The Question I Ask Myself Every Morning When I’m Exhausted by 9 a.m.

There’s so much talk about how moms need to care for themselves so that they are able to care for their children. When you Google “secrets of a happy mom,” you might come up with results ranging from new moms to moms of teenagers, and all the ways one can find happiness in those roles of parenting.

They all have a common theme: moms need personal time, exercise, time alone with a husband or significant other, etc. to be a whole person before trying to do anything else.

In theory, it all sounds so easy, so seamless, so sensible. But my reality is not like that.

I wake up every morning before my kids (as suggested), but not for meditation and a quiet cup of coffee while I gaze out the window. By the time I take a quick shower, and get organized with clothes and lunches, it is time to get the kids up and going. By the time I take my kids to school, I have physically lifted my daughter’s 82-pound frame eight different times: out of bed, into the wheelchair, into the bathroom, into her clothes, into her wheelchair again and into and out of the car. And then on top of that, I am pushing a heavy wheelchair and hauling her walker.

I believe my friends who have kids with more involved cerebral palsy have it 100 times harder, and I try not to complain for that reason. But it’s hard, and it’s constant. I silently resent (just a tiny bit) the moms who hop out at school with their seemingly perfect bodies and their skintight yoga pants – when I feel honestly beaten down and prematurely aged, before the clock hits 9 a.m.

patty omachel the mighty

My daughter is delightful, and fun and awesome, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.  But my muscles scream, and my shoulders and back ache, and I never, ever get a break.  And I accept this reality, I do. But it doesn’t make it any easier some days.

The “New York Times” published an article last year called “When the Caregivers Need Healing” that covered this exact issue, as well as some of the mental and emotional health issues that can arise when caregivers fill this role for their families.

How do special needs moms put themselves first or practice all of the things they are “supposed” to do to stay strong and balanced for their kids? How do they do all of that when their kids need so much attention and energy, and when we moms have so much anxiety?

The reality is, we can’t fall down on the job. We can’t “not be there” to care for our kids. They can’t do it themselves. As special needs moms, we have a great need for self-care.

But how can we make that happen?

A version of this post originally appeared on Parenting Outside the Lines.

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