Dear Special Needs Mom: When You Feel Like a Failure, You’re ANYTHING But

tired mom

“I feel like such a failure, I mean, I’m trying to do everything I can to get services for my son but I’m not getting anywhere. His behaviors are getting so challenging. Being a special needs mom is hard. It’s just been…hard. My house is a mess, I forgot to pay for a school field trip, we ran out of clean underwear and my husband and I are fighting all the time.” She sits across from me holding a coffee mug with both hands, a lonely tear snakes down her cheek.

You’re not a failure.”

“I sure feel like one,” she says.

“But you’re not.”

“My son seems so far behind even compared to other kids with the same diagnosis, what am I not doing right?”

I hear the agony in her voice.

Being a special needs mom IS hard.

“Who is calling insurance trying to get therapy approved?”

“Well of course I am, I’ve been calling them everyday for three days.”

“See, you’re not a failure.”

She shakes her head.

“Who sits with him at night when he cannot sleep?”

“I do,” she says.

“You’re not a failure. Who spent two weeks at the hospital with him because of surgery complications and actually had to help doctors understand his medical condition?”

“I did.”

“Not a failure. Who is going into the schools to make sure that his IEP is followed and that he has the right supports in the classroom?”

“I am.”

“You’re not a failure. Who knows the best way to get him settled down when he has a sensory overload?”

“I do.”

“You’re not a failure. Who spent three years raising money for a car ramp?”

“I did.”

“You’re not a failure. Who is your child’s most fierce and devoted advocate?”

“I am.”

“That does not sound like a failure to me. Who knows him better than anyone else? Who understand his needs even with limited communication? Who cheers him on and celebrates his accomplishments no matter how small? Who witnesses the beauty of his life? Who is always present, ever loving, and willing to do whatever it takes to help him?”

“That’s me.”

She grabs for a napkin and wipes her eyes.

“Just sometimes it’s so easy to focus on the fact that he seems so far behind,” she says.

“But that is not a reflection of you as his parent, being a special needs mom is hard, and that’s just where he is at right now, you are doing everything you can.”

“I think sometimes that’s the hard part, because I wish life was easier for him, I wish I could fix everything for him.”

“I think that’s part of being a special needs mom, you care so much because you love him, and there is nothing you wouldn’t do for your son.”

“No, I would move mountains for him if I had to, or at least I would try.”

“And you already are. You’re not a failure.”

“I love him, just the way he is,” she says.

“I know you do.”

“He’s my life.”

“I know he is.”

“I just need…”

“A date night.”

“Yes! A date night, oh that would be nice!”

“Okay, so let’s talk about respite.”

“Yes, let’s talk.”

“But hey, remember, you’re not a failure.”

Friend, if you parent kids with disabilities, it is possible that at times you struggle with similar feelings and you feel like a failure.

Today, I want you to know that you’re not a failure, you give so much for your child, your love runs deep and wide and pushes you to move mountains. Your child’s development is not a result of your parenting. You are enough. You’re not a failure.

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Ellen Stumbo
Ellen Stumbo writes and speaks with gritty honesty and openness. She's passionate about sharing the real – sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly – aspects of faith, disability, parenting, and adoption. Ellen is a pastor's wife, and her husband leads a CMA church. Ellen’s writing has appeared on Focus on the Family,LifeWay, MomSense, Not Alone, Mamapedia and the Huffington Post.  Ellen blogs at and you can also find her on twitter and Facebook.