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Mommy Guilt: When Special Needs Are Just Too Much

Mommy Guilt: When Special Needs Are Just Too Much

The guilt.

The shame.

The loneliness.

The exhaustion.

They are often the constant companions of mothers raising children with special needs.

I feel like a horrible mother because I can’t take my child’s behavior anymore,” writes Zenovia K. in the Children with ADHD/ADD community. Her 12-year-old daughter has both attention deficit hyperactivity and oppositional defiant disorders. It\'s a tough cognitive combination that sometimes causes her daughter to physically and verbally assault her.

“I feel so alone,” Zenovia posts.

Yet she isn’t.

At least not according to numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • 13 percent of American children have a developmental disability ranging from a mild speech or language impairment to a serious developmental or intellectual diagnosis such as cerebral palsy or autism.
  • 4.5 million school age children have ADHD
  • 1 in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder
  • 10 percent of children have anxiety disorder

“The last few days I seem to feel like I’m failing as a mother,” writes Summer P. in the Mothers of Special Needs Children community.

Her three-year-old son has a global development delay, mild cerebral palsy, and a genetic disorder caused by a chromosome deletion. His vocabulary is limited. She’s having difficulty getting him to understand the concept of danger.

“I always felt like I was in control and dealing with everything the best I could, but in the last few days I’m feeling like I’m just failing,” Summer posts. “Major guilt and feelings of failure happening in our house.”

In just two short paragraphs, Summer used the word “failure” three times to describe her efforts as a mom.

While feelings of failure are real and valid emotions, a mom named Holly O. points out that they don’t say much about how well a parent is actually handling the special challenge of raising of a special needs child. As she puts it, “While it is easier said than done, throw that guilt and failure right out the window. You are a good, loving, caring mom of a very complex little boy.\"

“Yes, there are times when you feel you are failing them but you are not,” writes Brenda H.

“You are doing the best you can with a difficult child,” adds Jane S.

Hearing encouraging words from other mothers who are walking the same path can be exactly the help a discouraged mom needs most.

Case in point: Christi T. posted about her feeling of failure in the Autism/Asperger’s/PPD Awareness community not long after her son was first diagnosed. She didn\'t realize he was behind developmentally initially, and when the diagnosis finally came, people in her life questioned her skills as a mother, blaming her for her son’s diagnosis.

“When I tell them, they laugh and say, oh, he will grow out of it,” she writes. “They ask, how old are you, and when I tell them my age (I am soon to be 22), I get oh, it’s just because you are a young mom and don’t know what you are doing. It frustrates me so much and makes me feel like a complete failure.”

Christi changed her tune after a few fellow mothers commented on her thread.

“I guess I just kinda needed a pep talk,” she posted. “Thank you for all of the support, it really is comforting to know I am not the only mom out there that feels this way.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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KristinKunie KristinKunie 5 years
I have been feeling like a failure lately myself... I have a 13yo son, Alex. He has Cerebral Palsy and seizures... he weights about 90lbs... and hes basically like taking care of a newborn... Recently, my boyfriend & I split up afyer 9yrs and hes been a huge help to me with Alex... but, not anymore. We have a 3yo daughter together, also. But, since hes moved out everything has been complete and utter chaos... we're going to have to end up moving soon... Probly by the end of the month because my only income is my sons disability check of $533.25mth... the rent is $1000... plus utilities. But, with all of this stuff going on... Im getting to the point of just not being able to take care of him the way i think he should be and it makes me feel horrible. I can barely lift him from his bed to wheelchair... Im so burnt out and most days, I just want to runaway and not come back... Ive also talked to his case workers and other people & friends and family and told them that I cant take care of him anymore but it just seems like noone is listening to me. Ive thought about putting him in a facility where he'd have more than just me to take care of him, but they said they dont take ppl under the age of 21... and there is no way i can do this for another 8yrs!! All of my family and friends always tell me how good a job im doing... but im just not feeling it. Im worried, scared, exhausted, sad, lonely, stressed, depressed & angry... and Im so tired of feeling like this.......
AmyKales AmyKales 5 years
Wow! This article couldn't have been more timely. Just yesterday I called my sister telling her I was failing as a mother. Not only did I feel like I was failing my child with special needs, but I also felt like I was failing my typically developing children (so much attention focused on their brother--not enough on them). It's exhausting. But you do the best you can. Cry it out once in awhile and then regroup and try again. What else can you do? Just your best.
GenevieveHorrall GenevieveHorrall 5 years
This article is something that I wish more people could understand. It amazes me the number of people that just don't understand the committment and utter amount of work it takes to raise a child with special needs. I have two one with PDD and another with moderate cerebral palsy. Alot of days are rough. There are times that even the specialist and therapist question what you are doing. It astounds me that these specialist that deal with these children all day long really do not get what the parents or going through. So do not lose hope, if you feel like a failure, it means you still care. You might have lost your way or never for a minute, but hang in there. You are doing the best job you know how and that is what your child is going to love you for. And you know that is the only reason we all work this dang hard at doing this. It is because we love them and they love us. Nothing else will ever matter.
sandinutty sandinutty 5 years
Very well written. Hopefully the Mothers of Special Needs Community will continue to grow and be some of the much deserved encouragement these mothers need.
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