Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Measure of a Mom

Once or twice people have remarked that I’m an amazing mom and, while I politely thank them, I cringe inside.  Not only is it untrue, it sets unrealistic expectations. 

What does this mean people expect of me?  I’m not sure.  What would you do if you had a child with autism?  Leave?  Give up?  Doubtful. You do what you have to. I can’t measure up to “amazing”.  Mediocre, maybe.  Run of the mill.

I think I’m more like a “Do what you can and move on” kind of mom.

Then I wonder if they really mean, “Thank god it’s you, not me.”   

You want to know the real truth?

I don't want to be an autism mom.  I’d rather be a soccer mom, a hockey mom, a helicopter mom.  Hell, a Toddlers and Tiaras mom. Anything but this.

I am bitter, resentful.  I am angry and frustrated.  I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t volunteer.  Kudos to those who foster and adopt children with special needs.  They’re the ones who signed up for this, not me.

I am exhausted, sleep deprived beyond the pale.  I am crabby, irritable, irascible and acerbic.  I yell, am impatient. 

I slam doors, go sit in my car and turn up the music to drown out the narrative in my head. (I haven’t done this since I’ve started blogging, though.  Turns out writing it all down tends to silence the running narrative I’ve got going on in my brain. Lucky you.)

I’m often depressed, anxious, self-medicating on top of the doctor-prescribed medication. It’s ok; I always ask if alcohol is allowed.  If not, I ask for something else.

I’m a wimp, and often wake with a sense of dread.  I loathe the weekends, no school.  A babysitter’s out of the question. Summer vacation is enough to send me into a tizzy.

I cry, gnash my teeth.  I give in, I give up.  I’m disorganized and overwhelmed.

One time, my babysitter’s friend told me I always looked like I was just trying to get through the day.  Well, yeah, lady, that’s the goal, isn’t it?  Put the day to bed already. Or at least the kids.

Sure, I celebrate the little joys. Usually with a glass of red wine.  (See, multitasking. Self-medicating AND celebratory.) Except every time my son progresses, it’s bittersweet because I know that tomorrow he could slide back. One step forward, two steps back his doctor used to say. Forward. Back. Back. Forward. Back. Back.  Like a bad foxtrot.

A truly amazing mom would embrace the challenges inherent in raising a child with a disability, rejoice mightily in his triumphs (no matter how small), let the tough times roll off her back, and wake each day ready to face what comes next, with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.

I mean, wouldn’t she?


Unknown said...

I could have written this post. I have expressed that exact same reaction to the "amazing mom" thing. This is just what it IS to be my daughter's mother. There's nothing amazing about it.

I was home today with my daughter because she hurt her leg and can't tell me exactly where. It was a long and frustrating day ... and it's ending with a glass of red wine. Which I am now raising in solidarity with you. Thanks for writing this.

Mike Shelah said...

I think this is just the attitude of parents with autism. i recently got together with one of my old college roommates who has an autistic child and his wife said over and over again "it's so nice to talk to some one who gets it." we were grateful to be around others that understood too. you don't realize how much that matters until you get some. I want you to know, next time your in Westminster, drinks are on me :-)

Please keep up the great work on this blog
What you are doing is important

Alisa Rock said...

Melissa, I truly hope you figure out what is going on with your daughter's leg. Let me know what happens. Stash, the DJ on 98 Rock who has a child with autism, spoke at a Pathfinders for Autism event once, and he said that for him, the hardest thing was not knowing where it hurt, what was hurting his son. That is so tough. It's like the basic thing of being a parent, helping your child to stop hurting.

Mike, I'll take you up on that. I'll be in Westminster for three weeks (not consecutively) while my son is at Camp Greentop for day camp. Maybe if he's going to bed early, I can sneak out for a drink! My email is

Thanks for your comments. Sometimes I feel like I'm shouting in the wind here, but it helps my mental state to get this stuff out. And hopefully it will help other people too. To know that other people "get it".