Chicago mom takes nothing for granted

Nicole Knepper, the fun-loving mom behind the national bestseller, Moms Who Drink and Swear, and the hugely popular blog from which it grew, knows life could have taken a much different turn.

As a “poster child” for ADHD, diagnosed in first grade in 1976 when the stigma was huge, she says she was glad to have parents who got her involved in activities and supported her even when they had no support themselves.

“I’m very, very lucky and I know that. I take nothing for granted,” she says. “… I’m a success story in a sense that it didn’t take me down completely.”

But that doesn’t mean she didn’t rail against the unfairness of it all. “Why couldn’t I do this, why couldn’t I stay in my seat, why couldn’t I stop talking? It’s very bad for your self-esteem to continue to fail.”

But with the proper medication, therapy and organizational tips and a stick-to-it attitude, she ultimately achieved two master’s degrees, held good jobs and became a mom of two great kids.

Both kids have ADHD. Knowledge and early action, she says, saved her son a lot of the heartache she endured as a child. Her daughter has additional special needs and many special qualities.

“We’re so lucky now. We live in a day and age when we have so much more knowledge. That knowledge is power,” Knepper says.

When she started a Facebook group as a stay-at-home mom and eventually the blog, “it just came from what was inside of me, which was just this urge and this need to reach out and to be connected, to be honest and empower people to say ‘hey, this is hard for everybody,’” she says. “To say, ‘Find your people, find your tribe and make sure you have this supportive community. You are going to need it.’”

She calls her efforts a “quest to normalize the abnormal.” She wants moms to know there’s no shame in falling on the edge of the curve.

Her focus today is on a new book to help families touched by mental illness, being written under the working title, Suck it, Stigma.

“My absolute goal in life is to help families be the best they can be, to be well, to normalize whatever else they are going through,” Knepper says.

And while she does that, she says she’s OK with her family being a poster family for the functional dysfunctional because they are making it work for the long run.

“We’re fighting for our family all of the time.”

In mom’s words

Your best survival strategy as a mom: Boundaries and balance. It’s what works for your family. Once you set the boundaries, though, you need to be firm with them.

If you could change one thing about being a parent with a child with special needs: I wouldn’t change a thing! I truly believe that everything in my life is an opportunity. I say this so often, but it’s true—having kids with some extra needs keeps me from catching the disease of self. The me-time is limited, so I always make it count.

The piece of advice that helped you early on: Ride the wave. Just relax and ride the wave. Cheesy metaphor, but quite perfect. Yes, the wave is powerful, but I can adjust my strength and energy to “ride it” and not just survive it, but also thrive.

What has been your happiest moment: When I see my family own each other. When we are together and just melt into whatever we are doing and they are every bit of themselves, I love watching it happen. I don’t think they know that I often stop and capture the weird, random moments when we aren’t doing anything special, but still, it takes my breath away just to know that they are breathing.

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