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Turn Off Your Switch

February 27, 2013
By Maria Spencer ,

There comes a time in every special parent's life when you say to yourself, "I just can't do this anymore. I'm tired." The decisions, the setbacks, and all the appointments get to be overwhelming and make us want to throw in the towel. Sometimes it is difficult to focus on all the things that our kids do well, rather than their challenges.

The good news is, we've all been there. We all at one point or another have silently wanted to give up - or at least get a break from it all. I think it is so important that we validate each other by saying it's OK to have bad days. We can't always be "on." We need to give ourselves permission to be human.

During most of our days, our bodies are filled with a never-ending supply of adrenaline. It allows us to be ready for any kind of crisis that may arise in our day. We never come down from this mode. It makes our "on" switch never get a break. So at some point or another, our switch breaks down.

Article Photos

Maria (Smaldino) Spencer is the mother of Jonah and Olivia, who has hemipelegic cerebral palsy. Maria can be reached at

My prayer for all of us this month is that we will learn to turn off the switch temporarily to prevent it from malfunctioning. In order to do this, we need to take time to breathe, to cry, to screamwhatever it takes. We can't expect ourselves to be super-human. We need to admit it when we are worn down and in need of a break.

Most special parents have this innate strength that they can't really explain, it's just there whenever we need it. We are used to doing everything for everybody, and that's just how we function. So to admit that we are having a bad day, week, or month is very difficult for us. We don't want anyone to know that we may not be able to handle it all. Since our child was born, it's an unspoken expectation we put on ourselves.

I truly believe that we were all chosen for this amazing job - even though we may not always feel chosen. Today, as you read this, I am giving you permission - parent to parent - to cry if you feel like crying, to ask for someone to give you an hour to yourself, or to do whatever it is that will get you through this week. It's OK.

We all have experienced the exhausting, frustrating days that can come along with this special parenting job. These challenging days we face as parents trying to support our kids make us stronger and able to get through anything and everything on our journey. We gain patience and selflessness like we never imagined. So in the midst of our worst day, we must remind ourselves that in order to take care of them, we must take care of ourselves. Part of taking care of ourselves entails giving ourselves permission to truly feel everything - the good, the bad, and the ugly feelings that we face.

In the end, it's a win-win. As we continually learn that we are not superhuman, and we are not alone on this journey, our kids end up getting more of what they need. When we let out the emotions that are inside of us, we are able to turn the switch back on and face anything that comes our way.



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