autism,  motherhood

Making Peace with Mother’s Day

Baby shower for J at Steve’s work

Steve and I were rather young when we started our family. There were lots of reasons that contributed to our desire to have kids. The idea of a brand new person made from a little bit of you and a little bit of the person you love more than anything else on the planet is just–well, a rather romantic thing. And since those babies would be made by us (who, of course, were pretty incredible people), then our babies would turn out to be the most incredible humans to contribute to society. Because baby making utilizes only the best genetics, fetal development always goes smoothly, and well educated parents, pretty much guarantees a perfect little human. And society needs perfect little humans.

We got pregnant right away. J and I had no health problems during pregnancy. He came 3 days late at a good healthy weight. Scored perfect on his APGAR. We were on the path to making our super humans! Parenting is going to be great!

First Mother’s Day is perfect. I have a perfectly healthy baby that everyone coos over. J is a really happy, super chill baby. I’m getting great sleep. I have to stop nursing at 6 months because I’ve lost too much weight while nursing and weigh barely 107 lbs, so J is on a bottle. I know I need to be a healthy me to be a good mom to my baby. J has no problems transitioning to a bottle. As long as he’s fed, he’s happy. This motherhood thing isn’t too hard.

Second Mother’s Day J is almost 19 months. He is getting more challenging. His speech isn’t great but he knows all his shapes and colours! I’m also pregnant with W. Good healthy pregnancy and baby. Life is pretty good.

W was born!
My mum came out to visit when W was born. And then she came out a few weeks later to help out when I had to have my appendix out! Fun times ahead!

Third Mother’s Day All of a sudden my life is not anything I expected or wanted it to be. I feel so alone. I have 2 kids now. My motherhood experience isn’t matching up with my friends’ motherhood experiences. We leave playgroups 15 minutes into the session. I can’t have a complete conversation with anyone because I’m trying to intercept my child from hitting/stealing/spitting at another toddler over a toy. People talk to J and he can’t answer back or when he does, it’s a totally random answer. I can’t even go to the grocery store without being terrified of setting him off. We have to enter the same door, walk down the exact same aisles the exact same way every single time. He kicks me and scratches my face when I try to buckle him up in the car seat. I do a lot of crying in the car when I think no one can see me. Then I take a few breaths and pull it together and get out and do what I need to do.

The exhausting challenge of helping an autistic preschooler through a wedding. Everything is an exhausting challenge at this point.

Fourth Mother’s Day until the Thirteenth Mother’s Day are really painful Sundays. I don’t get a lot of recognition from J that I’m his mom and that he loves me like other moms get from their kids on Mother’s Day. I really hate this yearly reminder of how I will never really experience having a “typical” motherhood experience. I go into these Mother’s Days with lots of (selfish) expectations. I know moms have it hard. And that’s why we celebrate them one day a year to make up for all of that (hah!). I’m bitter. I feel like I have it MUCH harder than anyone else I know. No one else has the incredibly high maintenance child I do–where you have to drop your life at a moment’s notice for irrational demands that happen multiple times a day. I’m upset that I didn’t have W first just to have a few more years of that “normal” experience as a mother like my mom or sister or everyone else seems to have only known. Their rough days include things my kid is struggling to learn how to do. I’d love it if my kid talked too much or just was so talented at two sports that we’d have a hard time choosing which sport to put him in. I want to say “I’ll take your rough day over mine hands down.” I feel like none of the “mother” montages I see on Facebook or the Proctor and Gamble “Thank You Mom” commercials apply to me. My motherhood is 80% insane, chaotic stress right now and that doesn’t look good in a montage. I want people to recognize how hard motherhood is for me and give me accolades that somehow should make up for every day of my life these past 9 years. I want someone to talk about motherhood and the superhuman tasks autism moms have to perform. But no one does except Steve and sometimes my sister, mom, and mother-in-law. I actually don’t know what I want on this day which is 90% of the problem. I guess that I just want people to say sometimes that motherhood is hard and it’s not this great, wonderful, always fulfilling job. It’s a job. It’s hard, and sometimes fulfilling. It’s not romantic. I’m not raising super humans. I want people to say to me that not raising super humans is okay. I want people to say that it’s okay to love your kids and not love the being the mom part of it. That’s the validation I want. I start grad school. I start working part time and try to find other aspects of my life so the “mom” part isn’t all-consuming.

My mum and J, the early years.

Fourteenth and Fifteenth Mother’s Days I’ve decided I can’t look at Mother’s Day the way I have been. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to figure it out. I’ve got my mom who is incredible, and although I’ve sent her cards and presents for the past fourteen Mother’s Days, I’ve never really thought about Mother’s Day really being about her since my personal mom journey. Maybe it’s because I can’t relate to her motherhood experience? I’m not sure. There are no good excuses. My mom worked hard with me and my sister, just like I work hard with my kids. In fact, my drive to be a mama bear for my kids comes from her. I start thinking more about my maternal heritage on Mother’s Day, and I’m 100 times happier. I’m looking now too at all my babies’ mamas and thinking, “wow! we women are a force. I have so many women help me share this load of being a mom. I need to recognize that force more.” That shift of looking out to all the women helping me do my job has made a world of difference. I don’t feel as alone. There are people out there who can do a legitimately better job than I do with my kids in ways I can’t. And let’s be honest–what human on the planet can operate at full capacity at their job when they need to be “on” 24/7 for years at end? It’s just not possible. There are women who have my kids daily for 7, sometimes 8 hours a day that teach my children in ways I can’t. When I realized that I’m not the only mom to my kids, and that my identity goes far beyond “mom”–that motherhood is only a piece of me and not my entire identity–I am so much happier. I’m a better mom with this knowledge.

J and W with our early intervention preschool team when we lived in Lawrence, KS. I love these women. And all of the women now and to come who have helped me navigate this motherhood business.

The Sixteenth Mother’s Day I’m at a really good place. It makes me sad to look back and see that the majority of my Mother’s Days have been rough. The unrealistic expectations of recognition and buying into the romantic idea of motherhood all contributed to a distorted experience and I totally chose (selfishly at times) to buy into that. But I’m so glad that somewhere along the way I decided to wake up and recognize the partnership I have with the women around me in helping raise my children. It’s been liberating really. When I share the burden and joy with others I’m able to see and appreciate better the Mother’s Day offerings my friends and family give to me. When I’m honest with my experiences, I’m finding more women becoming open to sharing the things they struggle with too. I feel less alone. I hope they do to. Because we women really need each other more than we realize.

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