Dear Worn Out Autism Mom,
I know you’re tired. You’re tired from lack of sleep, worry, and frequent meltdowns. You drink so much coffee that your blood is 80% caffeine. No one seems to understand your child or what you go through every day together. Almost daily it seems someone looks expectantly at you to gauge your reaction to what they think of as a child throwing a tantrum over something simple like a toy as if to say, “Surely, you can do a better job.” You question yourself and your mothering abilities. If you work outside the home still, you wonder how long your job will last. Daycare systems turn your child away or lack the training to properly care for a child with autism. The school always calls for you to come pick your child up. You deal with a lack of consistency in your child’s services. Your coworkers either totally understand your situation or they judge you for it, so you never know where you stand. You feel terrible for ignoring your other child, but you have to choose between a broken wall or hurt feelings, and sometimes the seriousness of the situation requires you to choose hurt feelings instead. You’ve lost your friends, you can’t sleep, and you feel lost as a person. Other autism parents tell you it will get better when your child gets older, but as things progressively get worse, you begin to think they’re lying. You think that if you talk about all these feelings, people will think poorly of you, so tuck away the feelings and try to hide them from the outside world. I know how you feel, worn out autism mom, because I feel it too.
Here’s the thing, though. You may feel exhausted, rattled, and even useless sometimes, but you, worn out autism mom, are a rock-star. No one else knows how to calm your child down like you do. You are the master of the paperwork, the queen of IEPs, and the expert negotiator. When it comes to advocating for your child, you work tirelessly to campaign for fair treatment and understanding. You take care of all the big stuff, but you also kiss the boo-boos, play with dinosaurs and dolls, and learn about your child’s favorite television shows and books. You make a mean macaroni-and-cheese and you can get pre-tied shoes on your kids’ feet in record time. You know exactly how far away the nearest and cheapest clothing store is when you inevitably forget to bring a change of clothes for accidents. You find treasures in the dollar bin and can turn almost anything into a reward. You can spout out “first, then” statements like no one’s business and know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. If anyone asks, you can tell them where to find what little exists out in the community for children with autism. Your children love you and they know you love them. They know because, in all the ways that count, you show them.
Finally, worn out autism mom, remember your successes. Today you may not have found victory, but don’t feel defeated yet. Rejoice in all the victories, big and small, you have achieved with your child already and remember that somewhere in the future, you will find more triumphs. You are a beautiful mother with a gorgeous, magnificent, dazzling child who simply sees the world differently than anyone else. From one exhausted mom to another, I encourage you to keep at it. Hang in there. You’ve got this.
Worn Out Autism Mom Adventurous Autism Mom, Just Like You