Proud To Be A Good Enough Special Needs Parent


My son with cerebral palsy isn’t “imperfect” in my eyes—I long ago quit seeing him like that. It wasn’t fair (or helpful) to him, and it depressed me. It’s taken me a lot more time, though, to quit seeing my parenting as imperfect. Same goes for hundreds of moms interviewed for Good Enough Is The New Perfect, a smart and encouraging new book about motherhood today by my friends Hollee Schwartz Temple and Becky Beaupre Gillespie. It’s about accepting that you are actually human and can’t do it all, and focusing on what you most want out of family life, work life and life in general. It is one reassuring read.

As a parent of a kid with special needs, I’ve beat myself up a lot for not doing enough for Max. Now that he is 8, though, I’m getting past the guilt. Well, mostly. These are the ways I am a good (enough) parent:

Truth: I asked all of the therapists at Max’s school to email me regular updates about what they’re working on with him, and what we could be doing at home with him. I am not doing every single thing. Hardly.
Good enough: I do what I can.

Truth: I have not been very diligent about potty training Max. He is 8.
Good enough: I try. When Max is truly ready—and when I am tired enough of dirty diapers to get commando about it—it will happen.

Truth: Max has an iPad with a speech app that he uses for communication. When we’re hanging out and he’s trying to articulate something, I will sometimes guess at what he’s saying, rather than making him use the iPad.
Good enough: I constantly talk with him and encourage him to speak. If at times I don’t want a machine to interrupt a moment between us, so be it.

Truth: I let my husband, Dave, handle most of Max’s feeding on weekends (at times, Max needs help guiding food into his mouth). I tell myself Dave is “better” at it but really, it’s not my favorite thing to do.
Good enough: I dress Max, give him baths, and do other stuff Dave doesn’t particularly enjoy. It is not realistic to expect any mom or dad to relish every single thing about parenthood.

Truth: Some weekends, Max watches more TV than he should.
Good enough: I am a better parent for having had time to myself. And I am sure Max is learning lots from iCarly! OK, maybe not.

Truth: I started letting Max crash in our bed again in the middle of the night after working so hard to get him to sleep in his own room.
Good enough: I kind of like it.

How are you a good enough parent?

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  1. by Twitted by parentsmagazine

    On August 2, 2011 at 10:37 am

    [...] This post was Twitted by parentsmagazine [...]

  2. by patti

    On August 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    ditto to the truth about therapy. Lily has ten built-in therapists living with her, and what we do to encourage development might not always be found in an IFSP…but it’s good enough:)

  3. by Kara

    On August 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Being ‘good enough’ is such an important concept. It’s one that comes up time and again whenever I talk to other special needs moms and even therapists. Sometimes I need that reassurance! I am happy for my hubby to feed Seb on the weekends too. I do it all week and it’s nice to have a break! We go for walks two afternoons a week so I can get some exercise and Seb can take a nap or watch the trees go by. Sometimes I think I should be doing therapy exercises with him instead. But I want us to enoy life together. I want to be his mom, not his therapist. So we try to create a balance, but it doesn’t always balance out. Great post.

  4. by Amy Koehler

    On August 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    We so easily and often beat ourselves up with guilt about “not doing enough” when, in reality, we cannot do everything 100% perfectly. Nobody can. There is always something we can be doing better, a therapy that we should have tried earlier, a skill we should have gotten around to teaching our child earlier, etc. However, what we DO do for our kids is so much and so important that it IS ok to be “good enough.” At least most of the time….

    Great post, Ellen

  5. by Sarah

    On August 3, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    You are better than a ‘good enough’ parent. you all are amazing. being a parent of a special needs child proves that a stay at home mom can be a whole lot harder than a working mom.

  6. by Sarah

    On August 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    My last post I hope didn’t upset anyone I just wish ppl would let me feel like i’m ‘good enough’ instead of telling me “you just have to try harder” or “how do you not have time?” or saying “ur lucky to be a stay at home mom must be nice to sit around all day” ugh. they have no idea

  7. by Shawna

    On August 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I am a mother of 1 adhd boy and 1 adhd, ld, odd daughter which people say is not special needs. Which I can understand to a point. As a stay at home mom who is always losing her mind and feeling guilty b/c I lose it. Then to have someone tell you oh it is not that bad you need to just work hard or do something different it makes you just want to scream. I understand how you feel even if my house is not as special as yours. Stay positive and know That You Are GOOD Enough!

  8. by Good Enough | Team Aidan

    On August 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    [...] of kids with disabilities helicopter moms like me?  Anyway, inspired by Max’s mom’s post here, I decided to own being good enough, not [...]

  9. by risperdal online

    On October 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Great post I must say. Simple but yet interesting. Wonderful work!

  10. by friv

    On April 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Keep up the good work. I love the pics!