I make no apologies for using this phrase. It fits what I want to say. I could even say, ‘behind four great men, there is a great woman’ in my case as it’s obviously my boys I am talking about, not my husband.
I know in this era in which we live, women should be equal, not behind any man or seen to be in a man’s shadow.
But it fits. It fits who I am and where I am today.
I am making a statement which I take for myself, not for every other woman out there, you don’t have to take this mantle on. But I know there will be many of you who feel like I do.
I had a job, a car, my own mortgage, when I met my husband. We met and married later than many, I was in my mid thirties. I was my own woman. I was not dependent on anyone else. I got married for love, not because I needed someone to support me financially but because I wanted a partner in life. We both wanted children and I prayed I had not left it too late. It turned out I hadn’t.
We had twins unexpectedly, a bonus when you are older and don’t know whether you will manage to have more than one child. I didn’t return to work, financially it wasn’t viable. We would have to manage on one full time wage and whatever I managed to earn proof reading and writing while the twins slept.
Just two months after our third son was born, the twins were diagnosed with classic, severe autism. My life was no longer mine. I could no longer work.
From then until now, my life has been as the strong woman behind my boys every step they have taken.
Sometimes people ask what we have done for them. For them to have been non verbal and severely autistic to become who they are now nearly twenty years later.
I start by answering, it was doing ABA (applied behaviour analysis) with the boys, full time from an early age. From the ages of two or just three when they were diagnosed. But, I also know that ABA was for 35 hours a week and there are many more hours in a week than 35. I was the one at home, for all those other hours, behind my boys all the way, shaping their futures.
I am not trying to sing my own praises. I am trying to justify my own existence and why I gave up my own life as an independent woman.
Sometimes I feel lost. I have lost myself. The essence of Sarah, the woman I once was. I am not seen as Sarah. I am seen as the mother of four boys with autism. The organiser of four social calendars, four academic lives, four other people who depend on me still twenty four hours a day.
I am not sure who the real Sarah is anymore. Another person who I don’t recognise these days. Once every few months, I meet a friend for cocktails ( I have a very select, few, really good friends) and then for a few hours, I am the old Sarah. Maybe a few drinks releases that person hidden within who can laugh and not worry about anything for a few hours.
To all you mothers out there who can identify with that lost woman, who no longer earns her own money, who has to think about everyone else’s lives before her own. You are not alone. We are a silent army.
Our silence speaks in the form of our children. Their successes are our successes. We have to claim them for our own too. I know my boys are destined to do great things in their lives. I hope I have given them the ability to do that.