The Day I Realized I Am No Longer Just a Mom, but a Caregiver, Too

The Day I Realized I Am No Longer Just a Mom, but a Caregiver, TooWelcome to the first day of the 31 Days of Random Reflections on Raising and Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs. You can find the main page for this series here.

When raising a child with special needs, you get easily bogged down by the daily to-do list — you sometimes forget to look up. The day I looked up and saw my son, I realized he had grown and was no longer that tiny baby I held in the palm of my hand. He was now past infancy, past toddler-hood, and no longer a preschooler. The day I looked up, my son was a seven-year old.

How did I miss him growing up?

Mostly, it’s because he’s very much an infant, toddler, and preschooler — still.

Mostly, it’s because I tend to him like I did when he was tiny and resting in my palm.

Mostly, it’s because, I was too busy worrying about him.

The day I realized my son was standing past my waist, and stronger and heavier than my arms can handle for too long, I realized that I am no longer just a mom.

I’m a caregiver, too.

There is a fine line between being a mom and being a caregiver because a mom does plenty of “care-giving” throughout her life. She nurtures and soothes and loves her children until her last breath.

Categorizing myself as a caregiver suggests a little more than the “giving-of-care” a mother naturally extends to her children.

The day I realized that I am a caregiver meant that I had to come to terms with:

  • the lifelong care of a child who requires assistance to eat
  • the lifelong care of a child who is incontinent
  • the lifelong care of a child who relies on equipment to stand and walk
  • the lifelong care of a child who will one day become a teen, and then, an adult, who will require continued assistance
  • the financial needs of caring for a growing child who is fully dependent on us
  • the endless worries that come with medical issues

The day I realized I am a caregiver, and not “just a mom” — I cried.

I cried with fear for not being able to manage it all as I age. Fear of not being present for my son when he’ll need me most.

I also cried with sadness. I was sad for the life I thought I was going to live, but didn’t. Sad for the life my son should live, but can’t.

After I dried my tears, I also came to the realization that there are things I can do today to put those fears to rest. Nothing is more empowering than making decisions and working toward goals in a proactive way. That’s exactly what I did.

On the day I stopped crying, I had to accept the life that is.

My life.

His life.

Our lives together.

I may have an additional hat to wear, but in my heart, I am, and will forever be, “Mama.”

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