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Moms of kids with special needs weigh work vs. staying home

Maureen used to be obsessed with baseball -- and then she had children. After she welcomed her son, Charlie, and his extra chromosome, she discovered her passion for writing about Down syndrome and disability-related issues.

With two tod...

A special kind of juggling act

If you’re a working parent or a stay-at-home parent who has a child with special needs, you experience untold challenges in balancing responsibilities. But are our lives really much different from any mom trying to have it all?

Passion for career and family

Corey has three children under age 6, and her oldest has Down syndrome. She works full time because for her, being successful shows her parents that all the hard work they poured into giving her a debt-free college education was worth it. “They gave me more than they had at my age,” she says. ”A gift I want to pass on to my children. So I work.”

But balancing passion for a full-time career as compliance director at an investment bank and passion for her three beautiful children takes organization — across time zones, sometimes.

“From the beginning, I managed my daughter’s therapy, feeding schedule and nurse visits like a business. Scheduled, created spreadsheets for feedings prior to heart surgery, kept notes on her many visits and looked for the improvements we needed.”

Corey concedes she’s not just a type-A personality, “I'm the ‘A+’ personality. Those crazy driven people who like to have control, who need to be uber organized, who can drive themselves crazy trying to get more done in less hours, who create endless lists, who strive to ‘have it all.’”

“I love my job,” Corey says. “[But] 12-hour time zone differences are a constant issue. Throw a child with special needs in this mix and presto the A+ type kicks it into A++ gear.“

A supportive job is everything

Every day brings an unexpected challenge. Right now, Corey has a to-do list for her daughter’s new kindergarten teacher, who has little experience teaching children with Down syndrome.

“That means this working mom has to pull together educational materials for the teacher, websites she can reference and learn how to teach my daughter how to read. All after the markets are closed, conversations with the other side of the world are complete, and my kids have had my undivided attention for the early evening.”

Corey credits a flexible work environment that supports sometimes unpredictable scheduling dilemmas, from weekly therapies to out-of-town specialists and an emergency hospital stay when her daughter developed pneumonia last year.

“’Mom guilt is alive and well,” she says. “I work extra hard out of fear that without being a top performer my flexibility will be the first to be removed. Working isn't for everyone. Working moms of a child with special needs have a difficult juggling act.”

Next: Staying home

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