The Hidden Strength of Autistic Moms in a Neurotypical Mom Culture

Let’s play a word association: autism and moms. What comes to mind?

For many people, it’s a specific picture. Namely, a non-autistic parent decked out in blue, puzzle pieces galore. They often tweet, post, and retweet jokes about chicken nuggets and lamentations about their saintly sacrifices. They’re quick to defend ABA, quicker still to dismiss autistic adults’ criticisms. (Note: this doesn’t apply to all parents, just a vocal subset).

What you don’t hear about as much are moms who are also autistic.

Well, I just became one. I’ve wanted to have children since I was one, but now I feel out of place. Not parening itself– that’s equal parts awesome and challenging– but from a stifilingly neurotypical mom culture.

I blame the Interent. Social media has turned into a competition between who has the most “advanced” children and who can schedule the most enriching activities. It reminds me of reading about martyrs in Catholic school; everyone needs to prove how selfless and sacrificing they are, or risk being labeled a “bad mom” who lets her kids use a tablet and feeds them processed, pre-packaged food. And I specify “mom” for a reason. Society often reinforces this attitude for moms, not dads, no matter how sexist and archaic that is. It also leaves out parents who are nonbinary.

I haven’t felt so much pressure to conform since middle school. It’s a performance, and an exhausting one. I have to hide my true self enough as it is. I don’t need another reason to put on my mask.

Control is another common theme in the competition to best perform the role of mom.

There’s a widely-accepted idea that parents should always control their kids, down to how they play. We treat parenting like a formula, where if a parent does x perfectly, a child is garunteed to achieve y.

As someone with near-crippling anxiety, I get it. As JFK said, “To have a child is to give fate a hostage.” However, I also remember what it’s like to be a kid. I cherished my freedom, and unstructured time was the fertile ground in which my imagination grew. While this might be especially true for neurodivergent kids, I suspect it’s a universal childhood truth.

So it’s no wonder I feel out of place. What comes natrurally to me seems to go agaisnt the new accepted wisdom. The world that wasn’t designed for me– the combination of strong sensory stimuli with the pressure to mask can lead to autistic burnout. I can manage this by taking time to myself and focusing on my interests. I can’t be the perpetually self-sacrificing mom. If I don’t take care of myself, I’ll burnout.

Despite this, I believe there’s strength in autistic parenting. I might stick out from the parenting norm (what else is new?), but that isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it can even be a parenting strength.

For example, I can be very empathetic thanks to my challenges growing up in a neurotypical world. That’s a good trait for anyone to have, but it’s essential for parents.

I vividly remember what it’s like to be a child, and can put myself in their thought process. As a parent, I strive to consider my child’s point of view when making decisions that will effect their life. I also won’t subscribe to “one size fits all” parenting styles that I know didn’t work on me as a kid.

Autistic parents can also lead by example. When society dismisses the disabeled, they don’t see our strengths. We are often passionate about our interests, which can encourage children to develop and embrace their own passions.

Taking time to recharge as a parent teaches children to care for their own mental health. As someone who often doesn’t conform to society’s expectations, I can show my children the value in being true to themselves, as well as standing up for what they believe is right, no matter how unpopular.

I’m not saying autistic parents are better ( “better” is a highly subjective concept when it comes to parenting). Like everyone, we have our strengths as well as weaknesses. I needed to remind myself that being different is not a bad thing. Though I still might feel out of place in most mommy groups, I’m happy being me, and I think my baby is happy, too.

That being said, please let me know in the comments if you know any great actually autistic parenting blogs.

More articles about: , , , , , , , ,

Related Articles

13 Responses

  1. thank you so much for this; i’ve looked for anything that speaks to the experience of parenting while autistic (or neurodivergent); it sounds like you’re a new parent, is that right? if so, CONGRATULATIONS! and, really, even if you’re not, i do congratulate you. i love being a parent, but i’d like to work and talk with people who support parents and who also know something about neurodivergence, and it’s hard to find. my son is 19 now, but he still needs me, and i still want to be a good parent to him. thank you for affirming the perspective of an autistic parent.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I have a new baby. I also love being a parent (so far). Parenting itself is great– it’s society and outside pressures that make it difficult sometimes.

  2. Thank you for writing about this! Oh my, I identify. I hope you can find a few blogs. I would love to find them too. The only blogger I know of who is an autistic parent raising kids (at least one of whom is on the spectrum) is Autistic Mama. https://autisticmama.com/

    On a separate note, two people I enjoy listening to are:
    (1) Meg Proctor at learnplaythrive.com — she is an OT (who I believe is neurotypical) who has an *excellent* podcast called Two Sides of the Spectrum where she interviews many autistics who are themselves experts on something autism-related,
    (2) Sarah Selvaggi-Hernandez at The Autistic OT on FB is an amazing autistic OT and professor (who you probably already know of — she is on the advisory committee for Neuroclastic)

  3. Since you wrote that parenting seems to be defined in terms of *controlling* our children, to make them do what we want, you might be interested in the writings of Alfie Kohn, who has been emphatically pushing back against the notion of parenting as controlling children. I have a very well-worn copy of his book “Unconditional Parenting”

  4. Thank you for posting!

    I am an Autistic and parent of 2.

    It is difficult to be seeking like minded Autistics to find only neurotypical moms only ranting about how terrible it is to raise an Autistic.

    Have a great day!

  5. I love this blog. Thank you for sharing this. I am an Autistic parent and I write about Autistic experience and parenting, plus lots more on my social media pages Changing The Narrative About Autism and PDA.

  6. Nicely done! Being a parent as an autistic human does have its own challenges, but indeed also gifts as well. I’ve never cared much for fitting into the NT mold and I was frankly always bad at it, so understanding my own neurotype and being able to understand my kids is a blessing.
    I do recommend you might look into Autistic, Typing who is an indigenous autistic mother to autistic humans, and also Kristy Forbes who is autistic and also parents neurodivergent children. There are millions of autistic parents out there – we are not a rarity. Society often doesn’t consider autistic folks “able” to grow up to become parents and full members of society, but that is ableism. 🙂

Talk to us... what are you thinking?

Skip to content
%d bloggers like this: