Having a child with special needs, people often say to me, "I don't know how you do it." I never know how to respond. It's not like I'm a more qualified or remarkable mom than my peers. Recently someone said this very thing. I know it was meant as a compliment, but I wanted to deflect the attention because it's really truly not about me being amazing. So I made up some excuse of how I have lots of help with my kids. It's true, I do. But maybe it's not the best answer. It let both of us off the hook a little bit. The real answer is I don't know how I do it either.
As I thought more about the excuse I gave her for "how I do it" I realized it only emphasized the gaping differences of our circumstances. If there's one thing I hate most about disability it's the way our differences can so quickly alienate us from each other. There are differences that can't fully be understood by either side, but the commonality of our experience as moms is, I believe, what we should focus on more.
Another friend told me last week, "I don't want to compare your situation to mine." I get what she was saying. She wasn't wanting to minimize mine. But she eventually said to me, "This is really hard." And it absolutely is, my situation aside.
Everyone goes through hardships. It's easy to weigh in one as more significant, good or bad, than the other. But this comparison sets us up to be on different sides rather than supporting each other. Because of my son's special needs and medical complications, I sometimes fear my circumstances may be labeled way worse than others, and that prevents them from sharing theirs with me. The thing is I want to know the good, and the gruelling, things in my friends' lives too.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." - Romans 12: 15
It doesn't matter what is going on circumstantially. We could be in a really good season of life or a really hard one. We all need to make space for one another. For being a friend who, when it's hard, you can say so. When it's good, you can celebrate. When you can't go on, someone can lend a hand--practically or emotionally.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2
God has shown up and provided specifically for me in my circumstances. He heaps grace upon grace on my plate. He strengthens me and equips me. If I comply with the work He's wanting to do in me through these circumstances, I may be able to see the larger picture of His work in my life.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble." - Psalm 46: 1
I think the more honest answer to "I don't know how you do it?" isn't for me to quickly explain all the ways I'm limping along. The honest answer is, I'm doing it the same as you would if you were in my situation. One day at a time. Sometimes one moment at a time. Waiting on grace upon grace, straight from the hand of God.
When you find yourself wondering and how someone is "doing it" in their life. Remember, that God's grace is a mystery. I think the words of John Bradford apply perfectly to each and every one of our unique circumstances:
But for the grace of God go I."
Kathy McClelland is the author of Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent. Her second son was born with a rare (1 in 50,000 births) chromosomal disorder which catapulted her into the world of special needs parenting. A former marketing manager, she now blogs at kathymcclelland.com about finding beauty and hope in the midst of broken dreams. She is also a regular contributor to PreemieBabies101.com and has published on TheMighty.com, EllenStumbo.com and Sparkhouse.org. She lives with her husband and sons in Austin, Texas.