So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

There’s a tiredness that is understood to come with motherhood. It’s a mixture of physical and emotional exhaustion that evolves over 18 years.  It’s physical, sleepless nights that turn to worry-filled ones in time. It’s nursing infants, schlepping strollers, chasing toddlers, carpooling to little league, feeding the neighborhood after the game, trying to remember algebra to help your daughter, and looking at a sleeping teenager whose feet hang off the couch and wondering when your boy became as tall as you.  It’s hard but rewarding. It has no roadmap but clear peaks and valleys. It’s well defined, understood by most, and sustainable.    

Then, there’s a tiredness experienced by special needs parents. It’s invisible.  

It’s the universal experience of motherhood with added responsibilities—like measuring medicines that are the difference between life and death, getting your child to and from daily therapies, schlepping their adaptive equipment, and having to pack what feels like a suitcase of medical supplies just to go to the grocery store.

It is the kind of tired coffee can’t fix. The kind of “tired” you wake up with.

It’s bills that never get opened and voicemails that go unanswered. Not because you don’t care, but because you can’t care.

You can’t add another “to do” or “to pay” to the list.   

So, you leave them be.

It’s friends you never call. Not because you don’t long for their company but because “grabbing coffee” involves more planning than you have energy for.

It’s waking up with your 12-year-old four and five times a night.

It’s not waking up with her because you’re scared if you close your eyes, she won’t wake up.

It’s weeks on end spent inside hospital walls, hoping your other two children don’t resent you for missing their homeruns, touchdowns, and awards assemblies.

It’s hoping your child lives forever while worrying about what happens if her “forever” is longer than yours.

But it’s a tiredness you can’t speak of. Because it runs so deep it’s engrained in you, and because it’s a tiredness too alienating to speak of.

It’s expected that new mamas are physically tired. And seasoned mamas are emotionally worn out. But not special needs parents. We assume their child’s illness gives them superpowers. We ask a new mom how she’s sleeping. We tell a special needs mom we couldn’t do what she does. Not because we don’t care, but because we don’t realize how tired she is.

We don’t realize it because when we look at her, she’s “got it together.”
She’s cheering as her near-teenager takes her first steps.
She’s whipping up gluten-free everything, advocating for inclusion at school, and celebrating victories God only knows how hard she fought for.     

She’s not crying in a corner.

But maybe it’s because she’s too tired to.

Parenting is exhausting. And I don’t share this to say special needs parents do it better. I share it to say they do it for longer and without a roadmap.

And because they do it so well, they make it look easy. But it isn’t.

And a pat on their back, a cup of coffee, or the words “I’m here” might just be the light their path needs.

You may also like: 

To the Special Needs Mom Who Sits Alone

Dear God, I’m Just So Tired

Moms Hardly Sleep But That’s Not Why We’re So Tired


Cara Arnold

I’m a mama to 3 whose learning to balance parenthood and chronic illness at the hands of autoimmune encephalitis. Some days I’m a soccer mom, carpooling like a boss; other days I’m a relentless advocate, taking on doctors and insurance companies alike. But, if you’re looking for consistency every day I’m a hot mess. My life is a puzzle that’s still not together. I used to think pieces were missing. But it's all finally fitting together. It’s not what I envisioned, and some days I mourn that; but it’s mine. And knowing how fast that can change I try to appreciate every moment of it.

Who Will Wash Your Shoes When I’m Gone?

In: Motherhood
a pair of yellow crocs

Who will wash your shoes when I am no longer here? This crossed my mind yesterday, as I soaked the only shoes you’ll wear. The yellow lime ones. The ones you’ve learned to put on yourself. The ones that help you hop and skip down the street. RELATED: The Struggle You Don’t See in a Special Needs Family The ones that take us to the park and the ice cream store. The ones that you kick off once you’re home. Tears ran down my face as the water washed the soap away. I try to keep your shoes clean. Because...

Keep Reading

That Older than Average Student is Braver than You Know

In: Living, Motherhood
woman in scrubs holding baby and patting horse

My freshman year of college I was 18 and felt like I had my whole future planned out and set in front of me. I was taking equine science and pursuing a career with horses, which I loved. One of the first classes I took was a very tight-knit, hands-on class on a farm. In this class, there were only about six or seven people so you were able to work and learn alongside each other as a team and got to know everyone well. The oldest person in the class was a mom in her early 30s who was...

Keep Reading

What the Mama in the Meltdown Really Needs

In: Child, Motherhood, Toddler

I was so excited to enroll my 3-year-old daughter into gymnastics—she’s my always active, fearless, stubborn, and daring girl. The girl whose teachers had to ask me to remind her that swinging from arch to arch in the classroom was not OK, and who has nearly given me heart attacks flipping off the couch. The girl who has so much high energy, that I know getting it all out with sports would be so healthy for her. The girl who is fierce about doing everything “by herself . . . “ I just knew she would love gymnastics. And she...

Keep Reading

My Mom Delivers a Favorite Dish to My Family Every Month and it’s the Best Gift Ever

In: Living, Motherhood
Grandma with grandkids and food

For Christmas, Mom and Dad gave each of my sisters and me a note with a pan of frozen lasagna. The note read: During the year of 2022 you will receive a Mama’s Recipe (cook’s choice) delivered to your door one time monthly by Papa’s Food Truck.” (The “food truck” is just my mom and dad delivering food to my sisters and me—not an actual business.) Part of the gift includes the container the food comes in. The list for each month is below. You’ll also find recipes (where available) and links to the containers.  PS: If you click and...

Keep Reading

I Love Having a Friend With a New Baby

In: Baby, Friendship, Motherhood
Woman snuggling newborn baby

To my sweet friend with a newborn, Thank you. This stage you’re in is the sweetest, most innocent, and challenging time. The exhaustion and love are overwhelming I know—I feel like I was just there yesterday with my own kids. Only, it wasn’t yesterday. Even though I can close my eyes and remember those precious moments with my own newborns, it feels so far in the past. I love the age my kids are now, but I’m telling you, there’s something magical about those first few weeks of life. When your baby scrunches their body into a ball when you...

Keep Reading

Childhood Is Messy with Imagination and I Want to Remember It All

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toys on bedroom floor

Sometimes I take random photos on my phone of my son’s bedroom or what he has built with his LEGOs. I do this because I know how quickly things change while he is this young. What he builds with LEGOs is always evolving, becoming more intricate and sophisticated. When I look around his room and see everything that is there, it’s like a snapshot of the season we are in. And all I want to do is capture each season. Capture what life looks like for us, for him. I envision showing him these photos when he is grown, maybe...

Keep Reading

Is Anyone Really a Natural When it Comes to Motherhood?

In: Motherhood
Tired mom

Ever since I was little I’ve been drawn to the ideals of motherhood. I would prance around the neighborhood with dolls piled high in my best friend’s stroller. We would set up shop on the lawn with blankets made into makeshift beds and clothes sprawled out everywhere. When I was 12, I took a babysitting course and went around the block knocking on doors and telling the neighbors I was ready for hire. I babysat regularly and was known as a baby whisperer. My life’s goal was to be a mom, and my whole life everyone told me I’d be...

Keep Reading

6 Things the Parent of a Child With Medical Needs Learns

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child holding baby doll

My 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few months before her 2nd birthday. She uses a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to watch her blood glucose levels and a pump that administers insulin. Before these amazing pieces of medical technology, we were pricking her fingers up to 10 times a day and giving insulin injections at about the same rate—ouch! There are many parents out there with children with special medical needs. One mom I know has to give her autistic son enemas every day because of digestive issues. Another mom has a child with highly specialized dietary...

Keep Reading

As Another School Year Begins, Remember Mama: You Know Your Child Best

In: Kids, Motherhood
little girl holding a first day of kindergarten sign

Dear mom buying school supplies and feeling overwhelmed, Stop and pray. Ask God to help you envision each child as the young adult they can be. Write out your goals for that child . . . fair warning, there will likely be very little academic success in your goals. You may even have to go back and write those in. Take a deep breath. Keep this list of goals nearby. Go back and read them when the world is telling you your child doesn’t stack up somewhere. They aren’t reading as fast, they’re not “getting” math, their handwriting is wonky,...

Keep Reading

Little Things Can Be Self Care Too

In: Motherhood
Woman reading a book

My third baby has never been a great night-time sleeper. Around eight months old, he decided to add more middle-of-the-night feedings. He went from his usual two nighttime nursing sessions to four, five, or even more. With all the wakeups, I was getting a dismal amount of sleep. My lack of sleep led to low energy, low patience, and an overall low mood. I was constantly tired and grumpy. When playing with my kids, I would feel like I was in a fog. I was not able to enjoy their silliness or creativity but instead became easily annoyed and frustrated....

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.