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What It Means to Be a 'Strong Woman' When You Parent Kids With Disabilities

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When I think of strong women, so many things come to mind. When I think of strong women in the past, it’s 50 or 60 years ago. It’s my nanas generation. She would have been 83. Fifty or 60 years ago she was starting her family.

She had dinner on the table when my grandad got home. The house was showroom clean because she wouldn’t sit down if something needed doing.

Clothes were washed and ironed and I think she had a side job as a dinner lady. She was put into a hospital when she was around 40, in the 60’s because she had a nervous breakdown. I think she was there two weeks. It may have been longer or shorter, I just recall two weeks for some reason. My nana was tough. She had a tongue in her head and wasn’t afraid to use it. But obviously she had some sort of mental break of some kind and needed time to get better. How she was treated, I don’t know. My nana was one of the “big” people in my life and I wish I’d had the thought to talk about her mental health at that time, but I didn’t.

Fifty years ago people were sent away to get better.

I am a woman, so I’m writing from a female perspective. I know many men struggle with their own demons too, but I don’t feel I can speak for them. Just know I know you are there.

I have no fear of my mental health. I am on medication for depression. Am I depressed? Without the medication, probably. With it, I function well, am happy in myself mostly and I understand my brain had to shut down for a while before I noticed something wasn’t right. It needs to be with me right now, and I’m happy for it to stay as long as my brain needs it to.

The strong woman

A strong woman in 2019 is all things to all people. We naturally care deeply about how others are feeling. We have a kinship with people we let close to us and we will do anything, regardless of how we are ourselves, to perk them up or be a shoulder.

The strong woman might have children. If she does, she puts her children’s needs before her own. She sets an example to her daughters and she teaches her sons to respect others and she shows them how a woman expects to be treated.

She cries when she is alone.

She goes to work if that is possible. She organizes everybody and everything.

She is the fixer, the finder and the fierce protector over those she holds dear.

She is the wife, the sister and the friend. She won’t always tell you how she feels but she wears her heart all over her face, so if you look, you’ll know.

The mum of a child with disabilities is a category I fit into. Along with close friends and Facebook acquaintances, these are the women I bow down to. These are the women who face trials no mum ever expects. She fights in the name of love. She is a woman who doesn’t sleep. She is with her child morning and night and very often through it. She cries a lot too. The love is so strong in these women. She doesn’t cry for herself or her children. She cries because she is tired. She cries because she needs to be heard. She cries because she is noticed. People know she is strong but they don’t know the journey it took to become that way.

I sought help because my strength was low. My husband saw me at breaking point, my friends held me and called me. My family was there to march me to the doctors when my son needed to be listened to and my legs wouldn’t carry me. I was never weak. I just knew I couldn’t do it alone. That is strength too — allowing yourself to be helped whenever or wherever you need it.

So to all the strong women, whether you feel it or not, and to all the strong women in my life, I hope you know who you are — you’ve got this, and if you don’t think you have right now. Let me know. I’ve got you.

Strength is something we all have. Depending on what you face depends on how much comes out. Just know you’ve got reserves. Draw on them. Use them.

Getty image by annwaterru

Originally published: August 11, 2019
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