Taking steps in my dating life as a special needs mom

Learning anew about relationships while staying busy as a mother and caregiver

Meagan Cheney avatar

by Meagan Cheney |

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When Austen, my 8-year-old with Dravet syndrome, was born, I’d been married for almost five years. My relationship was already rocky by then, but I was determined I wouldn’t let it fail. I’d grown up in a broken home, and I didn’t want the same for my kids. Even after Austen was diagnosed with Dravet and we started our journey through the seizures, therapies, doctor visits, and scares that she might lose her life, I desperately tried to hang on to my marriage.

I eventually threw in the towel, though, and I do think it would’ve happened even without the struggles that come along with being Austen’s caregiver. We just weren’t meant to be, and that’s OK.

It’s been almost two years since I said goodbye to my marriage — minus a couple of months in 2022, when I tried again to make it work — and I’m starting to find my rhythm as a single mom. For a while, I was working from home and home-schooling while serving as Austen’s full-time caregiver; now I’m working two jobs to make ends meet. It’s been a hard transition for all of us, although I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how Austen has coped.

Through it all, she has thrived in school and continued to be free of seizures, making it easier for me to work outside the home. She’s had only one seizure in all of 2023 so far!

Between my jobs and the kids’ activities, I didn’t have a lot of time for dating, and when I decided to start dipping my toes into that pool last winter, I quickly learned that dating as a single mom, especially a special needs mom, wasn’t easy.

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How I’m now handling dating

I’m upfront about my life, so I told potential suitors about Austen and my other two children right away. Some of them were honest from the get-go, telling me they didn’t think they could handle a special needs child. I respected that and moved on. Others thought they could handle it, but after a few days or weeks of chatting, they decided it was too much. One man said that while he could handle Austen’s condition, he didn’t think his children could, and it wouldn’t be fair to put them through that.

I admit that the last one left me a bit disheartened. I started to wonder if dating was worth it, or if I should just try to continue by myself.

Then I met this guy.

A mutual friend introduced us, and at first, I wasn’t interested. He was also freshly out of a marriage, and I didn’t think two broken people would be healthy for each other. For months my friends persisted in telling me to give him a chance, and he persisted in simply trying to be my friend. Our kids hung out together and got along, and he was around my children, too. He accepted Austen and her quirks at face value and never batted an eye when talk turned to her seizures or her worst-case scenarios.

As our friendship grew, I began to see what my friends were talking about, and bless his heart, he was so respectful that he wasn’t going to ask me out a second time. I had to tell him to do it! Thankfully, he was still willing to give it a try after I’d declined his first offer.

We’re several months into our relationship now, and I’m falling for him more every day. It’s easy with him. He makes me feel ways I dreamed about feeling as a little girl, but never fully believed could be real. He’s wonderful to me, and our kids fit together like pieces of a puzzle. He’s not trying to replace their dad, but he’s shown them he’s willing to be there however they want him to be — whether it’s cheering them on when they get good grades, going with them on vacations, or helping my 15-year-old, Addi, learn to drive.

Most of all, he’s been there for me. He’s taught me that being a single mom doesn’t mean I don’t deserve love, and neither does being a special needs mom. And that’s a lesson I’m glad I’ve learned.

Note: Dravet Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Dravet Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Dravet syndrome.


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