When You Lose Purpose As A Parent Of A Disabled Child

I’ll be called a martyr mum for writing this. I’ll be accused of being self indulgent and making my child’s disability all about me. That’s all fine by me because I know I am breaching a big social taboo, putting myself on the firing line and making myself vulnerable. So why am I writing this? Well because I am far from alone in experiencing this and others need to know they are not alone.

Let me start by back tracking a little. When I was in high school and I was choosing subjects I was encouraged to think about my future. What did I see myself doing after school? What grades did I need to achieve this and how would I go about progressing my life. In other words what was the purpose of all my learning. I was instructed to ‘make the most of myself’, ‘aim high’, and ‘study hard.’ I ended up choosing an academic path and graduated from university with an undergraduate degree in teaching. I had a career path set out ahead of me.

So ok life didn’t quite go as planned and the sudden death of my dad threw me a curve ball, and though I did graduate I then went on to find employment in lots of different roles as I tried to figure out who I was and what I wanted from life. I worked, I paid my bills, I paid tax and I achieved. Regardless what employment I had, I had purpose.

I then got married and ten years later gave birth to twins. They became my purpose as I raised them to the best of my ability. I expected my children to be my new purpose for their whole lives, perhaps interspersed with some voluntary work or helping in things child related such as play groups and later schools.

It then transpired my children needed lots of support. Both are classed now in different ways as disabled. My son will require life long care.

Suddenly my purpose became fighting for everything he needed. Yes he was the disabled one but with a complete inability to ever advocate for his own needs I had no choice but to take on that role…for the rest of my life.

He’s now ten. I’ve fought for the early intervention, I’ve fought for the right primary school. I’ve fought for services, professional involvement and support. I’ve begged, cried and emailed more times in the last ten years to strangers than I ever thought possible.

And here I am with a severely intellectually disabled son who will require round the clock care all his life and I am starting to lose my purpose fast. As preparations start for high school, a time in life when he should be becoming increasingly independent, developing his learning to prepare for his further and gaining life skills for the workforce, I am left thinking how does any of this stuff relate to my son who is currently unable to care for the most basic of his own needs and still can’t write his own name?

He won’t go to college.

He won’t work.

He won’t handle his own money, live independently or ever drive.

I am expected to be his full time carer until the day I die. I am supposed to carry on doing intimate care on a teenager and grown man, entertain and educate a child who will never know what a wage packet ever is, give him the best and most fulfilling life possible and deal with all the financial implications of life with a disabled teenager and adult.

They never mentioned any of this at the careers conventions I attended in high school.

No-one told me people like my son existed let alone that parents of such children are expected to devote their entire lifetime caring for them full time.

I don’t resent my son. Not for one moment. I adore him, love him unconditionally and delight in every part of him. But where is my purpose in life? Am I really just the person sitting singing nursery rhymes to my adult child and watching Peppa Pig for eternity on YouTube?

I will fight for him.

I will love him forever.

I will do everything in my power to make his life meaningful and enjoyable.

I will give up my dreams, my future and my purpose for him because he is worth it.

I will sacrifice my future for his.

That’s the only purpose I have left now. It’s what being the parent to a disabled child with such high needs as mine requires.

So go on call me a martyr mum. Tell me my son’s disability isn’t about me. My son is severely disabled and relies on me just to get washed and dressed, communicate and live.

My sole existence is caring for him. That’s the only purpose I have and ever will have until the day either he or I passes on. If the pressure and weight of that burden is self indulgent then so be it.

Sometimes forever just feels a very long time.

10 thoughts on “When You Lose Purpose As A Parent Of A Disabled Child

  1. Thank you for writing this. I can relate to every little bit. I love and would do anything for my daughters but some days I find myself thinking ‘this is not the life I had planned’. Not that I had a life planned out but I never imagined I would be caring for a disabled teenager. It’s certainly a different path.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know exactly how you feel . I feel the same I personally find winter the worst but spring is coming .
    You are amazing you are doing a great job , you got this and you write from the heart ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I definitely relate to this.
    I had my older daughter six weeks before my 21st birthday. 6years later her sister was born. I worked full time and still was a classroom volunteer. I was looking forward to my 40s when I could have some “me” time.
    7months after I turned 40 my grandson was born. It was obvious very early on that he was different. The diagnosis of autism was no surprise. His father left early. My daughter and I are grateful he did, because he would not have been helpful.
    So I am not only parenting full time again (still), but parenting a child with many needs. At age 10, Ben still needs help with dressing, grooming and keeping himself safe.
    I do wish sometimes that I had more “me” time, but I can’t say that I’d be any happier. I’m absolutely devoted to King Ben! He is my joy!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You haven’t lost purpose. I am sure that you still do things in your own peculiar way, even if they are not the things you expected to do. You write your blog so you are creative and able to communicate with all sorts of people. Hopefully you are still able to wear crazy clothes, funky make-up or your favourite perfume when you go out to do the most mundane of things. Your purpose is to be you and to respond to your life’s challenges in your own unique way – don’t lose sight of you because one day you will have to say, that was me and I did it as well as I could!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. I am on the very thin line of giving up now and have been heavily weeping for a weeks. Previosuly, I always have this phrase in my head, “This too shall pass”, but I don’t believe in it now since I will have a lifetime career of being a carer of a disabled person. It’s a struggle that I am yet to understand and fully accept.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reading this as I lie awake fretting about the next placement for my son. Our situation is different, yet what you wrote resonated with me so much I wanted to reply to you. It’s long, it’s lonely, it’s scary, it’s financially terrifying and yet we adore our children with a fierceness I certainly wasn’t aware I could feel. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You don’t sound like a martyr mom. If you were, you wouldn’t have said:

    “I don’t resent my son. Not for one moment. I adore him, love him unconditionally and delight in every part of him.”

    It’s hard. It’s especially hard because society is so unprepared for people like your son. Perhaps that can be your purpose, to fight for the social support network that will allow people like Isaac to live the best lives that they can. I see a lot of people trying to pin their hopes on a miracle cure, while inadvertently sabotaging the futures of autistic adults. If we could work together, parents and autistic adults, what could we accomplish?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A very honest account. Thank you for speaking up. I think as a parent and main carer that you’re meant to just motor on rather than say ‘this is hard’ and that ‘my life has changed forever’. I adore my children but this is a hard life with now very little choice for what I want for my life.

    Liked by 1 person

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