Mother’s Day Q&A: Autistic moms share the joys and struggles of their motherly journey on the spectrum

May 6, 2021

Autistic moms, Anne G. and Victoria H. open up about how motherhood helped them to better understand themselves, the challenges they’ve had to overcome as autistic adults and why all moms and mother-figures should be celebrated on their special day.

Learn more about their journeys with autism and motherhood below in this Q&A:

Mother’s Day Q&A: Autistic moms share the joys and struggles of their motherly journey on the spectrum

Anne G., Kansas City, Missouri

After the initial excitement of finding out you were going to be a mom for the first time, did you have thoughts of how your autism would impact your life as a mother? If so, please explain.

I did things backwards. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I was 49. At the time, I was struggling with some executive function issues. A few years before, I had a bad period of muteness. When my therapists took a look at my current issues, my past issues and my childhood history, they came up with autism. Once I started dealing with my autism, a lot of my issues took care of themselves.  Two of my kids were college-aged at the time and my youngest was a junior in high school. I went through parenthood not realizing how my autism was affecting me. I thought all mothers were going through the same things I did but finding eventually receiving a diagnosis provided many answers.

How has becoming a mom helped you to understand yourself better?

Since I was diagnosed later in life, my situation was different. I got great advice from a friend who already experienced being a parent. She said, “don’t judge yourself based on what other parents are doing. Look for how your situations are similar.” That guidance allowed me to understand that all parents struggle from time to time because it’s hard work. By recognizing that everyone struggles with parenthood, I was more compassionate with myself.

What challenges have you faced during your journey as a mom as a result of your autism?

My resources are limited, and I need to rest. I found ways to build rest and quiet into my day. My executive function issues created problems for me. I learned to balance my demands. I decided to focus on preparing meals. I took cooking lessons. I developed 10 to 12 basic meals and rotated them. I didn’t worry about how clean my house was.

Why is it so important to be your own self-advocate as a mom?

Self-advocacy is important in raising our children. As I’ve gotten older, I’m better at advocating. I now disclose my autism always with doctors and professionals. I explain that my autism creates communication issues that can make advocating for myself difficult. I then ask if they have experience communicating with neurodiverse populations and can accommodate my needs.

On this Mother’s Day, what do you want the world to know about moms on the spectrum?

When it comes to parenthood, my children don’t see me as an autistic mom. They see me as Mom. Society puts labels on mothers all the time – single mom, working mom, soccer mom, teenage mom, stay-at-home mom. Now autistic mom. Strangely the people most affected by our parenting – our children—don’t care about the labels that are used to describe moms. They just want Mom.

How does your autism impact your ability to multitask as a mom?

Earlier this week, I did a very mom thing of moving my daughter back home after her second year in college. As my husband and I drove up there, I had a towel draped over my head, covering the sides of my face to eliminate the glare from the spring morning sun. For three hours I keep turning the volume up and down controlling on the loudness of the songs shuffling through my husband’s phone. When I arrived at my daughter’s dorm, my autism faded in the background and I became Mom.      

As the temperature climbed this afternoon, my head was hurting and my facemask felt suffocating. My husband and daughter recognized my stress. They decided to drive together in my daughter’s smaller car, and I got to drive home alone. My husband and daughter gave my three hours without having to communicate with anyone, three hours to recharge so I could go back to being a mom again for the great task of unpacking and helping my daughter settle back home. It’s all about balance.

Mother’s Day Q&A: Autistic moms share the joys and struggles of their motherly journey on the spectrum

Victoria H., Ridgeland, Mississippi

After the initial excitement of finding out you were going to be a mom for the first time, did you have thoughts of how your autism would impact your life as a mother? If so, please explain.

After finding that I was pregnant with my daughter, Raine, I was overjoyed. However, the thoughts of “could I be a good mom?” seeped in my mind. There were snark remarks towards me indirectly of “me being too stupid” to be a mother. I proved everyone wrong and admittedly made them eat those words.

When Raine was diagnosed with autism, I was crushed at first. I blamed myself and was terrified that she would have to go through the same hardships and struggles that I went through for most of my life. It wasn’t until some time that I realized that I am the best role model for my daughter and can guide her in the right direction because I’ve been through it already. Whatever hurdles she faces, I will be there to lift her up.

How has becoming a mom helped you to understand yourself better?

Becoming a mom allowed me to finally have self-esteem and self-worth. Becoming responsible for an innocent life after years of being bullied and suicidal gives you the will to live like nothing else in the world ever could.

When speaking with doctors, teachers, professionals, about your child/children, do you disclose your autism diagnosis? Why or why not.

I do not disclose my diagnosis often. Not out of shame, but reluctancy. As an African American woman, I can't always be open because, in our community, it isn't yet fully acceptable. I'm going to change that. I divulge only if it’s necessary on behalf of intervention for my little girl.

On this Mother’s Day, what do you want the world to know about moms on the spectrum?

Autistic or not, I want people to know that having limitations is not a death sentence. I have a 4.0 in grad school, take care of a house, take care of my daughter, and still struggle with my own quirks because of my autism. Being a mom is a hard and rewarding job. Being an autistic mom to an autistic child is even more challenging and rewarding but I do it well.... even when I'm tired... like a mother :)

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