Being the parent of a child with special needs isn’t easy. There are days we get up not feeling well ourselves but have to put how we are feeling aside in order to care for our children. Caring for our children is our duty as their parents, but we want people to see us for who we are outside of being a caregiver. We are often looked at as being strong because of the things we have to do daily as caregivers.
But we aren’t always strong.
There are times we need people to step in and be strong people for us. We don’t always have it together; most of our days consist of just going with the flow. I know for me if one thing is off, that’s how my entire day goes sometimes. The hardest part about it is that majority of the time how I feel goes unnoticed.
I remember one day I called one of Jaylen’s favorite restaurants. As I was placing my order the lady stopped me and said, “Are you Jaylen’s mom?” I’m often referred to as “Jaylen’s mom.” As if I no longer have a name. And although I’m happy people acknowledge my son, I still want to be acknowledged as my own person too.
I blame myself for being looked at “as being strong.” I never intended for people to view me that way. My mom taught me to be his voice. She always told me I had to stand up for whatever I felt was right for Jaylen, and that’s all I’ve ever known to do. And I don’t just do it for Jaylen, I do it for my girls as well.
The truth is that other people didn’t just forget me, I forgot me too. I only saw the mother in me, the wife in me, the sister in me, the friend in me. I didn’t see myself in me, so how did I expect people to see in me what I didn’t see in myself?
I portrayed what I wanted myself to seem like. It was all those things, including being strong. But I am not always strong, it’s just that sometimes I don’t have a choice. I can’t let life knock me down, especially as a caregiver. And while I look like just a caregiver to everyone else, there’s so much more that makes up who I am.