This guest blog is by Betsy Spalla. Betsy is our Host Parent for Autism Speaks Parent – Wisconsin. She is a working mom with 2 great kids, a clever 7 year old Daughter with Autism and a very thoughtful 10 year old Son.
“If you had asked me when I was a kid what I would want most when I was an adult, I would’ve probably said the typical things a 9 year-old in the 1980’s would’ve dreamed of: a cool car, a bunch of kids, a house with a pool, to be a Supreme Court Judge, and probably a Toy Store shopping spree. But in the honest light of my 30’s I have to say, regardless of having a nice car, house, job and even being able to go to a Toy Store when the mood strikes me, I am not even close to achieving what I have discovered is my real dream goal now that I am a parent: Balance.
Ah, "Balance" that elusive word thrown around by Oprah and self-help gurus. Like many moms, I try to think of ways to get control over balance late at night when lying in bed contemplating the things that have to get done the next day, and trying to remind myself that if I don’t get to sleep I won’t get any of them done! The issue for me is though, no matter how many books I buy, TV shows I watch, or amazing "quiet the mind" skills I attempt (for the record – I swear my mind is officially missing the "quiet" switch), or other ways I try to bring control into my life, I have one distinct item in my life that I recognize I cannot get full control over: Autism. So I asked myself: what does that mean for "balance"?
I came up with an answer for you to consider, and the inspiration for it comes from my fellow Autism moms and dads. As Autism parents we show up and TRY every day. We are the stay at home dads TRYing to get through the grocery store while people stare at our 8 year old who is acting like a typical 2 year old. We are the working moms who TRY for 3 years to potty train a now 7 year old. We are the stay at home moms who bite our tongue when a parent next to us complains that the hardest part of life is shuttling kids to classes/teams that we would give our left arm for our Autism kiddo to get to TRY to be a part of, even if just for a day.
We are the parents who TRY to validate the feelings of our neuro-typical children who love their Autism siblings, but still get a bit embarrassed in public when their 10 year old brother or sister is loudly echoing favorite movie lines over and over while rocking. We are the parents who TRY to give over our homes and freedom to therapy schedules. In short, we are the people who face daily challenges that would leave many others stumbling at the starting line, but we show up and TRY every single day to lead our children to better outcomes that sometimes feel like they may never happen.
But there is one thing many of us have to TRY harder at: we have to try to be prouder and more forgiving of ourselves. We have to stop thinking we can be Super Mom or Super Dad on 4 hours of sleep facing a disorder that there are still very few answers to. We need to be proud of all the amazing efforts each and every one of us as parents are putting into our kids every single day regardless of the outcomes. We have to TRY to remember we are not defined by our children’s outcomes; instead we can already be defined as amazing balancing act parents. I haven’t mastered my balancing act yet, but I will keeping trying knowing there are other amazing Autism parents out there trying everyday too.