A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a mom I know in one of my special needs Internet support groups. The e-mail asked me to join her in a group called, "Special Needs Moms against Sarah Palin." While I am friends with this mom in all that we've shared and been through together as special needs moms, this is one request from her that I couldn't support.
Before I go further, I will let you know now that I am a registered Republican, and I have already cast my vote for McCain/Palin via absentee ballot (sorry, you can't change my vote now!) But this issue is more than just politics to me. If I were supporting "the other guy", I would still be offended by a group of moms opposing another mom for her decision to follow her career. And by no means do I consider myself to be a feminist. I simply believe that a woman can have both; a career and children. And I know for a fact - it is possible that a Mom can work full time and raise a child with special needs. Especially a child with complex medical issues.
I will admit, I had no choice when I had to continue working when Jenelle's medical issues became a priority. My job carries the medical benefits we desperately needed at the time. I didn't have the luxury of quitting my job to attend to her needs 24/7. I had to find a way to make it work.
The first glaring questions about my continuing to work came from Jenelle's first neurologist. He flat out told me to quit my job so I could enjoy the "few months or years" we had left with Jenelle. Later in her treatment, this doctor refused to try the Ketogenic Diet for Jenelle. His words to me, "The fact that you are still working tells me you are not committed to your child and that you are not committed to do this diet!" It was horrible, and I cried for days. I felt like my job was an albatross hanging from my neck and keeping my daughter from the desperate treatment she needed. My job was something I couldn't get rid of because I couldn't pay the medical bills.
And then, I received some of the best advice I'd ever heard from another special needs mom that works full time. She told me, "Kelly, your job is to be Jenelle's mother. You are not her doctor, nurse, teacher, therapist, bus driver, aide or social worker, you are her mother. That means you are the one who loves her. You get to kiss her after a blood draw and to hold her in the night as she cries or comfort her after a seizure. You are her Mother and the only requirement of you is to love her unconditionally and to advocate for her passionately. Let the others do their job!"
With that advice, it became clear to me. In the world of special needs, none of us can do it alone. While I admire all the special needs moms who do stay home and who's lives revolve around the complex medical schedule of their child, I am thankful that I have found what works for me. I am thankful for Jenelle's wonderful therapists, teachers and doctors. And to borrow a phrase from that woman in the "other" political party, it takes a "village" to raise a special needs child.
One last thought... why is it the Mom has to be the one to stay home with the sick child? Why can't a man be as involved or more in the life of a special needs child? I know quite a few Fathers who play a very significant role in the life of their special needs child. Brett is one of them. While the divorce statistics are very real when it come to raising a special needs child, a couple has to take parenting to another level and become team players to work together when they have a special needs child. Eighty percent end up divorced, ninety percent if that special needs child dies. Those statistics are frightening, and very real! If parents can't work together, then they are only working against themselves.
So while this election has surprised me at times, I was shocked to see the discontent some women have for the choices other women make. Who are we to presume Sarah Palin isn't involved in the lives of all of her children? Who are we to demand she stay home and attend therapies with her disabled son? I'm positive Sarah Palin has the resources behind her to help her make the best decisions in regards to her special needs child. Maybe more so than the average American. Who are we to question her love and devotion, when other families find it can work in non-traditional ways.
Why do women need to beat each other down for the choices they make? Personally, I'm tired of liberal women defining what women should be. Yes, I identify greatly with Sarah Palin. We are both working mothers with nothing but love for family and love for this country. God bless any family dealing with issues surrounding special needs and the individual choices special needs families have to make each day. Who are we to judge?
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