When I became a mom, I imagined a life filled with playdates with other children. My childhood was filled with memories of playdates with my mom. There was happiness all around as everyone was able to interact. I had no reason to expect that life would be any different for my child. Mothers need a tribe to help them raise their child. I just wanted to find a tribe of my own.
Then I gave birth to a child with disabilities and poor health. Unfortunately, we didn’t attend playdates due to his fragile health. As he grew older, his delays made more challenging for him to play with children. Children around him showed very little interest in including him in their play. I spent my time monitoring his health. Neither of us enjoyed the outings.
Early on I struggled to connect with moms of healthy children. We didn’t speak the same language. While they rattled off about the new milestones of their children. It made me realize my son’s delays. My son walked late, talked late, and has severe to moderate in all developmental areas.
When other moms talked about all the cool new toys, I felt alone and unable to relate to them. On the playdates, I would see kids my son’s age counting, jumping, climbing, speaking, and singing. Watching all of it reminded me how our lives were different. My son fought hard to reach every single milestone.
Over time I found myself pushing people away from me. Being around families with typical children, gave me so much pain. None of them understood all of our appointments. Nor did they realize the amount of time we worked on all of his skills. My life wasn’t filled with ECFE classes, sing along with me playdates, or mommy and me music groups.
Our life was filled with a packed therapy schedule, multiple doctors, home care nurses, and social workers. Any free time I had I spent working on paperwork to manage his care. We didn’t have anything in common with the families around us. Instead of working on finding common ground, I walked away.
I felt heartbroken, isolated, and sad leaving those playdates. Accepting my child’s differences proved very challenging for me. Seeing other children develop normally made me feel inadequate as a mother. While I missed the friendships with other mothers, being alone with my child was easier for me.Our entire situation overwhelmed me as a new mother. My son had complex health issues and significant developmental delays. There was little time in my day to think about being a normal mom. Nor did I have time to figure out how to relate to anyone else.
When I tried to share my story with others, I often felt like I was on the spot. I didn’t want our life to be the focus of gatherings, outings or playdates. All I wanted was some time for my son and me to socialize, and it never seemed to happen that way.
Many days and nights I would return home in tears and scream to my husband about how alone I felt. He was the only person that understood our life. Because he was our financial provider he was away from home most days. Several times I fell to the floor in my closet crying. Being alone and isolated, took a massive toll on my well being.
I managed to find some ways to feel more connected. Facebook groups allowed me to connect with other parents in my situation. My life outside of my son became solely about Facebook groups. The only time I felt normal was inside the groups. I could easily find other mothers walking this same journey, dump my feelings, listen to their stories, and connect with our daily struggles.
After I found the groups, I found myself with my nose in my phone at all hours of the day. I needed a fix of friendship and connection constantly. The only way I knew how was to be in these groups. Going to support groups in the real world was too daunting for me. My son’s health left us at home much of the time. There were many weeks that my only interaction with other moms was online.
While I wish I could say the sadness and loneliness have improved, most days I still feel very alone. I have created more friendships that have helped me tremendously. However, I still can only count on a few people to really be there for me. My closest friends are other mothers that have a child with a disability.
I know that my experience of isolation and sadness is not unique. Many mothers in our community find themselves in similar situations. My hope for all mothers in this community is to find their tribe. Our tribes can exist in many places. They may need to be online. However, I’m hopeful with openness in our hearts and truth in our words we can find people that will walk this journey of parenting with us.
Finally, we have so much to offer to friends and family. We just need others to be willing to accept our fears, limitations, and insecurities. Most importantly, we need others to recognize the isolation we live in and help us find a way out of that darkness. Be brave and put yourself out there. Don’t let your fear and insecurity destroy your need for connection. Put on those big girl pants, and find a tribe to call your own.