Stop Shaming Parents for Having Feelings!

It never fails. I write a post about the challenges, fatigue, emotions of raising a differently wired child and someone somewhere makes a comment like, “I wonder how the child feels” or “Think about how hard it must be for the kid.” As if I don’t already. And as if that isn’t part of what contributes to the challenges, fatigue, and emotions I feel.

Can we be very clear that empathy for the child’s experience and empathy for the parent’s experience are not mutually exclusive? Since when does me saying I’m having a hard time mean I’m not thinking about how hard of a time my kid is having too?

Stop Shaming Parents for Having Feelings!

All too often us parents of differently wired children are overtly and covertly reminded that we should be thinking of the kids. And on the off chance that we think about ourselves, we are reminded (gently or otherwise) that we should be neglecting our own experiences and refocus on the kids. But, you know what? We are humans, too. Our lives are just as valuable and as important as our kids’ lives. Our needs are just as valid as our kids’ needs. And being human, we have feelings. Some of them are pleasant, some are unpleasant, some make us want to draw closer to our hurting child and some make us want to run away. Far away.

Stop Shaming Parents for Having Feelings!

Here is the unequivocal truth. All parents need to take care of themselves first. We need to make sure our needs are met before we try to meet the needs of anyone else. This is not being selfish or uncaring. Prioritizing our own wellness, practicing self-compassion, being mindful of our own suffering and responding with kindness, nurturing, and gentleness, is essential if we want to be able to show up for anyone else. We cannot be in healthy relationships if we are not first healthy ourselves.

So, stop shaming parents for acknowledging our feelings! It’s actually healthy! It actually helps us connect with other people, grow intimacy within our relationships, release the steam from our ever boiling pot of ridiculously overwhelming emotions, so that we can actually show up for the child that we know is hurting.

This parenting journey is hard enough. Whether you have neurotypical kids, neurodiverse kids, or a smattering of both, parenting is hard. HARD. And in order for us to guide our children well, to have the energy and emotional resources to patiently sit with them when they are in overload and meltdown mode, we MUST effectively regulate our own experiences and feelings. Which means, we must be able to talk about them, express them, get them out.

Stop shaming parents for having feelings and doing what they need to do to regulate them well.

And, if you for one second believe that a parent of a differently wired child isn’t already simmering with shame, guilt, self-doubt, worry, anxiety, feeling like a failure, feeling selfish for wanting to run away, feeling overlooked, feeling overwhelmed, feeling like they weren’t cut out for this type of parenting, feeling like they missed things they should have caught, feeling like they are somehow failing their child, then you are sorely mistaken.

We’re pros at feeling the guilt and the shame.

So, please, for all that is good and holy, stop shaming parents for having feelings.

All that compassion that you seem to have for the kids? Maybe compassion is inclusive rather than exclusive? Maybe compassion deserves to be shown for everyone. At all times. Maybe, just maybe, we can show compassion for the kids and the parents?