Find Your Rope Buddies

I’m so tired of seeing article after article about mothers killing their children. It happens every day. It has to stop.

Mothers of special needs children are at special risk of snapping, but many times there is nothing special about the situations that appear on my news feed. The neighbors and family members never saw it coming. The family was perfectly normal. The mother seemed happy. The children seemed healthy. There were no warning signs. And then one day it just happened. The mom lost it, and now her babies are dead. Sometimes she is too.

I have no profound political plan, no help for which to lobby the government. But I do have a plan. It’s simple. Some may not like it or think it’s too simple. Some may be offended by the very premise on which it is based. Here’s my theory: No one is immune. Don’t assume you are safe from ever harming yourself or your children. Because that is probably exactly what those women in your news feed thought: That they would never ever harm their precious babies no matter what. And that is why when push came to shove they didn’t have the tools they needed to keep themselves and their families safe.

Things are going well in my parenting life right now. Not perfect, stressful in fact, but well. My son is stable enough to get through the day without major incidents. But if you’ve read my blog much, you know that there have been plenty of times in the past when I was not okay. I have a wonderful support system. Friends who reach out to our family even when our situation can be extremely unpredictable. Family members who are willing to give us a few hours or even a whole night kid-free. But even so, I’ve been so harried by motherhood at times that people worried about me. My mom told me once that she was worried that I was reaching the end of my rope. I was worried that I was too. “What happens when you reach the end of the rope?” I asked her. She didn’t know. Neither do I. But I know that when and if I ever get there, when there is no more rope to hold on to, I will be okay. Because I’m making a plan. And I hope you will too.

My plan is to talk about this situation specifically with a group of 2-3 of my closest mom friends. To ask them to be my “rope buddies.” To be there to catch me if the last frayed thread tears and I fall. It will be uncomfortable. It is much more comfortable to just think, “I’ve got a good support system, people who love me. And if I ever reached a crisis point, I’m sure they’d be there for me.” Well, apparently that’s not good enough. We have to solve the problem of women reaching their breaking points and not having a specific plan to put in action. I’m going to ask these women to be available when I say the words, “I need a rope buddy.” I need to be able to confide in them if I’ve had thoughts of hurting myself or my children, or even if I’ve acted on those feelings in some way, without fear of being condemned. One of my friends may be unavailable, which is why I would like to have three. One to be with me. One to take my son. One for backup. When I call on my rope buddies, I don’t need to be able to immediately understand and articulate the problem. They will activate the plan themselves, leaving me free to be vulnerable in relative safety.  Once my child has been removed to a safe and comfortable place where he will be well cared for, I will be more able to deal with whatever sent me to my breaking point, and I will have a friend to talk me through it and stay with me until we are sure everything is safe.

So why not just rely on my support system? My wonderful husband who also happens to be an amazing father? My mother? My in-laws? Well, the thing is, they work. I know, I know, you’re thinking that of course they’re going to leave work and come be with me in such a major crisis, and you’re right, they would. But hopefully, the situation will not have reached full-out crisis mode before I call on my rope buddies. What if I’ve only had a thought of hurting my child but I’m really very sure I won’t? I’m not going to call someone to take off of work because there is a 5% chance I will buckle under the pressure. That would be rude. But if I call on friends who are available when I’m with my child, I might not feel so bad about saying, “I need a rope buddy. Well, I really don’t think I do, but there’s a small chance that I might.” For me, being a stay at home mom, I’m with my child all the time, so my rope buddies will most likely be other stay at home moms who are available all the time. But if you’re with your child from 6 at night until 6 in the morning, find friends who are at home during those hours. Same thing if you work at night or whatever, find someone with your schedule who can be there for you. And you be there for them too.

The thing I most want from any reader to take away from this is this: You’re not immune to breaking. You are not better than or stronger than or wiser than many of the moms who are left childless and with a burden of guilt that is too great. It doesn’t matter what religion or color you are or how much money you have or how wonderful your child is. You need to have a plan.

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