Let's face it, raising children is a hard job. It's wonderful, fulfilling and life affirming, but it's also hard. For some that's a dirty little secret. For me, not so much. From the very beginning -- when days with a newborn were long and nights even longer, when sleeping eight hours straight was a distant memory, when energy was no longer boundless and showers had become a luxury -- I talked. And talked. And then I talked some more.
I took great comfort in sharing the challenges and hardships of parenting with others, it helped me feel like my husband and I weren't alone. And as time went on, if I could offer a few words of advice to a new mom or dad, I would do so gladly. Sometimes simply saying, "Yup, been there, done that" was enough to make us all feel a bit better.
So I kept talking. And when the parenting challenges grew greater, I talked some more. When it was determined that my 2-year-old needed speech, occupational and physical therapy, I talked to my pediatrician and to the people at the Early Intervention program. I talked to my boss and my girlfriends. I talked to other parents whose children had traveled a similar path. By letting it out I was able to let others in as well as get my son the services he needed.
I'm 14 years into this parenting journey and I'm still talking. I recently participated in a panel discussion titled The Tough Stuff to Talk About: Raising a Child with Special Needs. There were some wonderful psychologists and learning specialists on the panel and then there was me, the parent of a child with learning challenges. The parent who could not be prouder of her son for all he has learned and for all he has taught. So I talked about him and how my husband and I have navigated the long, bumpy road we've traveled to where we are now. I didn't hold back because I know what I've needed most since my son was born is the truth. I will tell it like it is because for me, it's been the only way to get through it. So I was flattered and honestly, a bit surprised, when both parents and professionals approached me after the panel and thanked me for sharing my story, as if it was a brave thing to do. And maybe it was, but full disclosure: I do it as much for myself as I do for them.
I know not everyone is comfortable sharing their personal experiences and I very much respect that. If keeping it to yourself is the way you get through, then that's the way you get through. Or maybe you're a listener. Maybe hearing someone like me tell her story and share her vulnerabilities can offer you some comfort. And if it does, I am really glad. But if you ever want to talk, just let me know. After all, it's what I do.