No matter what, Moms, remember to take care of yourselves

April 29, 2019

This is a post by Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty, mother to two sons on the autism spectrum and an Autism Family Partner at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Kim is also the author of a blog about her two children with autism, at autismmommytherapist.wordpress.com. Kim is also the author of "Raising Autism: Surviving the Early Years."

Kim Mc Sons

Every year for Mother's Day, I try to write about different themes, ranging from early diagnosis to adult life issues. It’s never a struggle to come up with topics (there’s always so much to write about), but one topic always finds its way into my writing, and it’s one dear to my heart:

No matter what stage you’re in with your child’s autism, make sure you take care of yourself.

There have been a number of times during the years with my two kids on the spectrum that I have not followed my own advice. After Justin was diagnosed at seventeen months I threw myself completely and utterly into his ABA program, and most of my needs were put on hold. When our second child, Zach, was also diagnosed, I again put my needs on hold and immersed myself in his daily program for the next year-and-a-half until he started pre-school.

Periodically throughout the years we have gone through soul-sucking times with our oldest- sleep issues, eating issues, aggression issues, and most recently, discovering that he’d developed tic disorder.

Kim son

If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t taking my own advice during most of these periods.

I have learned over the years that when my kids are really suffering I am not very good at taking care of my needs, but I will say during this last difficult period with Justin I improved from past experiences. Fun was pretty much off the table, but I was able to make sure I slept, got to those doctor appointments, and at least took care of basic needs until we got a diagnosis and a treatment plan. I did better with this last crisis, and although I’m hoping for calmer waters as we move on the truth is autism issues are cyclical, and I’ll probably experience soul-sucking times again down the road.

But this time, I’m better equipped to deal with them.

It is so important to figure out what you need when your family is in crisis with your child, or even just going through incredibly difficult times. For me I’ve learned that sleeping and eating are essential (when my kids are suffering that is pretty much the only time in my entire life I forget to eat), and I try to simplify my life whenever possible so I can focus on them. I have learned over the years however that often this is not enough- that I need to focus on that fact that we will weather this crisis too, just as we have others in the past. It’s important for me mentally to remember how much we’ve conquered as a family- that we do have wonderful periods with the boys, and fun times will come back again (and one of my needs is definitely having fun).

Kim son 2

And I’m proud to say we had some family fun just this past weekend with our youngest when we took him to Washington, DC, his parents old stomping grounds, for a weekend just about him (and a little bit about his parents too).

It literally takes a village for Jeff and I to get away for a weekend (no less than four adults were in attendance this past weekend to cover Justin during our 72 hour getaway), and it was a tremendous amount of work on everyone’s part. I literally started planning it three months ago so we could acquire the child care, and it was worth every minute of the planning I needed to do to make sure Justin’s needs were met and our other son had a fantastic trip. Our weekend gave me and my husband some time together out of our house, and gave us some important time with our youngest that made him the priority. One of my needs is making sure Zach has a great childhood, and this weekend I felt like we achieved even more memories toward this goal.

In addition, I got my DC fix too.

Wherever you are with your autistic child, try to take care of yourself too. As his or her parent you are the most important person in their life- if you’re happy, there’s a better chance they will be too.

And when you can, and this is so important, find your fun. Make a plan, put anxiety on hold if you can, and do something great for you. It’s important for your health and well-being- and both of those things are integral to the well-being of your child as well.

My wish for all of you on Mother's Day is that you too will take care of yourselves, find your fun when you can, and dwell in peace.

Happy Mother's Day to all!

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