I was with a good friend recently when she was sharing some difficult things she was going through. Quite soon into the conversation she said ‘but of course it’s nothing like what you have to deal with’ and then went on to apologise and say her problems were trivial in comparison. She felt she had to stop and acknowledge how difficult my life, as a parent carer of a disabled child is.
This is a really common experience for me, and I am going to guess that every parent of a disabled child has encountered a similar conversation with a friend. It is well-meaning and from a place of kindness. It happens so frequently to me that I have said to all of my friends that I never want them to feel they cannot speak to me about their problems because they feel I have ‘enough on my plate’.
For me it works the other way, and I suspect this is the case for other parent carers too. Our lives can be extremely hard, we weather meltdowns, seizures, appointments, medications, therapies and sometimes emergency treatment when the big storms hit.
Hearing that other people are having a tough time too is often somewhat of a relief.
In the world of SEN parenting it can often feel like other ‘typical’ lives around me look perfect, easy, happy every day. When of course that is not the case. This feeling of difference can be compounded if friends stop sharing their day to day difficulties or choose to share it with others that have ‘less on their plate’.
In being considerate and not wanting to burden us with more, I wonder if it may be having an adverse effect. I wonder if what might be happening is parent carers, and anyone going through ‘Big Life Stuff’, are getting a false impression that everyone else is ‘fine’. When of course they are not.
For my part, I want to hear it all.
It doesn’t need to be big stuff but if my friends have had a rubbish day at work topped off by the cat vomiting then I want to hear about it. Come and moan to me. I want to be able to return the kindness my friends show to me day in day out. Being able to support someone else, to help and to give, can feel empowering and uplifting. Parent carers often have a hefty old toolkit of coping mechanisms as well and may be able to offer some helpful advice.
I will be sharing this post with my friends and reminding them that I am here to talk to. If they need any more persuading, do it for me and help me know that I am not alone and that life throws up challenges for everyone.