We’ve all heard of the “Mommy Wars,” where moms fight over who is parenting best or who has better children. But in the special-needs world, I find a different mommy war happening. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve experienced it.
Sitting at our autism support group meeting, I listen to the mother of a ten year old go on and on about how her son talks about Star Wars and nothing else. “You poor thing,” I think to myself. “Must be so hard on you to have a son who talks so much. I’ll just be busy over here trying to get my son to answer a question with yes or no.”
Or in an online group of special-needs parents, when one mom says her child struggles with eating issues. “What? Just eating issues? What about the issues I deal with every day? Eating issues, sleeping issues, social issues, speech issues, fine-motor issues, gross-motor issues, and safety issues.”
It seems the typical mommy wars are mostly about how much better my kid is than your kid. But the special-needs mommy wars are often about how much harder my child’s special needs are than your child’s special needs.
At the root of this struggle for me is jealousy. Jerry Bridges writes, “First we tend to envy those with whom we most closely identify with. Second, we tend to envy in them the areas we value most” (Respectable Sins, 149). So I struggle with envy when I hear other special-needs parents talk about their kids, but you likely struggle in ways that apply to your own situation. Maybe it’s your sister who has a big family like you always wanted. Maybe it’s a co-worker who seems to be the boss’s favorite.
Deep down, we don’t really want someone else’s life. We just want someone to acknowledge our skills and contributions. Someone to see the extra effort we’re putting into what’s important to us. Someone to say, “You’re doing a great job.”
In Scripture we meet a woman who just wanted to be seen as well. Hagar had obeyed her mistress Sarai and did what she was supposed to do. She agreed to step in for Sarai (who was unable to have children up to that point) and carry Abram’s child. But when she found out Hagar was pregnant, Sarai turned on her. Hagar fled to the wilderness. The angel of the Lord met her there. He told her she would bear a son and name him Ishmael, which means “God hears.”
Hagar responded, “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’” (Genesis 16:13).
She called Him El Roi, the God who sees me. She named her son Ishmael, God hears.
Friends, we don’t have to compete with each other for attention, appreciation, or accolades. We have a God who sees. He hears. He knows.
Jealousy isn’t a minor issue. It’s listed alongside other sins like murder and drunkenness in Romans 1:29 and Galatians 5:21. It’s a sin we need to confess and combat.
The strongest weapon we have to combat jealousy is trust in the sovereignty of God. “We must recognize that to be envious or jealous of someone is either eliminating God from the pictures or else accusing Him of being unfair” (Bridges, 153).
After James’s autism diagnosis I had to repeat to myself day after day: “God loves me. God loves James. He is for us, not against us.” What is happening in my life is because God allowed it to happen. He did so out of love and it is for my good (growth in godliness and sanctification). What is happening in someone else’s life is for their good. I can rest in God’s love and find peace in my circumstances. If I spend time and energy being jealous, I will miss out on the blessings God has just for me.
Once I understand God loves me and His plan is for my good, I can view others with lovingkindness instead of jealousy. “Lovingkindness” is a term used in the King James Version of the Bible, and I love the depth of meaning. It’s kindness motivated by love. It describes my actions and my heart. When you feel jealousy creeping into your thoughts as you scroll through Facebook or look at the stack of Christmas cards from perfect looking families, stop and thank God for the blessings He has giving you. Look at others with love and act in kindness instead.