Mother’s Day can be be a wonderful time to acknowledge all mothers do throughout the year and it is often a well deserved day for moms to relax and enjoy doing exactly what they feel like doing. Having a child with special needs, however, adds additional layers to this yearly holiday for some.
“Mother’s Day for me isn’t what I thought it was going to be like. And I have had several really sad Mother’s Days. The last few though have been very sweet. I’ve asked for what I wanted (flowers, new running, solo time)…and I have been surprised with how lovely my young boys (who both have special needs) have been. My husband has also been so thoughtful, sweet and supportive, too. It’s a reminder for me that this road isn’t what I thought it was going to be. And I need to take certain things into my own hands so I don’t feel disappointed – especially because there can be so many challenges and disappointments in a typical day. I’m better for my kids (and for me and for my husband) when I find ways (little or big) to take care of my needs as a woman, so that I can be my best self. When I take care of myself, I feel replenished and that helps me to work and fight for them harder in every way I know how,” says one mom.
Another mom, Joanne DeSimone, writes…
“Eighteen years into this special needs parenting life I can appreciate how my thoughts have changed. I remember feeling, early on, very alone on Mother’s Day and other holidays…like my motherhood experience didn’t compare to my friend’s or family. I expected nothing….I wanted nothing…because the only thing I’d wanted was a healthy child…and I couldn’t have that….so there was nothing that could possibly fill that void.
In my mind, motherhood was about passing on traditions. Having a child with complex, medical needs, with a limited life expectancy destroyed this concept and I struggled to care about family traditions.
My husband, was not a big fan of what he considered made up, Hallmark holidays so between the two of us Mother’s Day went miserably uncelebrated. Except for the school gifts that came home, but they made me a little sad because Benjamin couldn’t physically create an art project….he couldn’t use his hands. I basically thought they were nice gestures created by his lovely paras.
After my second son was diagnosed with autism, Mother’s Day got even harder. I mean how much farther from the motherhood norm could I get?
But as my younger son got older, his Mother’s Day gestures grew from school based projects…which did feel much more authentic than his brother’s, and then he got my husband involved, encouraging him to do something.
And now my husband and younger son have created a new kind of annual Mother’s Day tradition…getting up early and buying me breakfast….and herbs to plant in the garden.
I may not be able to pass on the things I thought I would, but we’ve learned to appreciate the ability to form new traditions.”
Some mothers of children with special needs simply feel a loss like any other mother like this Montclair mom:
“Our eldest lives in Florida (we live in NJ) so I haven’t been able to celebrate a Mother’s Day with him in a long time. Also, my mother now lives in NV so I don’t get an opportunity to see and celebrate her the way I’d like. I get a chance to celebrate with our two youngest children but there’s a little hole in my heart on that day. A little something that’s missing which is the unity of family.”
Making Mother’s Day Extra Special
Because Mother’s Day can take an emotional and physical toll on many mothers, especially moms of children with challenges, The Montclair Friday Group stepped in.
The Montclair Friday Group is a support group which is both a Yahoo group for resources and a drop-in group that meets every Friday morning for parents of children with special needs in Montclair and the surrounding areas. The MFG decided to make Mother’s Day a memorable occasion this year…in a good way!
Through Facebook, personal connections and word of mouth, professionals in different healing fields came to pamper the Moms from 9:30-1:30 p.m. There were two massage therapists, a Reiki therapist, a hair stylist, three make up artists and a professional photographer to take their photos once they were relaxed and glamorous from their beauty treatments. Thirty women attended out of the over 230 women in the group and this is what they had to say about their experience:
“As a sole parent whose only parenting experience is that of raising a child on the spectrum, I keep my expectations for the day quite low… some years are better than others, but I generally find it easiest to “forget” that I’m a mom, and to focus on making it a special day for my elderly mother,” says Sarah Otazo. “Having a morning like Friday, with such a sense of community and support, was nothing short of magical. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who gave so generously of their time, their talents and their hearts.”
Another mom who was brand new to the group shared this:
“The volunteers who came to pamper us and help us to relax were angels. I’ve been so stressed going through the Early Intervention process as well as the diagnosis process and with all of the appointments, I barely get time to shower! It was amazing to feel like a human, and get an opportunity to relax and forget my worries.”
A very happy “customer” said:
“What an AMAZING gift it was to have such talented people volunteering at our Friday morning group for Mother’s Day. I was especially moved by the kindness, generosity and understanding hair stylist, Tasneem Cherry offered. Growing up with a sibling with special needs gave her a personal connection to our group and it was almost a relief to have her work on my hair, knowing she had first hand experience in the daily challenges we special needs moms/families face every day. Also, she is suuuuuuper talented! We all looked even more beautiful after she did our hair. (And how bad ass it this: she comes to your HOME for your hair needs!! I’m DEF going to reach out to her again!!)”
Annika Cioffi had this to share:
“It was sort of like the spruce up scene from the Wizard of Oz! As we all deal with varying degrees of ongoing difficulty dealing with being needed in such an intense way, all the time, the volunteers did us all a huge benefit as they helped us all to step off that needy treadmill – to eat wonderful goodies, get our hair done, get massaged, have some coffee, have a chat, have a professional headshot taken… We all left feeling lucky to know each other and feeling quite blessed to have our lives touched by each other. “
The Montclair Friday Group would like to give a special thank you to the volunteers who made Mother’s Day so special, especially during their busy season of proms, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and other Spring events. What is even more special is that they have all offered to return next year for the 2nd annual Mother’s Day extravaganza! We can’t wait!
Vanessa Vozar massages
Claudia Sherwood for Reiki Treatments
Beth Adleman, LMT, massage: 973-641-6154
Sasha Hali, make up
Angela Vida, make up: A Beautiful Vida firstname.lastname@example.org
Anita Whitney/make up
Tasneem Cherry, hair styling and blowouts
Dan D’errico, photographer www.danderrico.com
If you would like to participate as a volunteer with the Montclair Friday Group or are a parent of a child with special needs and you would like to join the Montclair Friday group, please contact Alma Schneider, Alma@takebackthekitchen.com