'Me time' for moms with special-needs children
"Child of mine, child of mine,
Oh yes, sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine
Nobody's gonna kill your dreams,
Or tell you how to live your life
There'll always be people to make it hard for a while
But you'll change their heads when they see you smile."
- Carole King
Tomorrow, the world will celebrate Mother's Day, and while some will be whisked off to fancy restaurants or be taken out to other places of enjoyment, the reality is that a few will be home mothering their special-needs children.
It can be a real struggle raising children who are mentally challenged and who require special attention. That is why it is very important that mothers ensure they fit in some 'me' time for themselves.
Family and Religion reached out to Dr Maloney Rhonda Hunter-Lowe, psychologist and director/mentor of Sisters United in Prayer, Healing and Restoration (SUPHER), who acknowledged the challenges that parents, especially mothers, face dealing with children with issues such as autism and Down's syndrome.
"When a parent is thrust into this position they must gain a strong mindset. It is required because mothers/parents must come to terms with the disability and find ways to raise that child as normal as they can and be strong enough to do it," she said.
It is not an easy task dealing with children with any form of disability, and for that reason, she said, parents must be real and not ignore the toll it is taking on them.
"As an educator and a parent, I have noticed that most parents deny the challenge they face and the pressure on them on a day-to-day basis. Parents used to share their worries with me and it was always heart-wrenching," she said.
Won't receive full service
Among their worries, according to Hunter-Lowe, is that they won't receive the full service for their children with disabilities.
"From observation and experience, parents are always stressed out from dealing with the everyday responsibility of children with autism. They cope with the grief, worries of the future, and the uncertainty about what really caused their child to be autistic/disabled, as well as possible guilt that something they have done caused this to happen," she said.
Having to deal with special-needs children, she said, can consume a disproportionate share of family resources, energy and money. "Family lifestyle gets altered a lot because of kids with disabilities. Due to the limited things they can do, plenty family dreams are given up," she said.
Hunter-Lowe said added to that pressure is a community with judgmental attitude.
In situations like these, she said, it is easy for mothers, especially, to "skimp on their own self-care", which can see them becoming irritable, exhausted and unhappy.
"But they must practice self-care because it can have a huge impact on quality of life for anyone and is essential for parents of children with autistic behaviours. They need to get plenty of exercise, a lot of rest and sleeping time, regular medical care, healthy eating habits, spending time with friends, and doing plenty of outdoor activities," she said.
Hunter-Lowe said support should be given to mothers dealing with special-needs children as they can easily suffer depression.
"If the support is there for them, it provides lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Parents sometimes get so frustrated with their child, and that can become dysfunctional for them. It would be beneficial if mothers interact with others in the same situation for support and validation," Hunter-Lowe suggested.
It is a fact that mothers sometimes experience a sense of guilt as there are times they feel resentment about the situation they are thrust into. But according to Hunter-Lowe, those feelings are normal.
"It is normal to feel this kind of resentment now and then because they often have to hide their children's disability and see it as something shameful. The fleeting thought of finding their child annoying, or resenting the loss in time for themselves, can make them feel inhuman and disgusting to the core," she said, adding that mothers must accept the feelings as normal and forgive themselves for feeling the way they do.