Parenting Special Needs Children: @redneckmommy Inspires With Her Candor, Laughter
The women we feature as our Mothers Making a Difference column are all amazing, each in their own way. They all have different stories and desires and abilities, but there are two things that tie them together: they are moms and they are making a difference for others through social media. Tanis Miller, aka The Red Neck Mommy, is one truly amazing Mother Making a Difference. Her journey through motherhood has been quite bumpy, with several very unexpected twists and turns. Her posts, because of her extraordinary candor, resilience, and wit, evoke both wrenching tears and roaring laughter. They reflect an earth-shatteringly real but marvelously opalescent outlook on life.
Tanis is from rural Alberta Canada, or "Nowhereville," as she calls it. She is the mother of four children, affectionately called Fric (age 14), Frac (age 13), Shale, and Knox (age 7), three of whom still live. Knox is adopted and is quadraplegic, deaf, and blind. She spends most of her time at home taking care of them; indeed, she says it "takes a crowbar" to get her to leave it. Motherhood for her has been very "painful and hard and abundantly rewarding and joyful." Yet, even with all she's gone through, or perhaps because of it, she advises other moms to "always put your children first, even if it's to your detriment. That's the deal we struck when we decided to bring them into this world."
Shale, her third child who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of five, was born with disabilities. Of her experience raising him, she says, it "was different from his siblings only in that he came with more equipment and different expectations. It required more patience, more prayer and a completely different set of milestones. And while the mechanics of raising a medically fragile child were different than raising a robust child, it felt the same. Triumphant, frustrating and rewarding. With a heaping side of guilt and self-doubt." When he passed away, she googled "mom" and "grief" and her passion for blogging began. She was emotionally and experientially raw but she was open, blunt, and willing to laugh at herself.
In the five years since she started, she has chronicled everything from tortuous grocery shopping experiences to Halloween to adoption and parenting a severely disabled child. There have been more bad bumps, not all of which she's written about, and she says that "blogging has [sometimes] been my...torment." The difficulties in her life have sometimes "chained up my creativity and sucked the life out of me like one of [my daughter's] vampire boyfriends." But in the end, it's what has inspired her, helped keep her going. Apparently, it inspires others as well, if being quoted on CNN and in the pre-eminent Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail is any indication.
To Tanis' husband, her blog is just "drunk Tanis." It is indeed a "fluid" thing, flexible and changing as she changes. She hopes to see it continue to grow and help sustain her family financially, possible segue into publishing and speaking opportunities. I too hope to see the influence of the Red Neck Mommy spread, so that more women may be lightened by her example.