I cannot speak for fathers, but being a mother is hard work. It’s not like it is in the movies or the advertisements on TV. The pregnancy books and ‘preparing for motherhood’ books are filled with idyllic photos of mothers beaming with their offspring; all of them clean with brushed hair and sparkling teeth. New mothers holding their newborns with palpable adoration towards their child. Not a hint of worry or stress on their perfect complexions.
Well, it’s not like that. Any of it. Don’t get me wrong; I love being a mother. I love my child more than anything in the world, but don’t think for a second that our family snapshot resembles anything like what was advertised pre-birth.
I don’t think too many families do in reality, particularly those with young children. I consider it a win if I am able to brush my hair AND my teeth in the same day. My house generally looks like a goat has wandered in and exploded, and I only get to the dishwasher every third day when we’ve started to run out of clean plates. But my child is always clean, well-fed, and well-loved.
I didn’t know that I was autistic before I had my son. I didn’t know how overwhelming and triggering raising a child–especially an autistic child–would be: the sensory bombardment on top of the sleepless nights, and the constant stumbling in the dark that is learning how to be a first-time parent. I felt woefully unprepared and out of my depth, desperately treading water and trying to keep my head above the surface.
When my son was born, and I first held him in my arms, I expected to be flooded with overwhelming love for him. When I didn’t instantly feel it, I felt like there was something wrong with me. Why didn’t I instantly love him? Why didn’t I feel a cosmic connection as soon as I looked at his tiny face?
At that time I didn’t know that this is quite common among autistic women.
I had read all of the books and had prepared myself for becoming a mother, but was not prepared for how being a mother would be in reality.
A lot of autistic mothers that I know struggle with similar issues; the overwhelm, lack of sleep (my son only sleeps for 4 out of every 24 hours), the constant physical contact and sensory overload that comes with it, and the constant demands that are put upon us with which we generally have to comply. Trying to control and abate our own meltdowns while steering our children through theirs, and having to juggle our own needs alongside our child’s needs is no small feat.
It’s a tough job; one that we love and are proud to do, but sometimes I think that us autistic mums need to get the recognition for what we are going through.
So here’s to the mums who are struggling to get through bedtimes.
Here’s to the mums who haven’t brushed their hair for three days.
Here’s to the mums who do their best but never feel good enough.
Here’s to the mums who are hiding in the bathroom to get a few moments’ peace.
Here’s to the mums who have been counting down the minutes to bedtime since 2pm.
Here’s to the mums who are drinking wine out of a sippy cup because all of the glasses are dirty, and you haven’t had a chance to wash up.
Here’s to the mums who are exhausted but keep going because they have to.
Here’s to the mums who have been using dry shampoo for the past week.
Here’s to the mums who keep smiling even though they are crying inside.
Here’s to the mums who are up at midnight making their child’s science project the night before it is due because their child forgot about it.
Here’s to the mums who just want to give up but keep soldiering on.
Here’s to the mums who go without even the most basic things so that their children can have the things that make them happy.
Here’s to the mums who stay in their pyjamas all day because being comfortable is one of the few precious gifts you can give yourself when you’re staying at home all day.
Here’s to the mums who are just surviving: You are not alone.
We all want to give up sometimes, to get in the car with your best friend and do a ‘Thelma and Louise.’ We all want to crawl under the blanket and be left alone for just a while. We all want to make it all stop sometimes, to press the ‘pause’ button on reality. To run off to a hotel for a good night’s sleep where no one will touch you.
You’re not damaged and you don’t have anything wrong with you. I think these are natural thoughts of most mothers at some point.
You’re doing a great job. Stay strong and make sure you find some time to yourself for self-care and battery recharging.
You got this.