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10 Ways Having Special Needs Kids Makes You a Better Person

10 Ways Having Special Needs Kids Makes You a Better Person

Twelve years ago I gave birth to a special little boy, his name is Zach. Nine years ago I had another special boy and his name is Jude. These two boys were diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD respectively.

Now I’m not gonna tell you it’s been all fun, there have been tears and tantrums, heartbreak even–not just theirs–we’ve all had a cry at one point or another. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about our lives.

These guys make us happy. They make us who we are. And if anything we owe them for driving us and motivating us. Here’s how they make us better people.

1. We Become Healthier

We give up late nights, cigarettes and bad food. Not only do we want to set a good example, but we want to be around for these kids for as long as we can.

For many of us special needs parents there lies a concern around the future and what will happen to the kids when we die. It takes our kids longer to prepare for the adult world and so we need to know that someone responsible will be there for them.

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2. We Learn to Be Patient

It takes much longer for our kids to reach milestones. Take Zach for example, his social development is severely delayed. He finds it so difficult to make friends. Other kids need help with speech and language, others with mobility.

We wait and we wait. We prompt, play and comfort. We start each day afresh in the hope that today is the day that our kids will have a breakthrough.

In time it becomes clear that it’s okay when you’re not getting results. We just keep on trying. Acceptance plays a great role here.

3. We Celebrate in Style

When the big day finally comes and our child reaches a milestone–maybe they managed to get up and walk at two years or say their first words at four. We really celebrate with great appreciation.

The relief can’t be quantified every time we have one of these moments. We feel eternally grateful and ever so proud.

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4. We Become Selfless

Many of us simply drop everything when we learn that our child has special needs. We feel we have a duty to do everything in our power to help this child to catch up with their peers–or at least to have the best quality of life that’s possible for them.

5. We Value Our Free Time

What little time we have to ourselves we enjoy thoroughly. We don’t take anything for granted. We appreciate meeting our friends, shopping trips, going out for dinner and any other time we can get to ourselves.

These treats happen so infrequently, they are savored to the nth degree.

6. We Develop a Heightened Sense of Humor

The house is in a mess, the kids are fighting again and you are stressed out–you have an assignment due in the morning.

You could cry, that would be acceptable but we know it won’t get us anywhere; if anything the kids will sense our weakness and play up even more.

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Instead we just laugh it off. Things don’t seem quite so bad anymore.

7. We Become Fighters

As special needs parents we learn to fight for our children’s rights. These kids are told “No” over and over by authorities, whether it’s regarding places in schools, time in rehabilitation and training, speech therapy–the list goes on.

Parents are up against it when it comes to getting the services their kids are entitled to.

We have no choice but to fight. Sometimes we become unpopular or make enemies but it’s all in the name of love for our kids. They can’t fight for themselves.

8. We Become Resilient

We become accustomed to having doors closed in our faces. Doors that should open and welcome our kids. A world where they can develop and flourish.

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We learn to find other ways of getting what we need. We refuse to accept ‘no’ for an answer and we start all over again. This time more determined than before.

9. We Become Less Materialistic

When you find yourself in a constant struggle day in day out you start to realize what’s important in life. We couldn’t care less what make or model our car is or whether our clothes are trendy or not.

None of that stuff matters. All that matters is that we are happy and that our kids are happy.

10.We Develop a Thick Skin

Sometimes our kids are teased at school. Despite our best efforts to put an end to this it can continue. We have to keep going and help our kids to keep going too. It’s the ultimate lesson in developing a thick skin.

I feel blessed that my two little monkeys have taught me all of these valuable lessons. There is no doubt that I am a better person because of Zach and Jude.

Now to get them off those video games ….

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Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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