Much of the last fourteen years of my life, the focus has been on motherhood. In a particular way, I think being a special needs parent constantly keeps my attention on being a mother, not only in the day-to-day caring of children, but also in all the doctor and therapist appointments, the seemingly constant filling out of medical paperwork, advocacy, and the behavioral demands of my special needs child. It is not uncommon to feel emotionally drained as the last child goes to bed at night and I look at the pile of dishes that still await me. Often my prayers have revolved around asking for patience and wisdom to be a better mother and wife.
This Advent, following a November retreat, my prayer life has shifted into focusing on a different, and more important, role I have been given–that of daughterhood. Taking the time this Advent to slow down, to just sit with God, has allowed me to feel a sense of peace and calm that comes with being in the presence of a Father who loves me (and you) beyond measure.
I often find myself falling into the trap of comparison. As a special needs parent, it can be easy to compare myself to others and feel like I am not doing enough, not being enough, especially when the hype and busyness of the season can be overwhelming. This can even be within my own family in terms of the amount of time and energy I am pouring into all my children. I can give myself a guilt trip over not being able to do enough with my neurotypical children because my son with special needs demanded more attention and plans were derailed for the day. Yet, I do not compare my children to each other; rather, I love each for his/her own unique talents and abilities. Our heavenly Father approaches us this way too. In reflecting on daughterhood, I am reminded to view myself how God sees me: worthy, enough, beautiful, and deeply, deeply loved just as I am.
When discussing challenges in mothering my son, I once had a priest say, “God sees your yeses.” How often those “yeses” are in the tenth time I have answered the same question that day, the extra prep work to make an activity adaptive, the bathing and dressing skills I am teaching and assisting with, and in all the effort to help keep the holidays enjoyable for the whole family. They aren’t glamorous “yeses” by worldly standards. However, as I see my children putting a piece of straw in the manager this Advent for their little deeds of love, I am reminded that our Heavenly Father sees mine too.
I am reminded too, when reflecting on Mary as the perfect model of motherhood, how much she must have endured in the days leading up to Christmas—having to leave her home and travel miles in her last month of pregnancy, only to reach Nazareth and there not be a place for her and Joseph to stay. So often I can get caught up in the worries and anxieties that can accompany being a special needs mom. This Advent, I am reminded of the trust Mary put in God’s plan for her and her son’s life from the beginning and how I am called to do the same. Wherever you find yourself this Advent and Christmas, know how loved you are. How our heavenly Father is there for you, to walk with you as you do the day in and day out of special needs parenting. I hope you can find time this Advent to sit in God’s presence, even for a few minutes a day, to reflect on how much our heavenly Father is embracing you and seeing your worth as his beloved child.
Anne Jones is a Catholic wife and mom of five, one of whom has a rare genetic condition. While she hails from the Badger State, she currently loves living in the South (minus the snakes!). She enjoys learning more about the Catholic Faith, volunteering, reading, and attempting to grow things in her garden. She is grateful for the opportunity to connect with and learn from other Catholic families with children with special needs.