I wrote this in 2019, before our lives were changed by this global pandemic. It still rings true – with the exception of likely needing to hold your group brunch over Zoom.
Is it time to refresh your Mother’s Day? Becoming a mom is a pivotal moment in your life. Overnight, your focus and attention shifts from the world to this small child for which you have an enormous responsibility. The radius of your life suddenly shrinks – this is true whether you become a mom via birth, adoption or marriage. In most cases though, this is something you chose – or even worked very hard to achieve – through fertility struggles or the trials of the adoption process.
Becoming a special needs mom changes the landscape again. This can happen at birth, when there are complications, and it can happen at adoption, if the child already has needs that have emerged, but for many people, it happens at a distinct point, after you have already been lulled into thinking you got this mom stuff in the bag. And then it all changes overnight. Again. Mother’s Day is often a reminder of how different life may have become.
Depending on your child’s needs, the trajectory following diagnosis may involve seemingly endless medical appointments, hospital stays, and other physical health interventions. With autism, your life is invaded and interrupted constantly – and usually at home. The radius of your life shrinks again, this time often falling into a small, rigid routine so as to attempt to remain “in control” of your new situation.
No challenge is easier or harder, just different. What remains the same is to arrive at a point, after diagnosis, where you begin to move on- both as a person and as a family. That is my hope here, to provide a vague roadmap of ideas of how to begin to move beyond the diagnosis, get out of the weeds, so to speak, and gain footing on your newly formed foundation.
Think you can’t do this? That the world will fall apart if you take a break for even a second? Think again – YOU will fall apart if you don’t take a break for more than a few seconds. And if YOU fall apart, where will your child and family be then.
How do you start? Think about a change this Mother’s Day.
In the US, Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday of May. But maybe your favorite place is closed on Sundays. Or maybe your partner works on Sundays. It doesn’t matter- pick a day that works for you. (Our family routinely does this with nearly every holiday– birthdays, anniversaries – we have even shifted Christmas and Thanksgiving if needed!)
Do you need time? Space? a spa day? Togetherness? Think about what YOU need to refresh yourself and provide yourself with the ability to move forward. Since I have started intermittent fasting, breakfast is bed is not top of my list (neither is my non-coffee-drinking husband’s attempts at brewing a cup of joe!). For me, an outdoor walk or hike with the family, and maybe a massage, followed by a quick manicure makes a great day. But the most important thing would be to make it work for you.
Not sure what you need or want? Think about something that will help you re-establish a measure of self-care in your life. A monthly yoga pass, a series of tennis lessons, or a healthy meal subscription kit are all ideas that will last more than a day and may help you reclaim a little more of your life balance. My husband plays in his adult sports leagues on Tuesdays and Thursdays, allowing me time on Mondays and Wednesdays for my group fitness classes. Again, find what can work for your family.
If you are fortunate enough to have other moms – special needs or otherwise – in your life – consider sharing the day with them. You can have brunch with plenty of mimosas, and let the kids run wild a bit, or you can share your kids with the grandmas if they live nearby. Sharing the day can provide even more support and reinforcement of social networks that will last beyond the holiday.
Whatever that may be in your family. If we have an exceptionally warm May, this may kids running through the hose – or even possibly jumping in the pool – both great releases for my autistic son, which therefore makes the day better for everyone. You could order a favorite pastry or another treat from a local bakery. You could choose your “happy flower” for the bouquet (mine is often a stargazer lily – messy buy fragrant!). Regardless of what you choose, savor those little things and begin to refocus on the larger potential radius of your life.
How are you going to celebrate Mother’s Day this year? What changes have you made over the years?
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