When I got pregnant with my first child, I was determined to be an amazing parent while still maintaining a fulfilling career. After all, with a child on the way, my income would be vital. My plan was to take three months off and then get a nanny part-time. Fortunately, my mother also offered to assist by watching over her new granddaughter two days a week.
However, I soon found out that despite my best-laid plans, things could quickly go awry. My beautiful baby was born with special needs. While my motherly instincts kicked in and guided me through many of the initial challenges, nothing could quite prepare me for all of the difficulties of raising a child with disabilities. Particularly, as a single mother.
My three months of maternity leave passed in a blink of an eye and I was supposed to be heading back to work. But I found myself conflicted – I needed, and more importantly, wanted, to care for my child. After debating various possible outcomes, I determined that returning to a full-time job wasn’t going to be an option for me.
Caregiving in American Households
After the birth of my baby I quickly come to realize that I needed some support from a larger community. I’ve also been a big proponent of doing the research before making important decisions, and I also need to get a solid understanding of what I was up against.
There are roughly 16.8 million unpaid caregivers who are raising children with special needs under the age of 18 in the U.S. The reasons for care can stem from medical and/or behavioral conditions and other disabilities, and can range from serious short-term medical conditions or mental health problems, or lifelong health issues and developmental problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Down’s Syndrome and many others.
Planning for the Unknown
In my particular circumstance, a full-time job wasn’t an option in handling my daughter’s care needs. Despite the fact being a full-time mom is certainly “work,” the role isn’t much of an income generator. Forgoing a regular paycheck and employer-provided health benefits presented a whole new set of issues in addition to the needs of my daughter. The priorities had to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. In terms of financial planning, things like my child’s college fund was not as high as a priority, as say, obtaining life insurance so she would be protected if something were to happen to me.
I began considering Long-Term Care Insurance, because my daughter was definitely going to need care throughout her life. And then it dawned on me… what would happen to me as I grow old and could potentially needed care?
I had a few internal debates on whether I should be using my hard-earned savings to purchase insurance rather than investing or paying off debts, but once I consider how important planning for the future becomes in a situation like this, the decision became clear. Not to mention the fact that the cost of care is rising above the cost of inflation.
The future is uncertain for all of us in many regards, and well need a sense of stability and protection, particularly in regards our health and our livelihood. Life Insurance and Long Term Care Insurance happened to be two solutions that made sense in this particular situation.
In the broader sense, I hope that fellow parents who are raising children with special needs, both in the workforce and out, are thinking along these lines and defining solutions that work for their respective families. But regardless if you are raising perfectly healthy children or children that require special needs, we all need a plan for our future. Consider your options now and find comfort in knowing you and your children are protected in every circumstance.
What are your thoughts on raising children with special needs?
Photo by VinothChandar.
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My husband and I are currently extremely conflicted abut whether we are prepared to move from a double income to a single income, cutting our total earnings by about 50%. We recently invited a elementary age family member into our home as relative caregivers (this comment written without gender for privacy), an uncompensated role we gladly accepted to remove this child from the foster care system. The reality is that the child may be in an elementary age package, but really needs the attention, teaching, and nurturing of a toddler. That doesn’t even consider the issues of the various services this child is connected to (e.g., massive dental work, counseling, in-home family counseling, medical appointments, parental visits, etc.).
While we’re EXTREMELY lucky to not be in a single earner situation, I’m surprised at how quickly (< 3 months) I went from big-dreaming career woman to someone who really just wants to keep our family held together with meals on the table at reasonable times, laundry done, and the occasional guilty pleasure of having time to vacuum. With childcare, we see this child only three hours a night, plus weekends. That's just not enough to build the attachments needed to aid in healing from a lifetime of profound neglect and abuse. But we didn't have a clue about that going into it.
It's an incredibly surprising, frustrating, joyful, and overwhelming process, all rolled up into the most enchanting young child we've ever met. And it's also very hard to be on the edge of "giving it all up", meaning the vision I had for my life a mere six months ago, because my heart says that taking care of my tiny new family is just where I'm supposed to be. But I guess our hearts talk to us for reasons we don't understand, don't need to understand, and sometimes don't like because our brain simply can't know it all.
Thank you for this post. It was a much needed confirmation that there are others who have faced this decision and/or are facing it now, and that it is never an easy one, regardless of the circumstance.
Thank you for sharing your story. It takes courage to stare fear in the face, which is what you’re doing right now.
I’ve sent you an email. Hope you don’t mind it.