When Mama Needs Help!

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Editors Note: This is a guest post from our good friend, Ellen Stumbo! She is a fantastic writer, blogger, author and speaker. You can read her blog here or follower her on Twitter.

Parenting children with special needs can be extremely exhausting and overwhelming. Sometimes, you need a break. How do you balance the need for this with your responsibility as a mother to your children? Ellen shares some great words of wisdom from her own trying experience!

This is a hard post to write because it’s a big issue. It’s something I am constantly working on, an ongoing journey that changes along with the needs of my family. This is not a post about parenting kids with disabilities, or about parenting adopted kids who live with the trauma from their past, or even a post about parenting children with mental health issues. It is a post about parenting in the trenches, whatever that means to you, because mainly this post is about you, the parent, and how you are dealing with the extra needs in your family.

Parenting kids with high needs affects everyone in the family. Whether it’s a child with a disability, mental health issues, or trauma (or a combination of those), the reality is that at some point – and as hard as it is to admit – there might come a time when mama needs help.

It is so easy to focus on what our children need, to allow a schedule to become dictated by their therapists, specialists, or counselors. As parents we do everything we can to meet their needs, sometimes even at our own expense.

Now let me pause for a moment and acknowledge there are many special needs parents out there who do not feel they live with extra needs, or they feel their kids with disabilities are no different than their typical kids; this post is probably not for you. But this post is for all the parents out there who feel wrecked, like they can barely go on, who wish that someone out there cared enough and had the courage to enter into their pain. Those parents who have, many times, locked themselves in the bathroom and sobbed.

Parenting children with high needs can be so incredibly hard and painfully lonely.

My middle daughter not only has cerebral palsy, but she lives with the trauma from spending the first four years of her life in a Ukrainian orphanage. She is not the only one living with the trauma, however. It affects everyone in the family. She has mental health issues. Along with trauma, she has reactive attachment disorder (a “symptom” of trauma), depression and anxiety that could be related to her disability, or her trauma, or both. Nothing has broken me more than parenting her, dealing with the behaviors, the manipulation, and the survival that she lives with no matter how much we love her.

It was just a few months ago when we finally came undone. When after weeks of challenging behaviors, my daughter unbuckled herself and raged in our van, kicking the door, shouting hateful words at us, and hitting her head as hard as she could. All because we were taking her to a party she decided she did not want to go to. My youngest daughter cried silently in her car-seat, closing her eyes as tightly as she could. My oldest broke down, saying, “I feel like our family is falling apart!” That statement was all it took for me to break down too, sobbing, and realizing I needed help, because I too felt broken. So very broken.

I was not living, I was merely surviving. I could not keep living like this, and my family could not keep living like this.
Weekly calls to her pediatrician and weekly intervention did not seem enough. She wasn’t sleeping so we were not sleeping either. And then one day as I talked to one of her therapists she said, “I see trauma symptoms in you, I was wondering if you would be open to doing neurofeedback too? This tension you are living with is not helping you or your daughter.” Just the day before I had told my husband I felt like I had PTSD and perhaps I needed to see a counselor. That call confirmed the fact that I needed help.

So I want to talk to you, my fellow parent who feels wrecked. It is okay to ask for help.

There was a recent study done (September 2014) that looked at the mental health of parents of children with a “special health care need.” These parents are those who identified themselves as having a child with a “chronic disease or disability” or “emotional problems.” The results of the study were as follows:

Cross-sectional analyses indicated that parents of a child with special care needs reported poorer self-rated mental health, greater depressive symptoms, and more restrictions in instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). Parents of a child with special health care needs had greater increases in depressive symptoms over time and greater declines in instrumental activities of daily living than parents of typically developing children. Perceived control was a robust predictor of all health outcomes over time.

I think we need to start talking about this. This is a big deal!

What happens in our home – the stress, the extra needs, the lack of sleep, the limited support – it affects us! We are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and poor mental health. So what are we going to do about it? We will do whatever it takes to care for our kids, but, will we do whatever it takes to take care of us? Our kids need us! So friend, pick up the phone and make an appointment to see a counselor. I’ve been there, and seeing a therapist, even if only a few times, does a lot for my heart. Especially if you feel like you do not have close friends that are willing or able to walk this journey with you, get a counselor! It is so important to have someone to talk to. YOU ARE WORTH IT! Pick up the phone and make an appointment with your doctor. Take medication if necessary. I’ve been there. It is humbling. But it can make such a difference! For a while my anxiety was becoming debilitating and I had to ask for help. There is no shame in battling your own mental health issues, and it is so important to have a clear head as you parent your kids. Friend, YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Talk to friends and family about needing help. Sometimes help comes from the most unexpected places. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Find something that gives you life. Whatever that is, make time for you. You need time for yourself. You really do. Please do not feel guilty about a girl’s night out. Do not feel guilty if you enjoy time away from your kids, it is okay. Go, have fun. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

And I want you to know I am praying for you, you are not alone, I know what it is like to feel wrecked. Don’t forget that taking care of us is the best thing we can do for our kids. Your kids need a mama ready to face the world and it’s challenges, and sometimes mama needs help to get there. It’s okay. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Moms of children with special needs, we want to hear from you! What are your biggest struggles?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.