Ever had any of these thoughts as a parent?
- “Parenting is nothing like I thought it would be.”
- “Other adults—family, parents of other kids, even strangers in the grocery store—believe I’m the cause of my child’s behavioral problems.”
- “I give this child my all. I have no energy left for myself, my spouse or my other children.”
- “It hurts so much that my child doesn’t have friends; I ache for him when he’s excluded, teased or bullied.”
- “I worry constantly about my child’s future.”
If that’s been you, I understand. (And I wish I could give you a huge hug!) If you’ve visited here before you’ve heard some of our story: a story filled with adoption, special needs, challenging behavior and some very tough choices. It’s a life in the “parent hood.”
This life is what drives me to coach the people I do: people facing chronic life challenges, who want confidence and joy anyway.
A few months ago, a friend from our Moms Together page emailed me to share a great book she’d found about raising kids like ours–Easy To Love But Hard To Raise. Today, I’m thrilled to share my interview with one of the book’s editors, Kay Marner!
Q: Thanks for being with us today, Kay! Please tell us a little about you and your work and family.
My husband Don and I live in Ames, Iowa with our two children: 16 year old Aaron is our biological child, and we adopted our 12 year old daughter, Natalie, from an orphanage in Russia when she was 2 ½. Natalie has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which, combined with premature birth, physical illness, and deprivation and neglect during those all-important first years all contributed to the complex special needs we cope with every day.
I’m a full time mom, and a part time freelance writer and editor. Like many moms of kids with special needs, my work life is a reflection of Natalie’s needs, and what meeting those needs demands from me, in terms of time, energy, emotion, and motivation at any given time. In the past few months that has meant giving up several long-term writing opportunities and not working at all. But before that I wrote an ADHD parenting blog for ADDitudeMag.com for four years, contributed regularly to ADDitude magazine, and co-edited the book Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. I promised my co-editor and the book’s publisher, Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, that I’ll get my life together enough to help edit another book in the Easy to Love series; Easy to Love but Hard to Teach.
Q: How did you become interested in supporting families who are struggling to raise challenging kids?
It started with a desire to write, and finding opportunities to write about my experiences raising Natalie. Once I started blogging for ADDitude, I received comments on my posts, emails from other parents, and was contacted by other bloggers. Soon it felt like I was part of a community, and that felt really good. Over the years of writing about special needs, I’ve learned that finding a community of people who understand what my life is like, and who are supportive rather than judgmental, is incredibly important, and I want to encourage others to find that support too.
Q: In “Easy to Love, But Hard to Raise,” parents share their stories of life raising kids with “invisible disabilities.” I love that term – it really captures it! What kinds of common experiences do parents in these situations have?
We didn’t set out to answer that question when we were putting the book together, but it turned out that it did just that.
I was fascinated to discover that parents from all over the US and Canada, whose children had different diagnoses, some boys and some girls, with ages varying from toddlers to adult children, described having so many feelings and experiences in common.
I took those commonalities and created a composite character intended to show that there is a “normal” course of the special needs parenting experience. The list of quotes [at the beginning of the post] came from that.
Q: Your team hosted it’s first “Happy Mama Retreat and Conference” this summer. What’s the vision behind that and how did it go?
Adrienne Ehlert Bashista (Easy to Love’s publisher and coeditor), Penny Williams (founder and editor of the blog “a mom’s view of ADHD”) and Amy Coffey (a mother and teacher) are the heroes who made that happen. About 35 women attended, which was a perfect sized group for getting know each other a little bit. I felt like every woman in the room was a friend from the moment I walked in the door. There were great speakers, yummy food, time to socialize, and time to just relax in the spa pool. Everyone was talking about “…next year…” so I hope the organizers find the time and energy to make it happen again!
Q: If you could give one bit of advice to moms out there raising challenging kids, what would it be?
Resist the urge to judge yourself harshly. Don’t compare yourself to the mothers around you; mothers of neurotypical kids. Instead, seek out other parents of kids with special needs, and build a support network.
P.S. If you’re a mom of an “easy to love, but…” child, may I give you a gift as well? Click here to get a FREE copy of my new e-book, Embrace the Crazy: Practical Ideas for When Life Seems Impossible.