5 myths about disability mothering

My daughter has considerable difficulties with communication, and both fine and gross motor skills. On a memorable evening, as the sky blushed with orange and pink hues at sunset, our family sat together at the dinner table. It was during this ordinary moment that my daughter achieved something extraordinary: she successfully used her adaptive spoon to eat a bite of her meal by herself. Our joy was so immense, we erupted in cheers and applause—akin to celebrating a championship-winning goal. My 11-year-old son—my 6-year-old daughter’s biggest cheerleader—beamed with pride as he shouted, “She did it! Did you see that? She did it all by herself!”

In the grand scheme, this might seem like a small moment; however, for us, it was monumental. It signified not just progress in my daughter’s development but also hope. Our family’s journey, like that of many other mothers navigating the complexities of disability, is woven into a collective narrative of dedication centered on the profound impact of love. These experiences fuel our steadfast commitment to a future where each of our children can thrive, unrestricted by their abilities. Against this backdrop, I want to address five common myths about disability mothering, shedding light on the resilience and joy that define so many families:

Myth 1: Mothering a child with disabilities is primarily about overcoming hardship

The truth: We have a rich variety of experiences

Viewing our experience of mothering a child with disabilities solely through the lens of hardship overlooks the rich variety of experiences we navigate. While marked by challenges, our journey is equally filled with moments of deep joy and significant achievements. Imagine the immense pride we feel when our child expresses a preference for the first time, perhaps through an alternative method, but no less meaningful. These milestones are celebrated with heightened emotion, enriching our daily lives and creating a rewarding and complex tapestry.

Myth 2: Mothers of children with disabilities are overwhelmed and unhappy

The truth: Stress is balanced by overwhelming joy

The narrative that equates mothering children with disabilities to a constant state of stress and sadness does not capture the nuanced reality of our families. Stress, undoubtedly present, is balanced by moments of unmatched happiness and fulfillment, arising from witnessing the unique achievements and viewpoints of our children. These experiences provide us with a distinct perspective on the world, enhancing the lives of our entire family.

Myth 3: Children with disabilities cannot form social connections

The truth: Our children form meaningful relationships

Assuming that our children with disabilities are inherently isolated and unable to forge meaningful relationships underestimates their incredible capacity for connection. With appropriate support and an enabling environment, our children often astonish and inspire with their ability to interact and bond. Through shared activities, communication devices or the universal language of play, they establish deep connections, challenging the notion of isolation.

Myth 4: Mothers of children with disabilities seek sympathy

The truth: Understanding goes beyond pity

Far from seeking sympathy, many of us mothers within the disability community desire empathy—an understanding that goes beyond pity and recognizes the strength, capabilities and potential of our children. We advocate for an inclusive world where our children are supported to thrive and make their unique contributions to society.

Myth 5: Mothering a child with disabilities limits personal growth

The truth: A catalyst for profound personal development 

Contrary to limiting personal growth, mothering a child with disabilities often acts as a catalyst for profound personal development. Faced with unique challenges, we embark on a journey of learning that fosters resilience, empathy and advocacy. These skills, sharpened by our experiences, enrich not only our own lives but also those of our families, creating a legacy of growth and understanding.

By challenging these myths, we reveal the true essence of mothering children with disabilities—a journey marked by its depth of challenges, certainly, but also by its immense capacity for joy, growth and community. Understanding and empathizing with the realities of the disability mothering experience is the first step toward building a society that supports, includes and celebrates the diverse abilities of all its members.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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