Don’t Tell Me I’m Strong… What To Say to a Mom Struggling

Don’t tell me I’m strong — one mom’s plea.

I’m just going to come right out and say it.

I’m a rock star.

That’s right. I speak for most parents of high needs kids and of other moms supporting their families during a crisis.

Even on our worst days, we’re still rock stars.

But that doesn’t mean I feel like a rock star.

What it does mean is that, even when things are crumbling around me, I’m still getting it done.

Don't Tell Me I'm Strong... What To Say to a Mom Struggling | Mommy Evolution

I’m still getting the laundry done (although the clothes are wrinkled).

I’m still getting the kids off to school (although they may be late).

I’m still getting the house picked up (although there are dishes still in the sink).

I’m still getting the bills paid (although one or two may be late).

I’m still running this house. And even if it isn’t running the way I would imagine, I’m still getting it done.

I’m still getting it done in the face of this adversity.

In face of this trial.

In face of this crisis.

That’s right. I said crisis.

Because sometimes life is a crisis.

It was a crisis when we were struggling to figure out why our son was a crying terror and it sent our family into a tailspin.

It was a crisis when we had to fight the school and eventually got our own outside help to support a child struggling with severe dyslexia and ADHD.

And it’s a crisis now.

And while I am so fortunate to have many supportive people in my life who give me the courage to face the new day, there is one thing I cannot stand to hear…

“You are strong.”

It feels like a punch to the gut.

Don’t tell me I’m strong.

I know I’m strong.

Despite the fact that other adults in my life aren’t pulling their weight, I’ve pulled myself up by the bootstraps and soldiered on… multiple times in my life, even.

But don’t tell me I’m strong.

Telling me I’m strong is like telling me I don’t have any other option.

Telling me I’m strong is like telling me I’m not allowed to feel weak inside.

Telling me I’m strong is like telling me that the pain I feel isn’t worthy of my time.

Telling me I’m strong is like telling me that I’m supposed to be able to do this on my own.

Telling me I’m strong is like telling me I’m don’t get to have my eat-the-whole-damn-tub-of-ice-cream-while-sobbing meltdown.

Telling me I’m strong takes away my power to decide when I need to break down, when I need to feel sorry for myself and when I need to put on my big girl panties.


And sometimes I downright resent it.

I don’t get the luxury of falling apart when everything is around me.

I don’t get the luxury of falling apart when everyone else is around me.

Because someone has to be the grown up.

And it has to be me.

So don’t tell me I’m strong.

I don’t want to be strong.

I don’t want to be responsible.

I don’t want to be carrying the burden.

But I am… and it’s not a choice.

It’s just something I must do… for my children, for my family as a whole, for my sanity and knowing that I did the best I could when the chips were down.

Failure doesn’t phase me.

Knowing I didn’t do everything possible does.

So don’t tell me I’m strong.

Don’t tell me who or what I am. 

Because every fiber in my body is weak and tired and exhausted and strained.

I know I’m strong because I pull out the tiger in me and make it happen… even if I have to reach right down to the last bit of energy in my pinky toe.

Because that’s what I do.

I always have.

But let me decide what I am.

Let me decide I’m strong one day and beaten down the next.

Because only by being allowed to be weak or vulnerable or downright failing can I also allow myself to ask for help when I really need it.


What You Can Say To Someone in a Crisis

So what can you say to someone in a crisis that will make them feel empowered and supported?

Try these comments on for size.


Instead of telling me I’m strong…

Tell me how much courage I have.

Tell me you believe in me.

Tell me you recognize how hard I’m trying.

Tell me you know this isn’t easy for me.

Tell me you are sending as much strength and good karma as you can my way.

Tell me you’re picking up the kids for the afternoon.

Tell me you are here for me day, noon or night (and mean it right down to your core).

Tell me I am the Woman Warrior.

Tell me I am the Woman Who Runs with Wolves.

Tell me I am the hero of my own story and you believe I will prevail!

xo Jenny

Be sure to hear from other special needs parents, too!

Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and Mommy Evolution.

Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia!

Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here! 



  1. Sobbing.

    You put into words something i have always, always felt.

    Brilliant and wise and TRUE.

    Thank you.

    Full Spectrum Mama Jenny

  2. So often we are left with mixed emotions when people try to comfort us with words that have no real impact. I loved this post.

    1. Thank you, Christine. And a terrific way of putting it. Folks want to show they care but often end up saying something inane or unhelpful.

  3. This. Is. Amazing!!! I honestly feel this way most days. When I am being told I’m over-reacting to my child’s behavior, when I’m told I fight the wrong battles and need to just let go, when I’m told I’m causing more issues than I need to by picking certain fights and not others. When I am trying to be all things to everyone and nothing left for myself. I needed to read this. THANK YOU for these words <3 <3 <3

    1. Oh my goodness you are welcome! So often we feel these things but aren’t able to connect with other parents having our same experience.

  4. Be proud of what you accomplish each day! Hug your child and keep going! I have raised a child just like that…alone. She is now attending college and we attempt to take on a new set of hurdles. As she says, I am her “Rock”… the best feeling in the world! There are many of us out here that feel what you are going through. Never be afraid to ask for help!

  5. Thanks for helping me realize that I’ve been saying all the wrong things to a friend who’s struggling. I actually just took a picture of the screen to remind myself good things to say to my friend. Thanks!

  6. “Failure doesn’t phase me. Knowing I didn’t do everything possible does.”
    If that doesn’t sum up my ENTIRE life as a mother I don’t know what does. Thank you. Sometimes we just need to know we’re not the only ones out there, eating ice cream out of the carton alone at 3 am!

  7. Yes! You put my feelings into words. I also don’t like hearing “I don’t know how you do it” There is no choice. I love all my children and while the older ones feel my youngest is “spoiled ” I have to find ways for all of us to make it through the week, day, hour.

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