The Emotional Costs Of Being A New Special Needs Mom

Sara Mutchler Special Needs

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Parenthood is expensive: monetarily, emotionally, mentally and physically. And any of these  costs can rise dramatically, completely and totally unexpectedly.

My son started preschool in September. He’s four and while we considered starting him at three, he just wasn’t ready. He’s always been a little more…challenging…of a child. And until recently I simply associated it with normal “kid” stuff. Totally normal behaviors for a little boy, for the baby of the family. And a lot of it is. But not all of it.

Prior to school starting, I noticed a steady increase in his anxiety and bad behavior.

The greater the event and the more excitement leading up to it, the less fun would be had.

The less patience I showed, the more whining he provided.

The more I tried to reason with him, the greater the breakdown became.

Don’t even get me started on potty training… we barely made the cut to have him ready by the time preschool started.

Again, all “typical” behavior for his age, but instead of getting better, it was getting worse. His breakdowns became longer and louder than his temper tantrums were when he was a toddler.

One of the hardest parts of dealing with him in these moments is the feeling of total helplessness as we try, but simply cannot reach him. The other hard part? Thinking it’s all “normal” and that we must be bad parents for not being able to get it under control.

In other words, spikes in the emotional costs of parenthood: guilt and shame.

So, when the school approached us with some concerns, we immediately approved the evaluation of our son.

When the diagnosis of “developmentally delayed” came through, those costs spiked yet again.

We are paying in even more guilt: we should have started him in preschool sooner; we should have known it wasn’t normal behavior. Not to mention concern: how will he do in kindergarten next year with how behind he is, currently.

Once you make the turn down the path of parenthood I don’t think you ever stop worrying.

From the small… Is he dressed warm enough for school today?

To the big… Will she get picked on at school?

And the biggest of all… Am I doing this right?

But when something takes you off the traditional path and down one that’s bumpier and not as clear, those negative emotional costs rise and can consume you.

Which is why when I feel the pressure to pay up in worry and fear, I try to remember what those costs have gotten us. The relief of knowing we’re not alone and we’re getting help. The happiness of getting him into a smaller class and on an IEP—our roadmap for this new path.

We have support, he has support.

Right now the emotional costs are high. But it is worth every tear, every thread of concern running through my mind if it helps him. We are his advocates and I will gladly bear the burden of extra emotional costs in order to help him find his way on his own path. That’s what parents do, right?


About the Author

Sara Mutchler

Sara is a Minnesotan, a bookworm trying to raise bookworms, and a wannabe minimalist mom constantly trying to declutter in the clutter-full world of life with kids. If she’s not chasing her Irish twins, she can be found watching bad reality TV or reading—anything from a novel to a tweet—and sipping coffee or wine, depending on the time of day. You can find Sara at .

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