Getting Off The Merry Go Round Of Martyrdom

By Karen Hasselo

Beth Berry recently wrote a blog entitled, "Dear Mothers: We Can't Keep Pretending This Is Working For Us." Ms. Berry actually climbs out on a limb and declares that modern day American mothers  are oppressed! 

She asserts that the expectations for mothers have gone beyond exceedingly high and have crossed over into unreachable and unrealistic.  She notes that mothers themselves are complicit in this scheme because we have decided to invest in the noble struggle in order to preserve our identity as "good mothers."

And Mrs. Berry isn't even focused upon special needs mothering. In today's world, more often than not, you are expected to take the sole lead in caring for your child with special needs in your home.  You are sometimes the only voice speaking on your child's behalf. You are placed in the position to roll up your sleeves throughout all the developmental phases and do the extensive research related to your child's needs, as well as organizing and systematizing that information, coordinating and overseeing that the needed resources are in place, while ensuring that the revolving door of professionals who serve your son or daughter are actually following through on meeting the set objectives. Talk about r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-l-i-t-y! 

As a backdrop to those commitments, you often find yourself alone, isolated, and misunderstood, without adequate supports, irrespective of how much effort is expended, while continually under the glare and scrutiny of other people second-guessing your choices. You've likely even fallen into the trap of second-guessing and doubting your own mothering choices. You've also likely considered the idea that you just might be required to fulfill your parenting role until you take your final breath.

There are so many factors you can't exercise complete control over, including...
  • Your child's condition.
  • Your spouse or your former spouse.
  • Your child's educational environment
  • Your child's healthcare system.
  • How your child responds to interventions and learning opportunities.
  • Other people in your child's circle.
  • Your child's qualification for benefits and services.
There is truly only one thing that you do have control over... the way in which you show up for yourself, your child and your other relationships.

You face a number of very real constraints. Nevertheless, remember, you are a powerful creator who can forge your own path, amidst those larger constraints.

Here are some questions to ask yourself...

  • Am I setting healthy boundaries to protect my emotional needs, my health, my resiliency and my time?
  • Am I making myself a priority in my own life?
  • Am I treating myself with a feather or a battering rod?
  • At important choice points, are my needs part of the equation?
  • Am I honoring my feelings by allowing myself to feel all of them and release them?
  • Is toxic guilt running my life?
  • Have I forgiven myself for any so-called missteps along the way?
  • Is self-care built into my daily routine or is it an afterthought scheduled on an intermittent basis?
  • Am I well rested?
  • Am I putting adequate nutrient dense fuel into my body?
  • Am I engaged in gentle exercise?
  • Am I consciously choosing empowered thoughts?
  • Am I practicing gratitude?
  • Am I quieting my mind?
  • Am I committed to seeing key healthcare professionals that are dedicated to my needs?
  • Am I fighting with life or am I entering into life's flow?
  • Am I still engaged with life or has my life narrowed down to one all-consuming thing -- fulfilling my caregiving duties?
Only you hold the power to take back the reins of your own life.  Believe it or not, your children don't want you to try to meet their needs by entering into physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual deficit. Your children want a vibrant, healthy, joyful mother! 

In the early years after my son's diagnosis with autism, I neglected to exercise the power of choice that was available to me.  At  my worst, I found myself incapacitated and grounded to an arrow bed in my living room for months on end. I had raced "past go" numerous times on the game board of life, had pulled the jail card and found myself confined with chronic illness and adrenal insufficiency.  It was up to me to change the habits that were creating unhealthy self-sacrifice so that I could finally draw the "get out of jail" card.  

Fighting with life and carrying the world on your shoulders is never the answer. If you are anything like me and you find yourself caught in this prison of your own making, it's time for you to retire the mantle of mother martyrdom. 

The truth is that you are indeed carrying more on your plate than mothers of typically developing children. However, you hold the power to decide what serves you in your life and what no longer serves you.  In order to preserve your precious life force energy for the long haul and gift yourself a life worth living, it's vital that you begin today by participating in an honest inventory to see where you have needlessly scattered your energy and how you can call it back. It's never too late to gain awareness and pivot by setting up new patterns that honor your vitally important calling as your child's companion and guide in life.

For more tips on how to become an Empowered Special Needs Mom, visit



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