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Parenting Without A Net

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I’ve been mulling this over since yesterday, and I still don’t have a coherent plan of what I want to say or how I want to write it.  So I’m just going to write what comes to mind and hope that it makes sense.

Besides, sometimes things just don’t make sense no matter how hard you try.

Let me start with an “I” statement:  I am afraid.

Most of the fear is about my son and whether he will be able to make his way in the world (without me), how he will be treated by others, and whether I will be able to protect him.

That fear ^ there, it takes up most of my time.

But then I got a message from a friend the other day.  I’d just arrived home from work, and I wasn’t prepared for what I read.  We always say that, don’t we?  As though there is ever a moment when we are prepared for something uncomfortable to arrive, like we’ve made refreshments and tidied up the house in anticipation of the arrival of this visitor.

The message said:

I can’t fucking do this anymore, Flan.

I hate being a special needs mom, hell, I hate being a mom.

I throw the same goddamned fit every couple of weeks, but nothing changes.

My house is still always fucking trashed, Katey* is cute, but she’s a two-year-old terror that can’t communicate and doesn’t understand punishment of any kind.

Sam* rages every fucking day.

I’m sick of the noise.

I’m sick of the fight.  Every damn day is a fight.

I’m not thinking anything crazy because, as special needs moms, we don’t even have the suicide option.

I just feel so fucking trapped it’s killing me from the inside.

I don’t know what to do.

I’m sorry I’m laying I’m laying this all out on you.  No one in my real life knows me like you guys do.

If I called my friends or family (in another state), they wouldn’t understand.

I’m sorry, I just had to get this all out.

I screamed and yelled at my kids and walked out.  I’m sitting in front of the liquor store knowing full well it’s not going to help anything.


I only had about a minute to collect my thoughts before I called, and I was afraid;  afraid I didn’t have the right words to fix this.

My friend is in the middle of waiting a few months for her respite to be approved.  This is an unfortunate place to be, because there is no safety net.  It’s just you and, if you’re lucky to have one, your spouse, who has to keep all the balls in the air.  And there are some out there who just don’t get any services.

All I could tell my friend was that I’ve been there.  MOST of us have been there, especially when you have children with extra needs.  And if you happen to have a child who is medically fragile, keeping you housebound most of the time, then it can drain your emotional reserves even faster.

I was afraid for her because I know how challenging it is with just one child, let alone having three or four.  I was afraid because I wasn’t certain that circumstances would change anytime soon.

I was afraid because I knew that feeling of being at the end of your rope, with nothing left of yourself to give to anyone, and wondering if you would ever have enough to give.

I was afraid because I know her.  I know for a fact that she is stronger than me.  She is feisty and brave, she charges dragons with words as her sword and shield, and she never tires of talking and working and writing and advocating.  If she can be pushed to that dark place, what hope is there for me?

There is no safety net for us.

Typical parents have a really hard job.  We have that same job, plus a little bit extra.  And that little bit extra is what other people can’t or won’t deal with.  It’s too much.  Too much to ask of someone.

And all I could do was offer that I’ve been there, and it doesn’t last forever.  It will come back, but it doesn’t stay permanently.

And jokes.  Because when shit isn’t funny, I find jokes.  I can’t help you from a thousand miles away, but if you laugh then I’m pretty sure you’re not near the ledge.

But I worry.  It makes me wonder how many people there are out there, without a safety net; without someone they can call or message who will joke about setting the laundry pile on fire.


*names have been changed in the interest of privacy

About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

20 responses »

  1. I’ve so been there. And I’ve been where you are. You feel helpless, hoping you pick the right words, that your love for that person shines through. The fact that we’re working without a net here scares the hell out of me. This is the real deal. I’m glad you’re here, though, and that your voice is heard.


  2. This breaks my heart. I feel for her. I feel for her kids. There are days when I’ve been there and days when I think there’s no place I’d rather be than with my awesome kids. There’s no easy answer, and it isn’t about acceptance or love – it is about frustration and pain. I hope she finds some help soon. She is truly lucky for your friendship.

  3. I think if you’re the parent to a special needs kid, you have to have been *there*… at least once, or twice, or fifteen thousand times. It’s part of the job description.

    But the other thing that comes with the job? The community. The thing that always ALWAYS brings me back from the edge are the people out there… people I have never met but whose blogs I read, who give just the right advice at the right time on Facebook, who share their shining moments and sucktastic ones on Instagram. These people help me to pull myself up by the bootstraps, take a deep breath, and keep going. People like you, Flan… and the mom in your post.

    Thanks for being there — for me… and for the mom in this post. My heart goes out to her and her family.

  4. Mom2MissK just said exactly what I was trying to figure out how to. We are all lucky to have each other to pull us up when we are struggling. This post is so important Flan, because we can all relate to your conversation, many of us on both sides at many times. Thank you for always being there for the mom in the post, and for all of us, and please tell her that we are all by her side. xo

  5. Ditto Mom2MissK. I totally agree. This has happened to all of us…and with the community that has developed here, in the Interwebz, we are able to find those who do “get” it. This is a great post….thanks for putting it out there. It helps me know, even more, that someone will be there for me “next time.”

    P.S. Your friend is in my thoughts…she weighs heavy on my heart.

  6. I am thinking of you and your friend. Needing to be vigilant all the time is wearing. And necessary, too. My child is older now, and it’s not quite the same. But I remember those days when I felt like I was in constant emergency status. You have to *****have to***** find ways to get breaks when you need them as a parent.

    It is very hard when kids are young. But I found it necessary. It is tough when there isn’t money to pay a babysitter or two for a couple hours, but it is giving up many things to scrape some babysitting money together, if it’s possible. I used to have to make a list of things to do because when I had an hour or two I was so tired I couldn’t think what to do at that moment. But when I could take an hour I could come back with a bit more energy.

    I am sending strong thoughts out to your friend. I wish there was a way to do something more practical.

  7. We’ve all been in that deep well, in the dark. You reach us every day with your posts and your jokes and the smiles you give us. You have more strength than you realize. Everyone ^^ here reached out their hands too and we all give each other solidarity. I’m putting out my hands too. It’s hard every day. Sometimes, we all get tapped out. But when we unite, we find enormous strength. Sending love to that friend too. xoxo

  8. man…that is so hard. everything you say in response to that is so cliche…one foot in front of the other…oxygen mask…it gets better…nothing helps that kind of pure torment.

  9. Jesus, Flan, except for the two kids and the fact that I didn’t call you yesterday? Yes, this has been me. And you and others in our community have lifted me up and held my hand so many times and allowed me to do the same for you. It’s not perfect, but it’s not alone, either, you know? I’m sending my strongest prayers and deepest hopes for your friend. She is not alone.

  10. If you’re laughing, you’re not crying. Hoping your friend finds some peace soon.

  11. Weird. Just when I have been questioning why I do any of this, why I get sucked in to the petty battles, and the not so petty ones, why I am trying to be a part of this community, why I bother? This. Because the parents like you, and a dozen others who have become more my friends than most of the people I know in the real world, are my lifeline. And because even when I don’t know quite what to say or do, or how to respond, I can be there when someone else gets to those dark places. That’s why we are here. Why this is a good thing. Thank you.

  12. This is one of the many reasons why being a mother is so difficult. I’m just glad that she has a friend like you to lean on in times like these. Sometimes, I just want to get out of the house, forget about everything, and just do whatever that I want but as a mom, we don’t have that option. I just hope everything will be okay.

  13. Parenting in general is hard. It does get easier as kids grow older (in some ways).

    In another generation there would parents and grandparents nearby to help out. OR there is this – earlier generations parked their babies in front of the store on the sidewalk while they shopped….so we are holding our standards a bit higher. Not suggesting that as an option by the way, but I think reading “Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother” is a good thing to do on a weekly sometimes daily basis.

    I shared that because sometimes we are comparing our present situation with some idealized reality. Or we are comparing our inner reality with someone else’s outward reality. At least I do sometimes.

    To Flannery’s friend – I’ve been thinking what would I tell me from 13 years ago when my situation was a lot like yours. One thing that helped me when I can’t get out (and it’s one of those seasons at my house) is to create a mini-haven. Just a corner that is serene. A chair and a basket of magazines. Save your kids most favorite activities for those times so you can chill. This is when screen time is your friend. And do it without guilt.

    Leave yourself notes about what you are doing that is good. This sounds wacky but it’s true. No one else understands exactly what YOU are facing. You know the efforts you are putting in. So take the time to give yourself credit for what you ARE doing. Because when you’re looking at a messy house (yes, been there!) you’re not seeing the 14 loads of laundry you washed and the countless dishes you cleaned and the thousands of diapers you changed.

    Plan a time to be out of the house at least once a week if at all possible. Yes, I know how hard that is, but it was one of the best things I did. If you can, set aside a weekly date time with your significant other. That has been KEY, too. And going to a counselor is important. I’ve done that and it was helpful. Because you matter, too.

  14. I have no clue what to say. I’ve been there way more times than anyone knows. I have no-one I can text or call and say those things to. I just clench my jaw and hope and pray that the next day will be better. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not. This is freaking hard sometimes. It sucks sometimes. But thankfully, it passes and then there are moments of pure joy. Looking through old pictures of happy days helps me.

  15. Oh, I hope that mum reads these comments. That dark, awful, hopeless place is painful, yet temporary. We shift emotionally, build resilience, our kids grow and they also develop strategies for coping. Her kids are so little and I’d say she’s in one of the toughest phases. But when youre in it there’s no light at the end of that long dark tunnel. I wish there was more I could do or say to bring comfort to her. Her words bring back so many painful memories. But I love what kermummy says above. This is why staying connected to a community even it is online is so crucial. We’ve got you, we get it. Hang in there. xxx

  16. I feel like her all the time. I am glad I have the internet because that’s all I have. I don’t have anyone in real life to talk to about things. I am glad there are people like you to help us feel like we’re not alone. It really helps out a lot. I will pray for your friend, that she finds someone to help her out.


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