What to do when motherhood doesn’t turn out to be perfect.
Story: Kathy Chlan
Walking down the aisle 26 years ago to my Prince Charming, I wouldn’t have guessed my fairy tale would include a consistent number of roadblocks. I was dreaming of that house with the white picket fence, the great career to take me to new heights, and the fabulous, perfect children to make our family complete.
Well, let me just say that God definitely laughed in my face. My journey was gonna be the ride of my life. But I can tell you honestly today: I would not change a single thing!
My oldest, Casey, is developmentally and learning disabled. He is 25 and went through the special education system during his school years and graduated high school at age 21. From the first few days after his birth, I sensed something was not right. That maternal instinct kicked in full force.
Casey was diagnosed with so many medical and feeding issues that it was overwhelming. The first few years, we took him to 15 doctors. You know it’s bad when you begin to call doctors by their first names. He lost all his hair, which is called alopecia, when he was 2 years old, and it never grew back. There were an unbelievable number of hospital stays for weeks on end. I would live there for two weeks at a time and then go home for a couple of weeks. The cycle continued like that for a while. Total hospital stays were about 16.
But I made a monumental decision during that time. This was the hand I was dealt, and I was not going to let it swallow me up. I was not going to be that woe-is-me girl who craved attention from her friends and that sorrowful look. I would wipe that look right from their faces! I made it my mission to teach Casey not to use his disability or adversities as a crutch, and to try to have some fun along the way.
I come from a family filled with very funny women. When the crap hit the fan, so to speak, the room often would be filled with laughter. Our family motto was “Laughing is so much better than crying.”
My father reminded me of this when I felt the walls closing in, along with other powerful sayings: “Life is like a card game. It is not about the hand you get, but how you play that hand. Play it with dignity and grace.” Casey has sure done that and more. Why couldn’t I do the same?
Casey and his brother, Christian, are the two greatest accomplishments of my life. They are incredible men with big hearts who can make a room burst into laughter. That is a gift that I hope they carry with them throughout their lives.
So, if you ever feel like this roller-coaster ride of motherhood is not what you expected, here are some tips that helped me get through:
Don’t compare your children to your friend’s. And don’t compare what kind of mom you are to what kind of mom your friends are. Stop the insanity. Every child has their own different journey, whatever that may be, and every mom has her own unique way of raising them.
Never beat yourself up over your mistakes, because there are going to be years’ worth—it is inevitable. This job never ends no matter how old your kids get. So, give yourself some grace along the way.
Try to take time for yourself. As moms, we’ve heard this a thousand times, but do we even do it? No matter what, we can never lose ourselves. Fight for that. A happy mom makes for happy kids, so lose the guilt at the door and be kind to yourself.
Find the joy! Life goes by so fast and you blink and they grow up. Enjoy the small moments and take one day at a time. By doing this, you breathe and see the small moments more clearly and enjoy the process along the way.
But, most of all, embrace the chaos and uncertainty. There is no perfect family in the world. All families have their loops and curves on that roller-coaster ride. Believe me, laughing while being whipped around will get you through every miserable day. That, and a bottle of wine!
About the writer → Kathy Chlan is the author of “Maternally Challenged: How My Special Needs Son Taught Me to Sack Up and Laugh” and the writer behind the popular website unfilteredmom.com.