By Kelly Wilton
You know those #mumlife stickers on the back of cars? You may have seen them as you are driving to a therapy session; maybe your child has had (another) seizure at school this week and you’ve seen the sticker as you are trying to race to the school – and you silently curse the simplicity of said sticker.
Or perhaps it’s just me?! These stickers always get me thinking how #mumlife is different for everyone, particularly for those of us that are driving along the (often bumpy) special needs parenting road. You only have to read your own social media feed to see how we all share the highs and lows of parenting.
But, as a parent of children with special needs, I often find myself holding back and I feel that I can’t be as vocal as my friends on ‘typical parenting issues’.
Why? It feels like, if I complain, people assume I’m complaining about my child and his personal condition, when in fact, it’s the situation I am finding myself in that frustrates me.
Other people’s misconceptions and prejudices, however, could simply be down to the fact that they don’t realise that while our lives and experiences as special needs parents can be so different, they’re also sort of the same – just with a slightly different spin on things. Just for a bit of fun, in no particular order, here are a few (not to be taken too seriously!) examples…
1. MumLife: ‘Oh look at Janet, cooking muffins for the PC meeting, AGAIN! What a star!’
SN MumLife: ‘Oh look at you, rushing around as usual from one school to the next – you’re so inspiring!’ I think you might mean that I’m ‘perspiring’ – I actually perspire way more than I really should! Twins – one in mainstream and one in special school. It’s not inspiring at all. I have an awesome team of people that collect my son in the morning, FROM MY HOUSE – yes very rock n roll – and who deliver him to school. They do the reverse at home time! I am usually perspiring to make it back in time to meet him from the bus!
2. MumLife: Parents having a chat and a casual boast about the thread count of their new cotton sheets.
SN MumLife: Thread count? I am still doing the pooh count! My child was so sick recently that his night-nappy exploded, and subsequently he poo’ed all through my bed. Poo explosions are all I’m counting this week…!
3. MumLife: Discussing where to find designer clothes for the fussy tween.
SN MumLife: I’m researching where to find the most useful, practical and well-designed incontinence product. Nappies big enough to hold an explosive poo and a big wee in the night – that’s what I’m shopping for!
4. MumLife: Laughing, or on the contrary, being shocked, about a recent f-bomb to a teacher or another person in authority.
SN MumLife: F-bomb??!! If we get an F-bomb, I’ll be high-fiving my kid and adding it to his growing list of words. That’s a hard word to say when you have an Acquired Brain Injury – ABI. Also, there is a PECs card for that?!
5. MumLife: Acronyms: PHD; MBA; BA etc Over-zealous parents discussing what courses their 7 year old may take when they hit Uni? Whaaat? But they are still in primary school – can they even get a PHD in Paw Patrol?
SN MumLife: ABI; CP; HHE; all the acronyms that describe my son’s condition. He’s in school and loving it, that is enough.
6. MumLife: Parents casually enquiring ‘So what reading level is little Martha on?’ Before you even get chance to answer, a reply comes at you: ‘MY little Jonny has just hit level 19 – he jumped 14 levels over the weekend!
SN MumLife: Reading levels?? We read a book, we interact, we laugh, we enjoy it – he points to the pictures, and if we actually finish a book where he hasn’t thrown it across the room in protest, that’s called the ‘good’ level.
7. MumLife: Complaining about the busy weekends ahead with the constant stream of parties that your kid gets invited to.
SN MumLife: We don’t get invited to many parties, so it means we don’t have to spend money on rubbish that will be forgotten about in a week’s time – winning! (And the parties we do get invited to, we don’t have to bring a present at all, just turning up because our child is not sick and not in hospital (again) is the present!)
8. MumLife: Deciding on the next overseas family holiday – Europe or USA next – we’ve ‘done’ Asia!
If you are on social media, chances are someone you know is off on an overseas adventure while you are lucky to make it out of the suburb. Some people even start travelling when their kids are 2 or even YOUNGER!
SN MumLife: Fascinating. Not for us, though! Our school holidays are regularly filled with a trip to hospital between the ages of say… birth to about 5…. and on it goes! We have frequent flyer points to the Hospital Café!
*Disclaimer – I will have to admit transparency here. We did in fact go on our first overseas holiday earlier this year, following a successful surgery outcome for our little boy. It was, let’s just say, interesting, and we will be building up the courage for our next one, should we attempt it again! We may need to visit the same place for the next 10 years, before we can try a new location. Did I also mention, the flight has to be no more than 5 hours.
9. MumLife: ‘Oh look at Jenny, she’s had her hair done again – she always looks so glam!’
SN MumLife: ‘You always seem to have your sh+t together!’ Yes, you are right – I do. It’s called regular medication (and regular wine, if I’m being really honest here).
10. MumLife: Parents worrying about their children falling into the wrong crowd and being influenced to experiment with drugs.
SN MumLife: We’ve been experimenting with drugs since he was a baby!
11. MumLife: Wondering about the vocation of their child as an adult ‘I hope little Leroy is a doctor, that will make him the 5th in a long line of the Jones’ generation’.
SN MumLife: Do you think he’ll ever get a job? OMG my kid lives with half a brain. Of course he will get a job one day! He’s probably more qualified that half the people out there already 😉