Making Marriage Work in Special Needs Parenting

This Monday, we celebrated an amazing human’s birthday: the hubby turned 41.

He took this week off work and I joined him for downtime on Monday. It was the first time we had to just the two of us in forever.

When we started the adoption journey, a former manager told me to avoid adopting a child with FASD, because she had friends who said it ruined their lives.

I’ve read heart wrenching posts on private forums from parents who’ve said raising an FASD child destroyed their marriage.

Now that the hubby and I have been in the thick of parenting a child with suspected FASD for 5.5 years, I can empathize with their perspective.

Most days with T have challenging, stressful and explosive moments.

Some days start with an outburst that sets a negative tone or a headache-inducing meltdown at night leaves me awake feeling guilty about not handling it better.

There is no respite. We’re on our own with little help because there are very few people that we trust to leave T with.

Despite best efforts, we argue more often than we should – often over petty things as a result of stress or being tired.

Special needs parenting makes emotional, mental and physical impacts on us as individuals and as a couple. The hubby and I both started to gray quickly during stressful virtual schooling, especially with unexpected stressors like my Ma’s stroke and recovery added on top.

On the very worst of days, I would think to myself this was not what I signed up for.

Now that I got that off my chest, I want to be very clear that it isn’t all bad. If anything, T has enriched our lives and he has made the hubby and I better and stronger as individuals and as a couple.

We are both unified in our love for T and our determination to do what’s best for him and to help him succeed.

We don’t always get it right – in fact, we mess up almost every day and we’re perpetually exhausted – but we give it our darned best and try to have fun along the way.

Here are a few ways that has helped make it work for us.

We divide and conquer. I do the cooking, cleaning (except washrooms) and groceries; he does the yard work. He makes the lunches and bathes T, I do most of the school stuff.

We are lucky to have amazing family and friends as emotional support. We might not entrust them with T unsupervised, but they provide other ways of meaningful support. Most importantly, they may not fully understand FASD, but they accept T into their lives.

We make space for our interests and needs. It’s so easy, especially with a special needs child, to lose yourself in parenting, but we create time and space for our interests. Wherever possible, we introduce and include T in the enjoyment, such as exploring the outdoors.

We carve time for self care. This is more of a rarity than a norm, but it’s important to do so for our wellbeing as individuals and as a couple. We know when to seek help and to set personal boundaries. This blog is a part of my self care!

We focus on the big picture. It’s very easy to get lost in the challenges. But I always remind myself to look at the big picture, celebrate the many wins and ways that T is kicking butt. This often helps us re-centre our focus and gravity.

When we get the rare break, we take full advantage of it.

On the hubby’s birthday, I took him for lunch at one of his fave restaurants in our old neighbourhood. It was nice to be back in an area where we made many happy memories.

Lunch was delicious! I had my very first bowl of warm miso soup since the pandemic began.

We had gotten the birthday on earlier this past weekend, by setting up Christmas at home.

T helped me bake an apple pie for the hubby.

I also got the hubby his DQ ice cream pizza.

While waiting for our food at the sushi restaurant, the hubby asked me, “Are you 40 or turning 40?”

Yup, we’re definitely getting up there in age!

17 thoughts on “Making Marriage Work in Special Needs Parenting

  1. Thank you for sharing this my Friend. I believe , more than ever , Marriage and Relationships are more challenging. Wisdom, Patience, lots of Love and Support are all needed to make it work. What you stated here are all precious and important. So much life and relationship saving Gold. Thank you for being a source of light, Hope and inspiration

    1. Thank you! Relationships are rewarding but also take work and lots of patience as you said. Love my son so much but he contributes to a lot of our stresses too. Good to focus on the big picture always! 🙏 Enjoy your week ahead! 👍

  2. Happy Birthday to hubby and I’m glad you were able to celebrate lunch together, it looks delicious and that pie!!!! You two have an amazing way of sharing the responsibility with T and your household chores. As difficult as I am sure things can get, I have no doubt you both will grow as a couple and parents along with T overcoming some of his challenges. Keep moving forward. ❤️

    1. Thanks Diane. It was a nice birthday. I was too tired to cook this year. 😆 I know you’ve worked with clients and families similar to ours in your life and you’ll understand when I say the hardest thing about this journey is the exhaustion – mental, physical and emotional – of raising a kids with additional needs. But as you noted, all we can do is keep moving forward. So thank you. Happy weekend! 🙏😊

  3. Happy birthday to your husband Ab. It seems to me you’re both doing an amazing job. For what it’s worth, as a parent I am inspired by your resilience. Wishing you well 🙂🙏

    1. Thank you, AP. It was a rough night last night with the little one, ironically after this post went up. But we just keep chugging along. 😊 Take good care to you as well!

  4. Happy birthday to the hubby. Given how busy things are, it’s great that you still found time to celebrate. It’s always nice to have some alone time together as well to re-connect. Those are great tips for how to make a relationship work. And I fully agree that when you finally get a rare break, that you should take advantage of it!! Looks like you had quite the feast. That DQ cake looks amaaaazing. Cheers!

    1. Thanks Linda! It’s been a bit chaotic lately and reflecting on it in writing helps a lot. 😊 And yes, that DQ Skor-themed “treatza” was delish indeed! 😋

  5. Wow – a very wise post. Those are great lessons you have learned and thankfully you’ve shared here! Happy birthday to your hubby and it looks like a great celebration! Here’s to the strength, wisdom and perspective that makes these years thrivable!!

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