When I hear the stories of Black and brown girls and gender expansive youth who provide care to sick or disabled family members, themes of love and devotion emerge. They love their mamas, uncles, sisters, and abuelas through hospital stays, late nights, and early mornings — and they love them deeply. There are an estimated 5.4 million children and adolescents in the U.S. providing support to family members who have health conditions. Of these, it is understood that Black and brown children — and, in particular, girls and girl-identifying youth — are disproportionately engaged in family caregiving roles in the pandemic.
I am one of those Black daughters. At age 11, I began providing mobility aid, as well as intimate and wound care for my mother, who became disabled as a result of spinal surgery that was performed incorrectly. I’ve written extensively about my caregiving story, which also saw my older brother performing a caregiving role during his young-adult years. Yet it wasn’t until September 2020, when my mother became further disabled — this time, she suffered a stroke because of a medication issue in the hospital — that I realized the complexities of the gendered and racialized nature of the care that I provided.
Being disabled is my future
People call me codependent. If you combined and then divided me and my partner in half, you might believe we are two normal bodies. But we’re not....