In case you are unaware there is this phenomenon called the “Strong Black Woman”. I am sure many of our non-black counter parts may not have a full understanding of what that means. Let me break it down for you. It is not the loud, ratchet/ghetto, overbearing personality the media makes us out to be. Being a strong Black woman is so much more subtle than that. It is bearing everyone’s pain around you without letting on it is killing you inside. It is making sure every I is dotted and every t is crossed. It is making sure your kids, your spouse and maybe parents or siblings are cared for long before you think of yourself. It is bearing the disdain and disrespect of the media and other racial groups while still attempting to maintain whatever dignity you can muster. Being a strong Black woman means suppressing your pain, anger, and needs so your family can prosper. As a result a chip develops for many of us. We develop an edge, not because we do not want to be softer, but because we cannot afford to be. We are literally the foundation of our families. We often make sure the bills are paid, the house is clean, the kids are cared for, and everything else in the house is handled. In addition many of us work whether married or single. It also means we are in many ways resilient and unyielding. We are often times hardworking and driven to do the best we can for our families without regard to our personal needs. This is what being a strong black woman is in my opinion and honestly it is killing many of us. This cultural norm leads to a serious problem, we often will refuse to ask for assistance when needed. Many times we feel obligated to bear the brunt of the stress of caring for our kids alone, because you don’t talk about these things. Many of us feel guilty for crying, or taking a break. I want to give some insight on how you can help the mom that will not ask for help.
Give her a call. If you know a mom who is in the trenches taking care of a child/children with learning differences or other disabilities, odds are she will not have time to call you. Reach out to her. See if she can get away for coffee and if not just talk on the phone. Let her vent, without judgment. There are many times all moms have many non-politically correct thoughts and they just need to get them out. If you are not the type of person who can do this and keep the conversation to yourself, please just disregard this and keep the family in your prayers. The last thing a family needs is to have to deal with rumors and gossip about them.
Offer to provide respite care. Offer to watch the kids so her and hubby can go out to dinner or if she is a single mom so mom can catch a movie. If you do not feel comfortable being left alone show up and let her take a bath in peace while you entertain the kids. Yes, this sounds very much like what you would do for a new mother. Think about it this way, in some ways the constant attention of the new born stage does not completely go away with a special needs kid.
Keep inviting mom out. If she only accepts one out of ten times you have given her some time to just have fun. Understand that finding care for kids with any type of special need is difficult and stressful. Don’t assume she is saying no because she does not want to go. She may not be able to go.
Reassure her. This one has a high risk of coming off sappy or insincere so be careful. That being said, too often moms of kids with any type of special need spend way too much time criticizing themselves. The best way to reassure her is to note changes in the child. If you see an ADHD child sitting for longer periods of time, or in better control, or recover from a fit faster mention how well they seem to be doing. Do not say “I don’t how you do it? It would drive me crazy!” This gives more of a feeling like they are raising the spawn of the devil not a child with ADHD or some other problem. Granted, I have been guilty of that error with other issues so do not worry if you have done it, just don’t do it again.
Lastly, unless you personally have a child you are raising or have raised with ADHD or some other problem PLEASE refrain from giving unsolicited advice. Frankly, even if you have parented an ADHD kid or a child with some other problem just don’t. I do realize the irony of me writing a Blog and saying that. The difference is no one has to click on the Blog the info is out there if you want it, but in person to be polite someone will listen to your advice. That being said feel free to commensurate and exchange ideas with fellow parents, you may learn something new. If you do not have kids at all please, please, please do not pull the “my cousins, husbands, grandfather had a kid with…..” Unless you raised that kid you have not a clue. Yes, I am guilty of providing unsolicited advice, but I try not to.
Even the most stoic and resilient among us need a break and support. Do not hesitate to reach out and lend a hand. If you don’t know what they may need, ask. If they say nothing then ask at a later date. If you are unsure about how to interact with the child so you can assist with childcare educate yourself. Most parents can give you good resources to learn and will greatly appreciate your effort. No matter how much or little you can do make sure they know you are there to help, even if they are not asking for it. If for whatever reason you cannot do any of this, prayers and good thoughts are always appreciated. If you are a parent of an ADHD child or a child with other challenges what types of things would help you?