The Reason I’ve Become a Terrible Friend

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

As I look down at my cellphone, I am reminded of the multitude of voicemails I have yet to return.

There is an abundance of texts in my inbox still marked unread.

I’ve posted on Facebook today, but have neglected to respond to the event invites awaiting my response.

In the past, I was on-point at responding to friends and loved ones in a timely manner; you could always count on me.

However, in the years since being assigned the role of Special Needs Mom, my dependability in the area of friendship has sharply declined.

It’s different than when I became a mother for the first time.

Sure, my ability to be a present friend suffered at that point in my life, but the world understands that.

People can EMPATHIZE with how life is suddenly turned upside down and schedules and routines become most important for the new mom.

After a while, I found time to devote to friendships again; I rebounded and recovered from being a crummy friend.

Today, with two amazing children, and one having profound disabilities, my time is more precious than ever.

My capability of being a good friend has hit an all-time low.  I am a terrible one.

I know I was supposed to return your call on Monday, and it’s now Wednesday... I’m still wondering when I will find the time.

I do sincerely appreciate your dinner invite, but I need to feed my eight-year old daughter at 5:00 PM.

I’m letting her practice feeding herself now with her spoon, therefore, we’ll still be sat at the kitchen table until bath time at 6:00.

Bath time is cherished by us both; I love watching her splash and I allow her to relax and soak in lavender, for as long as she wants.

After that, it’s medicine time (again), followed by our treasured snuggle time.

She wants me to read “I am a Unicorn” to her before bed, several times, and I am delighted to do so.

Her sleep schedule is vital; putting her to bed is quite similar to putting a baby to bed.

I spend time patting her back and playing her soft lullabies.  Before I walk out of her room, I turn on her pulse oximeter monitor and hope that she’ll get a restful night of sleep.

Afterward, I also want to spend some time listening to my wonderful son practice guitar and hear him explain the premise of the new YouTube video he’s creating.

We also need to recap the online homeschool lessons he completed today, and what tomorrow has in store.

By 8:00, I could return a phone call, but instead, I want to eat dinner with my incredible husband and catch up on his day.

He listens patiently as I tell him about the scathing e-mails I’ve sent to our medical equipment company today and how I’m worried that our daughter’s seizure medication is making her stim too much.

He is actively and supportively attentive as I tell him about a speech therapy center, an hour away, that I think is worth checking into for our nonverbal girl.

All the while, we’re eating our dinner that’s long gotten cold, and I finally manage to inquire about his hectic, busy day at work.

Eventually 9:00 rolls around and I could shoot you a quick text message, but instead, I just want to lose myself in mindless TV comedy and laugh with my spouse.

“I’ll get back to you tomorrow”, I think to myself.

But then tomorrow comes, and I remember we have an appointment with our case manager, and I need to spend ample time preparing for that.

It’s not that parents of children with special needs intentionally withdraw from friendships or purposefully turn our backs on those important people in our lives.

We still love you; we still care intensely about what’s going on in your lives.

We are just insanely preoccupied with little ones that we love fiercely; our children that mean more than ANYTHING else in the world to us.

We’re caregivers and the ones in our care require and deserve ALL that we’ve got.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, there’s just no energy left for anything else.

In my case, I genuinely want you to continue inviting me to your girls’ nights and your dinner parties; we both know that I’ll likely decline.  But someday, I will show up.

Just knowing that you still think of parents like us from time to time means a lot.

We’ll make time, eventually, to get away for a bit.  Remember that, and don’t give up on us.

We do love it when you meet us halfway, too.

When my sister or a dear friend pops over to my house for coffee and a chat, it’s always refreshing and very appreciated.

Being a good friend takes a considerable amount of work.  Being a GREAT mom takes even more.

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