When I look back on my childhood, one of the most common memories I have is of wanting desperately to have a group. There was an insatiable need for me to feel as if I belonged to something. Most of us have this desire and want to feel like we have a tribe or group. As we grow to become adults, most of us become separated from friendships of our childhood. We enter the world that isn't always nice, and many of us don't feel like we have a place where we belong. Then you enter the world of becoming a mom.
Mom world is a really strange place to live. Most of us have our thoughts and emotions, but we rarely have time to invest in our interests. We spend our lives shuttling our children to their appointments, games, school, and playdates. Our clothes change from expensive jeans and cute tops to stretchy yoga pants and $5 tanks we find at Walmart while we are grocery shopping. There are some days we don't have time to shower, or we forget to shower all together. Going to the bathroom by ourselves is a luxury that rarely seems to happen, and sometimes we hide in the bathroom for five single minutes of peace. When our children sneeze, we often use our shirts to wipe their noses. Our kids spill drinks, food, and paint all over our beautiful things. We realize that having nice things is no longer an option, and sometimes instead of picking up the mess we just move furniture to cover it up.
Mom life is not easy, and most of us are stretched thin with not a lot of sleep, not enough money, and not enough free time for ourselves. Somehow as we navigate the world, most of us start to find a grove and a place where we feel like we fit in. However, there are a group of moms, like me, that don't feel like they fit in anywhere. Mothers in the special needs community, often feel like they are the outliers of the mom community. Our kids aren't typical enough to be in sports, go to playdates, or have outings without things being very well planned and rehearsed. For most of us, getting out of the house is a trip to therapy, a doctor's appointment, or running to the next IEP meeting for our child. Our calendars are filled with doctor appointments, medical paperwork, therapy homework, medication schedules, and researching education rights and laws. We try to fit in, and many of us attempt to live a normal life. We try to go on playdates and try to get out so our children can make and build memories. Our life is filled with excess planning because most of us have to bring medical equipment, medication, or specific items to keep our children from melting down or creating a scene in public. Over time, we begin to realize that the events that are fun for other families aren't fun for our children. Staying home becomes easier than going out into the world, and our lives become a lot more isolated. Inside our hearts, we are craving connection, community and a sense of belonging. We can't seem to find the place where we are understood by others, or not given dirty looks or asked inappropriate questions by strangers. Many of us begin to wonder if there is even a place for us in this world we call Mom.
Since many our children aren't involved in sports, extra-curricular activities, and many aren't able to be left unattended; our lives begin to revolve around meeting people where we take our children. We start to befriend moms in the waiting room at the doctor's office, or we start up conversations while we wait for our kids to get out of therapy. At home, we log into social media and join groups related to our child's diagnosis, and hope to find anyone that will understand our world. All we want are friends that we can talk to about life, that know what our world is like, and that can help us feel normal in an abnormal situation. Many of us get invested in the online friendships and groups because it is the only place we feel like we are heard, understood, and where we no longer stick out like a sore thumb.
We become tight in our online friendships as we share the intimate details of our lives in these groups. For many of us, it is the first and only time we have ever felt a sense of community. There is hope in our hearts knowing that we can log in at any time and find someone that will understand the frustration we feel. We find others that can celebrate the small victories with us, and we find friendships that can sustain us when we are brought to our knees. Many of us will never meet in person, but it doesn't mean the bond and the connection with the other mother isn't there. It just means we are in different locations on this planet.
While we can find comfort in the fact that there is always someone online for us, we still struggle with not having anyone walking next to us in this world. All we want are friends. Sure, our children are complex, and we can't always make plans. We break plans a lot because things can change in an instant with their behavior or their health. However, we promise we will be a GOOD friend if you just let us try. No, we don't always know what the "kids are into" or the sports your child plays, but we still are a mom dealing with similar stresses and emotions. We are stretched thin just like most, and the only thing different is our kids maybe don't play the same as others. All we want is a friend that will be ok with our differences, not scared of our children, and willing to learn about our life. The bulk of us have so much to offer our friends, but we can't find anyone that wants our gifts. We are knowledgeable about children development, medical issues and the ins and outs of special education. We are great listeners, and can always offer you advice if it's what you need. Most of us have great senses of humor because our lives are a comedy of daily errors. There is so much for us to share - we just need someone that wants what we have. Are you willing to walk with us in this journey of motherhood? Can you help us feel like we fit in, so we aren't stuck online for the bulk of the day? Are you willing to step up and step out of your comfort zone and realize that even though our kids are different, we can still offer you a beautiful friendship? We desperately need to link arms with other mothers that are in our community. Will you be the one that helps us finally belong? Please let us finally belong.