Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

How Do Special Needs Mamas Do It?

One summer, when I was about six and attending day camp, a girl who was a few years older and eons cooler than I was, asked me whether my hair got darker when it was wet. Then, I was the shyest of shy, had few friends, and sported that kind of little-kid white-blonde hair that is usually only seen in the very young. Eager to please, I said “um. I dunno. Let’s go see!”

Sure that I’d found my pass to cool on the playground, we raced over to the water fountain, and climbed its rock-creek steps to wet my hair. I remember awkwardly leaning back, twisting, and holding my head under the too-cold water but I don’t remember whether my hair got darker or not. I know that after our experiment, I expected her to realize how fun and accommodating I was. Instead, she called a hasty “thanks!” over her shoulder and rejoined her friends.

Leaving me to study my wet is-it-darker-or-not hair alone.

Until she ran off, that was a moment when I felt seen, and important. Today, of course, I have better connections, and life surprises me with interactions that make me happyweep. I’m liked! At least some of the time, anyway.

Often, for most of us, feeling connected doesn’t even need the big things people say. The being seen happens during the times when we mention how psyched we are that our five-year old no longer wears diapers at night, and a friend says “Awesome!” rather than “Wait. He was still in diapers at night?!?!”

Those little affirmations are the ones that make us feel connected. Understood. I mean, God knows that too often, us moms (and dads) feel unseen and less-than appreciated, right? So, it’s nice. Those times when people make us feel seen and accepted are nice.

There’s an expression though. It’s one that I think goes both ways.

“Gosh! How do you do it?”

While at first, we may preen to have been recognized for obviously having the awesomest of superpowers, and for holding our shit mostly almost all-the-way together, it’s really kind of a dumb thing to say.

Because, eventually, or right then, we remember that we’re totally not superheros in the sense that should make anybody else, you know, admire us and stuff because we’re wearing mismatched socks, save three minutes of sleep each morning knowing that yoga and sweat pants require no underwear (and if you wear underwear beneath your sweats or yoga pants – please tell me why it’s wrong not to???) and that most of the time, when we think we’re dealing, we probably cut some corners, somewhere. Some days, we maybe probably cut a lot of them.

When it comes to the whole “How do you do it?” question, I’d first personally heard it as it related to me, dealing with the news that my son has developmental delays and probably autism. I have had to advocate, teach, learn ABA therapy to help him to keep his hands to himself, and to speak rather than gesture. Some of that’s behind us now, and I’m learning new things to help him to socialize appropriately (as in kissing your friends is maybe a bit unexpected).

How do I do it? I don’t know. I just do… ya know?

Same as you.

The same way that all of us just do. We just. We do. Special needs mamas and regular mamas, all of us are just doing and being and reacting and trying to find ways to balance and act rather than having to react so much. We’re called into our children’s rooms at 3am simply because somebody needs a hand to hold.

Sometimes, when our babies are sick, that person is us.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned through this whole regular mama-ing thing, and this whole special needs mama-ing thing, it’s that we’re more alike than different. That we’ve ALL been asked “How do you do it?” and may waver between saying “Well, I have a sitter for a few hours each week, when I’m able to have some alone time,” or “My husband/partner is pretty great about letting me sleep in one weekend day each month,” or “I’ve been really blessed with a great community…” and saying something more honest and real and not that the other stuff isn’t real but more along the lines of “I don’t! I’m not! I haven’t even pooped today!!!”

Here’s the deal. We DO get by because of these things but we also often get by without them. We all get by.

We all have more similar than not personal reality shows. Special needs, or not.

Take, for example, a recent text message exchange I had with one of my PAC mom friends. While I’ve taken some liberties, I haven’t strayed from the main message of her text.

You have four kids mom cartoon how do you do it


How do you do it mom

Mom who is doing everything right realizes something is wrong

Maybe no mom is doing this mom thing right

We get by. Getting by is my personal reality show. It’s probably yours, too.

All of us. Regular moms and dads, special needs moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas and aunts and uncles and friends and all of the people are just getting by.

All of them are superheroes.

we are all superheroes special needs and regular mamas

We’re all superheroes, people! YAY for us! We’re superheroes!  Which also means we’re just regular, and we’re all just doing the do to hang in. Rumpled, unlaundered capes. Tucked accidentally into our pants. Or forgotten altogether. We’re still superheroes. All. Of. Us. Because we do the do. We get up. We do. We feel, and we love. We remember moments and forget them. We hang onto memories and forget to. We have toothpaste on our mirrors, and food on our floors. We’re doing it and doing it is all that matters.

Maybe, instead of wondering how somebody “does it,” we should just remember that we’re all awesome and horrible. We’re all flawed and perfect, all at once, every single day. Special needs moms and regular moms – this mom job thing is hard! It’s amazing. It’s frustrating and incredible and life-changing in all of the best and most ickyiest of ways. And really, that’s the point right? We’re more alike than different. That all of our reality shows would be that we’re more alike than different.

We’re all hanging in.

We’re all harboring hidden capes, mismatched socks, and love that makes us each enough.


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday Post. Today’s sentence is “If they made a reality show about my life, it would be called…”

Me (Finding Ninee)
Stephanie (Mommy, For Real)
Today’s Co-hosts (so show them some extra loves):
Michelle (Crumpets and Bollocks) and today’s sentence thinker-upper
April (100lb Countdown)

Finish the Sentence Friday is a prompt where writers are able to link their posts pertaining to the current sentence. If you’d like to stay on top of what the next sentence prompts are, and be a part of a totally excellent community, consider joining our Facebook group.

  • Dana - We are more alike than different – mothers, kids, People. Except for the underwear and yoga pants – that’s why thongs were invented, Kristi.December 4, 2014 – 11:21 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Um. So thongs are for real pants and no underwear is for sweats and yoga pants. Right??? Crap. DId I get this wrong?December 5, 2014 – 12:18 amReplyCancel

      • Dana - You do what works for you, Kristi. I think you can never go wrong with a thong, and I don’t enjoy commando. TMI – I’m shutting up now.December 5, 2014 – 10:43 amReplyCancel

  • Mike - Ha, this was awesome. Btw…ironic as I was thinking of you today while driving to work and had planned to email you. I’ve been doing a lot of “getting by” the past 3 months but hoping soon for a little bit more than that. It’s hard to allow “getting by” sometimes because we put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with some incredible superheroes in my life during this time both here in Reno and online. I do wear underwear under my sweats…I mean, hello? Now off to wet my hair…I always have my glasses off when I get of the shower and I’ve never paid attention. BRB!!

    Ok…yes it is darker when it’s wet. Vewy, vewy interesting doctor 🙂

    Awesome post, Kristi 🙂December 4, 2014 – 11:47 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Mike, I know (and can’t stand) that you’ve been doing so much “getting by” the last three months but obviously completely understand. HAHAH to you actually wetting your hair and looking!!! 🙂 Thanks, you. xoDecember 6, 2014 – 11:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Anna Fitfunner - Yep, that’s me. Living the superhero life.
    Thanks (again!) for bringing a grin to my face as I read your blog post. Time for me and the cape to grab a cup o’ joe and save the world once again!December 5, 2014 – 3:07 amReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - Aww, I loved the his and you are so right we all just get by during the good, the bad and the ugly, too!December 5, 2014 – 3:09 amReplyCancel

  • Jen Kehl - You ARE a super hero! My super hero. No matter what, you keep it together, and I know how hard that is! I can’t wait to rejoin the world when I am finally able to emerge from The Matrix cause I miss you tons! TTTx10 <3December 5, 2014 – 3:44 amReplyCancel

  • karen - LOVE your post, and so true. There are so many nights when I go to bed and wonder how the hell I made it through this day or week, then Dino is so happy and loved. I realize that doing the best I can is all that matters. Our kids don’t want perfect moms, they want their moms and think we are perfect just the way we are.December 5, 2014 – 5:08 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think doing our best is too often forgotten. It’s so easy to remember all the stuff we sucked at this week, but really, we were so awesome, too…December 6, 2014 – 11:46 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Golden Spoons - As usual, you have hit the nail on the head my friend!! I love this so much. Earlier this week, someone at work told me “You always look so put together! I don’t know how you do it with three kids.” I thought, ” I don’t do it! I don’t think I look put together, but I KNOW I don’t FEEL put together. My head is spinning with all the to-do’s and all the I didn’t-s.” But, I just said “Thanks!” and moved on with my day. You are, indeed, a superhero and this post reminds me that I am too, so thank you for that! XOXODecember 5, 2014 – 7:23 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I know exactly what you mean!! It’s SO SO easy to feel like we’re just NOT. Not enough, not put together, not doing it… but really, we are. We’re doing it all just perfectly enough. And YOU are a superhero (and me, too, omg!!!) xxoo back at ya, Lisa.December 6, 2014 – 11:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Allie Smith - When people ask me, “How do you do it?” I always laugh and say, “You’re kidding, right?” And I agree with you, we’re all basically the same, just different problems. When the problems are “ours,” they seem extraordinary:)! The universe has a secret scale = everyone has burdens, it just depends on the context, I guess. I wouldn’t change my struggles with anybody!December 5, 2014 – 7:26 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Yup. Why do people even ask “how do you do it?” I guess because they feel the same way that we do – that we’re not and that we’re not. I agree that I wouldn’t change my struggles with anybody either!December 6, 2014 – 11:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - No underwear with the yoga/sweatpants? Um awesome? No, can’t pull that one off. I’d rather you be able to tell I’m wearing bunched up granny panties. Ok that’s gross too. I don’t like thongs so I try to find the no line underwear. But if you wear a shirt that covers your butt then no one is the wiser.

    People who know me IRL especially when we are doing photography events, tell me that I am so cool. A cool under pressure kind of girl. It’s probably the worst way to be really, it’s not healthy to hold in all the things that make you want to scream. This flawed and perfect woman takes long showers and leans against the shower wall trying to think about nothing.

    You’re were a nicer kid than I was. I wanted to fight the girl that put water on my hair to see what it was going to do.December 5, 2014 – 9:37 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - HAHAH to the granny panties, Kenya! Those are known here in this house as “period panties” as well. Um yeah… moving on. Cool under pressure is good, mostly, I think, although running around to the side of the building and crying or punching the wall is okay too… I know that shower feeling… that one where you just let the water take your brain as much as possible (and your hair too). Ugh that you know that mean girl who wanted to put water on your hair. Whats with that anyway???December 6, 2014 – 11:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerri - Awesome my friend. We are all more alike than different. We all pick up puke the same way for example. 🙂December 5, 2014 – 10:42 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - YUP! Or catch it in our bare hands to save ourselves from having to pick it up!!!December 6, 2014 – 11:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Kim - I love this!!! Sometimes I feel inadequate when I see other moms that seem to do so much more and to do it all better but you are exactly right – we are all getting by and we all have our little “issues.”December 5, 2014 – 1:30 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think seeing other moms doing so much more is deceiving really. I mean, we all just do and our kids think we’re pretty perfect right? So why shouldn’t we see us the way our kids do? I want to, anyway…December 6, 2014 – 11:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Yes, we’re all superheroes, panties (I love the word panties) or not. (Maggie came home from school and said, My teacher doesn’t call them panties. She calls them underpants.–Makes you wonder about the conversations.)
    Anyhow. yeah I hate that comment. It can feel demeaning or conciliatory, like you poor little thing.
    Best to avoid.December 5, 2014 – 1:37 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I love and hate the word panties. It reminds me of icky words like “niche” and “moist.” Gross!!! I do wonder about that convo that Maggie had with her teacher… and yeah, I hate it too. It feels gross. Like moist. (and panties – sorry) 🙂December 6, 2014 – 11:55 pmReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - Hilarious pictures, Kristi!!! I feel like I know that woman 😉
    You hit this one on the head, BIG time. Love your humorous writing style, love your views, and love you! I completely agree that we are all wearing our superhero capes but thank god we can laugh at ourselves regularly, because motherhood is ridiculously hard!December 5, 2014 – 2:50 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - HAHAH thanks again for letting me use your story, Rebecca!!! 🙂 And here’s to laughing at ourselves (and sometimes at each other but of course in the nicest, most respectful of ways) 😉December 6, 2014 – 11:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - Hahaha! Love this! I need a cape – I can do anything even go out with concealer dots under my eyes, if I am wearing a cape!December 5, 2014 – 3:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Scott Hansen - I used to get this question a lot when the twins were younger. People would say, “I don’t know how you do it.” I just do. Having two infants/toddlers/twins is my normal. It’s just life. You find a way.December 5, 2014 – 3:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Smith Sprenger - I love this SO much! What a fantastic idea. (I freaking hate you because I know you just pulled this out of your ass last night and it would have taken me a week to put it together.) I laughed at the part about kissing your friends being unexpected. Hee hee. And that story about your wet hair made me sad. That girl who ran away sucks.December 5, 2014 – 8:14 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - It is a ridiculous question, isn’t it? I remember my friends who had suffered a terrible tragedy were asked that a lot. And they were asked how they go on. They would answer, “There is no alternative is there?”
    Some of us wear those capes more often, I should think.December 5, 2014 – 10:58 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - It really is a sucky and ridiculous question. I mean, what else are we to do??? xxoo SWDecember 6, 2014 – 11:58 pmReplyCancel

  • April - We are definitely more alike than different. We ARE just trying to make it and hopefully our children come out of the other side as a relatively healthy and happy adult. Great post hun! But I like your IRL story better. 🙂December 6, 2014 – 11:13 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw, thanks, April!!! And yeah, here’s to all of us just raising kids who come out happy and healthy. How we do it almost doesn’t matter. We just do what we can.December 6, 2014 – 11:58 pmReplyCancel

  • Nicki Gilbert - Ok, I feel like I want to comment on every sentence you wrote here because YES! First about the connections and interactions, then of course no underwear under yoga pants… obviously! (I just had this conversation with someone who appeared horrified to hear I wore mine sans underwear but then she said the more she learns about me the more she loves me, so I took that as an endorsement lol!). And yes, we ARE superheroes and we are awesome. And we’re all hanging in. More alike than different. Thanks for this wonderful post, Kristi. And I hope, hope, hope everyone is feeling at least a little better in your house! xxxDecember 6, 2014 – 4:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Echo - You are right, my friend. We get by! We may trip over or own doubts or catch our cape in the car door, but we get by.December 6, 2014 – 4:07 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Love the image of catching our capes in the car door because I SO WOULD!! Thanks, Sweets!!! And yeah… we get by…December 6, 2014 – 11:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Alison Lee - You’re absolutely right, Kristi! I wrote a post recently, titled “I Don’t Do It All”, because I don’t. I am embarrassed, when people say to me that they’re amazed I have four children, still blog etc. That’s because I have a very supportive (and helpful) husband, a housekeeper 5 days a week, and awesome in laws. I really don’t do it all. None of us do, because it’s not possible. We just do what we can. Yay to us regular and special needs mamas!December 6, 2014 – 11:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Kelly L McKenzie - Thank you. My husband died shortly after our daughter’s third birthday. Our son was 16 months old. I cannot tell you the amount of times someone has said to me “How do you do it?” At first, I responded with a smile and a quick “there’s no choice.” Over the years that evolved into a more breezy “Hanging on by a thread here. Just like you. ” Initially I was quite daunted by the 3 year old preschool phone list. Every single child had two happily married parents’ names beside their number. Except mine. These same folks recoiled in shock when I’d say “Her father passed away in January.” Or so I thought. Over the months (and yes happily over wine) these parents became my friends. I learned their lives weren’t all happy-happy sugar coated land and over the passing years many of them have also been dealt potentially crushing challenges. Everybody wears a cape. In order to see them we just need to get to know them.December 7, 2014 – 11:55 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kelly… sigh. I hate what you went through and even me, in writing this post wants to say “holy SHIT how did you do it?” but really, what I think that means is “holy SHIT, you are strong, and amazing, and I’m sure that you had nights of tears while hiding in your closet screaming to the world about how unfair life is. But also moments thanking life for being amazing. For the friends that you kept. For the sanity that you kept. Here’s to our capes. Here’s to seeing all of them.December 8, 2014 – 10:57 pmReplyCancel

  • BritishMumUSA - Oh Kristin, You are so correct on this one. No one has the market on doing it, we all just do it. After what I have been through with my teen, I thought I was all alone until one day a very brave mom approached me and asked me about what I had been through with my daughter. I confirmed I had, and then she divulged to me that she was going through it as we spoke. I was never alone, and that day two years ago I made a promise to never let her think that she was alone. We have grown to be best of friends. Who would have thought in my 40’s I could get a best friend!!!! Parents rocks and sucks… We are there in the thick of it no matter what. I would not have it any other way, I am just glad that I realized I was not alone, and I was able to help another parent realize it too. 🙂 Thanks Kristi…December 7, 2014 – 2:13 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - BMU – I need to hear more about your daughter. I think that might help me A LOT… I’m so glad that you found a friend who was going through the same thing! I am so so glad for both of you and so glad that I know you in this huge internets place. And yeah, we all just do….December 8, 2014 – 10:59 pmReplyCancel

  • My Inner Chick - Remember that Nike ad: (((Just Do It.)))

    So simple. So true.

    I mean, what else can we do…except do, live, survive?

    —this post reminds me, and I shall NEVER forget, of a mom who lost all 4 of her children in a fire.

    A woman asked her, “How do you do it? How are you surviving?”

    She simply said, “Because God is who He says He is.”

    Krisi, I love how your powerful, honest, authentic voice educates others!

    Thank you. xxxDecember 7, 2014 – 3:47 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - JUST DO IT. And so true. I mean, there are those who can’t and that’s awful but a different subject. For those that are (us), what else can we do but do? And we’re fucking awesome for doing it, right???

      Wow to the “Because God is who he says He is…” Just, WOW. I’m not sure I’d be able to be there… truly. Ever. xxooDecember 8, 2014 – 11:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Roshni - I never thought of it that way but you’re so right that none of us really consider ourselves as superwomen! We just do what we have to do!!
    Hey, hope you enter the British Airways giveaway on my blog!December 7, 2014 – 7:27 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - We are just super and we are just normal and slacking. We’re okay though you know?? And I entered!!!December 8, 2014 – 11:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine Carter - I can’t tell you how much I ADORE this post Kristi!!!! My favorite… I am completely moved and lifted by your gorgeous words and message. YOU are such a gifted writer with such a powerful voice for GOOD. YAY us MOMS!!! Btw- I ALWAYS wear underwear. No thongs- hell no. And I can’t imagine nothing covering my southern parts. Just can’t. 🙂December 9, 2014 – 2:30 pmReplyCancel

  • Kristi Brockett Brierley - Yes, yes, yes! One of my pet peeves is the phrase, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing. ” Sometimes the only real option is to just keep plugging along.December 9, 2014 – 9:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Ashley Fuchs - This is so great, Kristi! I would love to share it with my readers. And of COURSE my show is called “The Incredible Adventures of Malleable Mom!” Because incredible can mean amazing or aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!depending on which part of the roller coaster ride you are on, right?!December 10, 2014 – 7:54 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I love love love the name of your show!!! Because YESSSSSS!!! that damned roller coaster!!!!December 14, 2014 – 1:26 amReplyCancel

  • Mrs. AOK - Lovely post! We’re all doing it, we do it in our own way, but doing it nonetheless, and sometimes, yes, it’s nice to be seen for what we’re doing. However, we don’t do it for the affirmation of others, well, most of us, anyway. 🙂
    I actually love a good mismatched sock day.
    XOXODecember 10, 2014 – 4:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Becky Holland - wonderfully written. I love what you said “we should just remember that we’re all awesome and horrible. We’re all flawed and perfect, all at once, every single day.” so true.December 12, 2014 – 10:21 pmReplyCancel

  • Brittnei - I can so identify with what you are saying! Some people are quite mean when they don’t understand something you say or they might have never heard of what you are doing or saying before. I usually take that as a learning opportunity to learn a new perspective or what someone means. Though I may not choose what someone is saying, I can usually understand where they might be coming from, especially when it’s a parent or another woman talking to me. 🙂December 16, 2014 – 1:00 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Brittnei,
      You are a kind soul and I love that you’re able to take people being mean or being stupid as a learning opportunity to get a new perspective. I love that! You rock.December 16, 2014 – 8:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Tarana Khan - Now that I think about it, yes, it’s a silly thing to say. We do it because we can’t think of not doing what we’re supposed to, because we love our kids to bits!January 6, 2015 – 5:03 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Maybe anything we think about seems silly. Which is the challenge and the problem because everything matters and yet, well what matters, right?January 6, 2015 – 10:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Menstrual Cup - Oh yes! A mom’s job is a 24-hour job that is priceless. I admire all moms who manage to care for the family and still be their very best inside and out!June 6, 2016 – 6:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Moon Cup - Love this post! Moms really have a tough job. Thanks for sharing!August 31, 2016 – 5:48 pmReplyCancel

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