Parent Guilt

I was talking to someone who works for Home From Home Care recently who often comes to events with us, and she asked me, “why do parents react so emotionally when you talk to them about feel guilty as a mother?”

It’s such a unique emotion as a parent of a child with Special Needs that I thought I would share with you what I told her as she asked me more questions.  Here’s how the conversation went.


Her: Do you feel guilty about having a child with a Learning Disability?

Me: Of course I feel guilty.  You’ve given birth to a human being who is going to struggle right the way through life and you feel responsible because your other child or children are going to grow up to be a normal human being.  So you definitely feel guilty.  Any parent who says to me, “I don’t suffer from guilt” is lying because it is a natural feeling to feel guilty. 


Her: How do these emotions change over your child’s lifetime?

Me: You start off life by trying to get them going as much as possible.  In my case it was getting Laura to walk and to talk – luckily she managed to get there in the end.  Then obviously schooling, she went to a normal little nursery school and then progressed into a Learning Disabilities school and did very well. So right up to that period you are pushing therapy, pushing all sorts of things to get your child going so you are driven and your guilt takes a little bit of a back seat. 


Her: And what about today, now that Laura is in residential care?

Me: Laura has since become her own person so subsequently my guilt has now become very much about asking myself every day, “have I done enough, am I still doing enough to make sure that she is alright.”  And providing I make sure I really do enough, the guilt, I can live with.  My whole point now is to concentrate on is Laura happy? Is she leading as fulfilled a life as possible? And if she is, then I’m quite content with that.  The minute that stops then my guilt will start again.


Her: Do you think fathers feel the same guilt as mothers?

Me: I think fathers sometimes feel self-conscious about having a child with a Learning Disability in the public and out and about in the public eye.  I think they tend to cover it up by possibly being slightly embarrassed but yes, I’ve come across many fathers who equally feel  that their child hasn’t been able to access a normal school or a normal life.


I know that I’ve often had times when I’ve questioned my own emotions; times when I’ve felt I’m on my own and wasn’t sure if it was right to be feeling how I felt.  Because I talk to parents day in day out, I now know it’s ok and natural to feel guilty – it is simply part of the many emotions we feel being parents of a child with Special Needs.


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