Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Today we welcome the Mom’s Choice Award-winning writer, Barbara Vorel, who authored Mom’s Place 4 Grace: Five Keys to Thriving as a Parent With Your Special Needs Child. Barbara possesses firsthand knowledge of the isolation and demands involved in such parenting. In her book, she shares her experience and wisdom with parents on how to navigate life as a special needs parent. For those struggling to balance their own life with taking care of their special needs child, or who are feeling guilty whenever they try to find some space to take care of themselves, Barbara shows parents—and especially moms—how growth, renewal, acceptance, clarity and empathy are essential to creating a satisfying, healthy balance in life while taking care of one’s child, one’s job, and oneself.
MCA: Barbara, it’s delightful to be able to speak with you. Congratulations on receiving the Mom’s Choice Award! Please tell us about yourself and your particular interests and endeavors.
I am a single Mom of an 8-year-old boy with special needs. I came to motherhood late in life, as I was 44 when Chris came to live with me. I adopted him just after his second birthday on National Adoption Day.
I have been a speech/language pathologist for 28 years and have primarily worked with school-age children in a public school setting. I enjoy my work, but I have always felt the need to spread my wings a bit. Motherhood was something I had pretty much given up on but when the opportunity presented itself, I didn’t hesitate. I always believed I was born to be a Mom and could never understand why that job eluded me for so long. God clearly had a very special plan for me.
I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and have always enjoyed writing. Writing comes naturally to me; I don’t find it work—I actually find it fun! I also love to play word games, crochet, craft and sing—especially sing.
MCA: What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
I had started blogging in March of 2022. It was so enjoyable and I spent much of my “spare” time writing. My friend, Angela, was writing a book at the same time that I had started my blog. She requested that I be on her book team, sending me a chapter a week to review and comment on. The more I read from her chapters, the more I wanted to write. I began to think that maybe I could use my story to help others. Then one day, I went to an Intuitive Energy Healing for myself. It involves some meditation and some purging of old ideas. It became clear to me that writing a book was my logical next step and, since the blog was the basis for the book, I had plenty of material. Before I knew it, my rough draft was complete.
MCA: We’re so glad you became part of that book team! Clearly, your son was your inspiration for writing Mom’s Place 4 Grace.
Yes, he provides more material than I thought possible. Viewed through the correct lens, his difficulties and the way I manage them are filled with teachable moments. But more than that, the examination of my life through a writer’s lens allowed me to heal from my own long-standing pain while also showing me, along with the reader, how to thrive.
MCA: How wonderful to hear that this was a healing process for you. What are some of the key lessons that parents of special needs children will find in your book?
• You are not alone.
• There are positives in every situation.
• Putting yourself first is not selfish, it’s self-preservation.
• Building a support system is essential to growing and thriving as a parent but also as a person.
• Self-reflection is a key element in your journey.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
The overall response has been positive. Many people have said that they can easily relate to my story. Others have been inspired to do better in their own lives. Still others have stated that they can’t wait for more! The overall feeling from readers is that my book will help many people, once it gets out there.
MCA: “Putting yourself first” reminds me of airlines’ instructions to secure our own oxygen before helping others. Is that hard advice for moms to follow, or do you find they welcome the “permission” to put themselves first?
Many people, like me, welcome “permission” to take care of themselves. I didn’t for a long time. I came last. But when you allow yourself to be last, the well runs dry and you have nothing to help you keep going. That’s the state many moms are in—they have neglected themselves to the point of exhaustion. They want someone to say, “Go take care of yourself.” When I take care of myself, I am a better Mom and a happier Mom. It wasn’t easy and I don’t claim that it is. It’s hard, especially in the beginning. Initially, you may even feel guilty. But the reality is that once you realize how much of an impact self-care has on your relationships, your ability to parent, and your emotional well-being—it gets easier.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Being the mom of a special needs child is a lonely existence. If I could teach the reader one thing, it would be that you don’t have to do it alone. I am a single mom. I am not alone. There are people out there who get it—who understand what I’m feeling, who have walked a similar path. I need those people in my life. Seek out the support you need. Don’t wait for it to come and find you. That’s just another important part of self-care. I want people to advocate for themselves as well as they advocate for their kids.
MCA: Would you say your experience as a speech-language pathologist was good preparation for identifying the specific requirements of a special needs child and writing about this subject?
I believe that it was excellent preparation for me. I now have the unique ability to see the world of raising a special needs child through the lens of a parent and through the lens of an educator. And although my skills as an educator/speech-language pathologist are helpful when advocating for my child, it’s my journey as a parent that has actually changed and improved my role as a therapist. I understand parents in a way that I didn’t before, and this is life-changing as far as doing my job well.
MCA: What is next for you as an author and as a mother?
I am happy to announce that my—blog momsplace4grace.com—has gotten a facelift. I will be adding blog posts at regular intervals for both free and paid subscriptions. I am concurrently working on my next book, which focuses on creating and maintaining a positive outlook. Speaking as a mom, my son and I have things to work through so we will be addressing those challenges. We will take our first vacation since the pandemic began this summer, but I will continue to move forward and make better choices to take care of myself.
MCA: It sounds like you have many positive things to look forward to. Thanks again for taking the time for speaking with us today. I hope you and your son enjoy your much-deserved summer vacation!
You can learn more about Barbara Vorel and her award-winning book, Mom’s Place 4 Grace: Five Keys to Thriving as a Parent With Your Special Needs Child by visiting her MCA Shop pages.