Validation in the Carpool Lane

Tuesdays are my market days. They are also the days my husband catches up on sleep from Monday’s day job before Tuesday’s night job. I try to sneak some quality time in with my husband by convincing him there will be a delicious home cooked breakfast lovingly prepared once I bring back the groceries.

First confession: although mostly true, this deal is to make sure I have help unpacking the car and the groceries.

Second confession: this week, I lied about breakfast. By the time I got home, it was much more like lunch.

school drop off

I know, it was a white lie. But, this week, I’m not talking about the many shades of lies. I want to explain WHY I lied. You see, I was late with the routine of food shopping and breakfast making because I was chatting with the three moms I see at drop-off every morning.

You know the scene: the same group of parents (can be moms or dads) pulls into their usual parking spaces, can be overheard using the same pleas and cheers to get their children out of the car, and gives you the same nod or smile or quip of understanding. Solidarity. I wouldn’t call us friends. We don’t socialize outside of the few minutes we have after the kids go inside of school or while we are waiting for them to come out. Those few minutes, however, are not gabbing about recipes or weather. These mommies and I are engaging in group therapy about the trials, tribulations, and emotional upheaval of parenting special needs children.

Traditional Group Therapy

Group therapy is an essential part in the treatment plan for some mental illnesses. Struggles with addiction and anger, for example, depend on the dynamic of group therapy. In grad school, our textbook for group therapy was The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom. Since there are not SparkNotes (believe me, I looked), I can sum up some of the major benefits of group therapy that are discussed:

Group therapy doesn’t always occur like this…
  • Hopefulness:Therapy groups contain members at different stages of the treatment process. Seeing people who are coping or recovering gives hope to those at the beginning of the process.
  • Universality:Being part of a group of people who have the same experiences helps people see that what they are going through is universal and that they are not alone.
  • Information sharing:Group members can help each other by sharing information.
  • Self-esteem:Group members can experience a boost in self-esteem, confidence, and self-efficacy when they share their strengths and help others in the group.
  • Cohesiveness:Because the group is united in a common goal, members gain a sense of belonging and acceptance.
  • Catharsis:Sharing feelings and experiences with a group of people can help relieve pain, guilt, or stress.

(There is a great article that details more of these positive outcomes on for anyone who wants to learn more.)

DIY Groups

Feeling more hopeful, emotionally stronger, and more connected seems like a dream. There are all kinds of ways to join a traditional group in order to chase this unicorn, MeetUp, Facebook groups, and PTOs. Our school district even has a monthly meeting where my mommy group is invited to listen to speakers and get information on our kids’ challenges while the district provides babysitting. How dreamy, right? How many times have my carpool friends and I attended? None. Top down groups like the ones offered by districts, community agencies, or advocacy groups often miss the mark for those of us in the grind. The times never work for our work or family schedules. The topics may be poignant but not the help we need on the day we need it. I don’t need to know the benefits of occupational therapy or the latest changes in disability law on the day my son decided to throw a fit and stare at the sky in the middle of the parking lot.

Spark Note Summary

No man is an island. It takes a village. Whatever motto makes sense to you as long as the message is clear: you need help. We all do. Your support circle is right in front of you…smiling and mouthing “I know” in the next parking spot over.