Running a Business Whilst Parenting a Special Needs Child

Let’s start by saying running any business on your own takes a lot of commitment, sacrifice, and courage. You can recite those same words being the parent of a special needs child. Courage with running your own business is a choice, however, while courage as a special needs parent is thrust upon you. Courage is not a lack of fear, as we know, it’s facing the fear and forging on. That fear rears its’ head with each new challenge, new school, new friend, new activity, and new phase of life. The courage requires stepping in over and over again to test the water, find the comfort, invite your child in, and then let them swim on their own. That’s kind of like business, too. If we aren’t moving ahead in some new way our business is sinking. Swimming in these two pools at the same time takes some skill to avoid drowning.

One of the best choices I made when my third child was born was to leave full-time work. I worked part-time for a few years, but I needed more income and more flexibility. My daughter was now attending speech therapy and swimming with a Special Olympic team that required pulling her out of school every week. There were also thunderstorms, and scary movies, and menstruation, and auditory overload that needed my calming presence at school on occasion.

The first step was connecting with my passion that would drive me to focus on the right things and put meaning to my work. My work in sales also includes blogging and speaking about the personal connection my work has to my values. And I write for others. That fulfills a much-needed creativity piece for me. My work now allows me to help others, to develop meaningful relationships, to educate, to be a champion for the planet, and to hold on to my own soul at the same time. I needed these reasons to be an entrepreneur beyond making an income. 

The second was carving out time for me. I have dedicated periods of my life to work, and other periods of life to my family. It just can’t sustain. You have to come first. You can only really give authentically from the overflow of your full cup. Your cup needs to stay full so there is no resentment or judgment or obligation. There is only fully present you. Weekly I practice yoga. I work out at a gym. I walk my dog and meditate every morning. This doesn’t always end up working out each day, but it is a standard I live by. It’s not selfish; it’s self-preservation.

This requires planning, so that was step three. I get up two hours earlier than anyone else in my house every day. Sometimes that’s work, and sometimes it’s for me. As a single parent, I have always had some level of shared childcare with other parents of special needs kids, too. They just get it. I also ask for help. On the regular. I ask for business help. I ask for personal help. I let people know what I need. People want to help. They want you to succeed. They want your child to succeed. And I offer help back.

One of the keys to this planning is flexibility. I plan time and space in my week for the unseen. I adjust daily when I am working around her needs. I may plan to work in the morning, but my daughter needs mom time. So I shift to the afternoon. It’s important to acknowledge her needs and then set her up with activities and full awareness of my expectations while I work. I plan blocks of time. Sometimes I get a few hours; sometimes only a half-hour at a time. I plan work around her schedule, my personal commitments, and make adjustments as needed. Entrepreneurship has allowed me to be present when I need to for all of my children.

We are coming up on another change in my daughter’s life as she leaves the public school system. There is that fear again. Choices of day programs, work, or further education. Trusting her safety on public transit. The potential loss of income for me in the transition. But there is also courage. We’ve been doing this for twenty years. And we’ve done alright. I’m grateful for who she is and that entrepreneurship has helped shape that.