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Special Needs Parenting: What Are You Doing Now?

Claire Smyth by Claire Smyth Additional Needs

Claire Smyth

Claire Smyth

Perhaps I was flattered for a moment that I wasn’t as unrecognizable as I often feel.

I look in the mirror and see dark circles from the lack of sleep clinging to the sounds from my child on a baby monitor at all hours of the night, and my stress and worry feel engraved in my facial expressions.

However, she still knew it was me – twenty years later.

It’s that inevitable curious question that always comes up when you haven’t seen someone for at least a decade or more.

“What Are You Doing Now?”

What a completely loaded question for a special needs parent.

Someone that has no clue if you even have children, much less one that is severely disabled.

I paused, knowing that teacher put such promise in my successful future.

She assisted with helping me land my first job at a bank, just two weeks after my sixteenth birthday; a job that I held for eight years into college, until I decided I wanted a career change to represent the achievement of my bachelor’s degree.

She coached me in my high school years with building a strong resume, and appointed me President of FBLA (Future Business Leader’s of America), my senior year.

I competed in various business related events, winning and succeeding at most competitions.

Twenty years ago to that teacher, I’m sure I held so much promise to be her super successful career driven person.

There was no good answer to explain where I am now in life.

What happened to the girl she once knew those twenty years ago, who’s destiny was as bright and strong as one could ever predict?

I stumbled and tripped over my own words.

All I could say was, “I am at home just raising babies.”

But it’s so much more than that.

It’s volumes more than that.

It’s when you can’t work because your child requires 24/7 care.

It’s when you realize that the five college degrees you possess and all the hard work you invested in the first half of your life all means nothing.

I could detect and see a slight disappointment mixed with confusion.

The very career oriented young lady she once knew at home raising babies?

Her answer simply was, “That must be nice.”

Her response likely as much as a fumble as my reply to her was.

I handed her my son’s website card, ones that I carry with me and hand out when people want more to the story than I can verbally give them.

The card that says if you are interested you can go to this link and read all of it, the good, bad and the ugly.

Some people I know will head straight for that web address, while others will discard the card the first chance they get and accept it only in an exchange of pleasantries.

I don’t know that there is ever a good answer for “What Are You Doing Now?” for a special needs parent.

We can’t answer that in a short two minutes or less in passing conversation.

So my natural instinct is to spare the person asking, and take the simple route.

For me that answer appears to be, “Just raising babies.”


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