by online gaming, phone calls and virtual meetings with his friends they were able to chat, play and catch up. But children with less developed communication or social skills do not have that to lean on the same way. Zoom calls are good but lack parallel play or spontaneous conversations. So, the “friendship” elements fall to us moms and dads. The task of finding time to play with our kids, without being “too busy” with our mounting and ever-changing list of responsibilities, is hard. In my case this simply leaves me feeling exhausted or guilty at the end of the night.
Mom guilt is REAL, and each night as the kids fall asleep, I am hit with a wave of “I could have done better”. I know I could do more, but it comes at a sacrifice and that is usually my sanity. I am not writing this passage to give tips and tricks that will solve this dilemma (sorry if you are now more than halfway through and disappointed by that). To be honest I don’t know of any good tricks to solve not having enough hours or mental capacity in the day, I am sure others might suggest organizing a very rigged routine or schedule to fit it all in- but I still think I would mentally check out at some point. I am detailing our experience in hopes that you may find peace of mind.
The added pressure of a pandemic is that the only social content many of us adults get are through social media, a poisonous atmosphere when we are not forced to use it as a regular substitution for conversations and interactions, much less now. Online you will find a heightened sense of moral and educational superiority, people who want to not only tell you what to do, but tell you everything you are doing is wrong- while they only post success stories of their highlight reel. You inherently will find conflict or feel like there is something you have failed at. Please know that NO ONE has it all figured out, NO ONE has days without challenges and most importantly NO ONE is experiencing your life.
Understand that if at the end of the day you feel “you could have done more” and are trying to think of ways to constantly improve you have already arrived at success. You care and I am certain that the fact that you care resonates to your family. They can see that past the occasional frustrations, past the angry tones or frazzled-ness, they can see your heart and your love. Also, try not to burden yourself with trying to do it all, soon enough the world will open again, and we will adjust back to normal life.
It may take time to restore all our beloved routines and the balance that goes with it, take your time figuring it out. You are not alone we all are doing our best most days and trying not to focus on the days we fall short. Love your family, smile as much as possible and when it all goes wrong, turn up the music and start dancing!
Sending Love and Encouragement-