Navigating burn out – Life as a parent of a special needs child

by | Mar 9, 2023

People often associate burn out with a high-powered job.  One that entails the person working 80 plus hours a week, never seeing their family, feeling stressed and overwhelmed and not having the right support system that they so desperately need.  Burnout is very prevalent when you are a parent to a special needs child.  It can sneak up on you and then without skipping a beat, it’ll send you into the shower crying your eyes out, wondering what to do next.

Burnout is real.  Its real for the mum’s that don’t have a support network around them.  Its real for the mum’s that feel like they get swallowed by their fears, their worries and their limiting beliefs.  It’s real for the mum’s that just can’t catch a break.  I too was one of those mums.  Yet here I was – I had the supportive network, I had the supportive husband, and yet the burnout of the stress, the worry, the deep seeded fears, the constantly being in fight or flight was just too much for my body.

Those were the days that I had black rings under my eyes from lack of sleep.  My nails were brittle, my skin was patchy, and my digestion was most certainly up the spout.  I remember thinking at one stage is mothering supposed to be this hard?  Do I have what it takes to be a great mother?  What even is a great mother?  What does she look like?  Is she capable in every situation?  Does she look like a million bucks with her on point outfit, make up done, mani and pedi complete.  If that was the criteria I was being matched up against I was certainly failing.  Most days, my hair was pulled back in a pony, make up was only applied so I could hide the dark circles under my eyes and hopefully people wouldn’t think I was the walking dead.  And the active wear, well that was just easy and comfortable when I was down on the floor trying my calm my child from a meltdown or play with him, try to engage with him, desperate for eye contact or even a word.

So what can you do to fight the burn out?  Be kind to yourself.   We as mothers are our harshest critics.  We condemn ourselves for one slight mistake.  A mistake that in our eyes will result in years of trauma in our child and in our child’s eyes is no big deal. Do the things on your to do list that are just for you – Go for the bath.  Go for the walk.  Go to the gym.  Go to the dance class.  Remember who you are.

Yes, you are and will always be the mother of your child, but first and foremost, you owe it to yourself to be the person you once were.  Don’t forget that fierce, passionate, amazing woman lying dormant within you.  She’s still there.  She’s waiting for her time to come out and shine.  She wants to love on you and remind you that life can still be beautiful even if the story has changed.

So I’ll leave you with this – don’t let burn out steal that burning desire you have within you to make a better future for yourself, your child and your family.  Don’t let burn out take control of your life.  Be the voice that you so desperately need for yourself.  Just as we would advocate for our children me must advocate for ourselves.  Your voice truly does matter.

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