I thought in honor of Father’s Day, I would give all of the special needs fathers our there a gift. I am giving their wives some advice they could NEVER get away with saying themselves – a dash of tough love.
Subtitle: “It Isn’t Your Husband’s Fault”
I am not in your average-run-of-the-mill marriage. My husband and I are raising children with special needs, developmental delays, complex neurological conditions, mental illness and learning disabilities. And that puts a different kind of pressure on our marriage.
This is the kind of pressure people experience that are dealing with chronic illness, unemployment or long term financial issues – only worse. This kind of pressure is centered on helping our children and that means the stress is ever-present for both of us. Which sets the stage for problems.
Often families go into full-speed-ahead mode right after diagnosis. Especially moms. We become consumed with learning everything we can about our child’s challenges: Spending hours researching, going to forums, blogs, support groups, calling doctors, and hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars going to therapists, psychologists, behavior specialists, and even MORE money signing up for social skills classes, and buying therapy equipment so we can turn our home into a therapeutic oasis for our child. We spend everything we have each day pushing the envelope to find ways to help our child. Because we are the MOM and that is what we DO.
But what often happens during the never-to-be-quenched-thirst-for-knowledge-mission is a polarization between husband and wife. You cop an “I know the answers” attitude that quickly leaves your husband to play the role of “guy who doesn’t know the answers”. And about a year or so down the road, you turn around and realize that YOU have done ALL of the work. And you get angry. Frustrated. Annoyed. Pissed off that your husband doesn’t understand your child or appreciate all that you do. Sound familiar?
Yet, as hard as it is to believe, it isn’t your husband’s fault. Not the answer you were hoping for?
A constantly stressed out you who has been on hyper-drive for your child for the last year (or more), and didn’t take any time for yourself, never mind your marriage, is now exhausted, frustrated and tired of being a martyr. But your husband didn’t create this.
I’ll agree that he may have sat by and watched it happen, sure, but let’s be honest, would you have listened if he told you to slow down? Of course not.
We all go through this (including me). But the trick is making it to the end and still being married.
Which is why we as Moms have to mindfully choose to take care of all parts of our life – not just hyper focus on our child – but nurture our own needs, including being present in our marriage. We have to choose to talk to our husband about things other than the kids, their challenges, or the latest special-needs-book we have just read. We have to choose to ask questions, and listen to our husband’s answers (even if he just talks about work, or football, or cell phones). We have to make time to be alone with our husband, even if it means hiring a babysitter, or asking a family member for help (which I know can be hard). Both you and your husband have to actively choose to be a couple.
I know some of you think this is just ‘crazy-talk’ and that finding time for yourself and your marriage is just out of the realm of possible, but like the flight attendants remind you every time you get on a plane, “Put your oxygen mask on first, then help your child”, you have to take care of yourself first.
Plus, your husband misses you. Reconnect with your hubby and remind him of the girl he married — the younger, less stressed, less controlling, less “OMG DON’T DO THAT WITH THE KIDS!” version of you — remember her?
I know your husband does.
Happy Father’s Day!