How has being an “autism mom” changed my life? Let me count the ways…..it would be quicker to talk about what hasn’t changed. I’m still married. That practically makes me an anomaly. The divorce rate for couple with a child with autism is crazy high. Something like 80%. Knock wood that’s not us, not yet, not ever if we can help it. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a lot of the changes that have occured in my life have been for the best. I’m not sure, but on the whole, I think I’m a better parent. And having a child with autism forced me to do the thing that I had wanted to do from the moment I got pregnant but was too afraid to. I became a work from home mom.
I remember when I was pregnant I called everyone I knew (I wish I was kidding but I’m not) and asked them if they knew anyone who worked out of their home successfully and what they were doing. I was desperate. I wanted to stay home. It wasn’t until I knew my son’s therapy would require me to be home, but in another room, that I knew I HAD to work from home. It took a lot of rearranging of our condo and frankly, like so many other work from home moms, it isn’t ideal. But it functions, enough. I haven’t worked outside the home for a year and a half now. My son is miraculously better. I am getting the hang of being a work at home mom. There are days when I actually manage to multi task myself through the myriads of activities that pepper my days, without losing focus, without resentments, without longing for a vacation, or a maid, or even an hour of down time. Okay I might have had one day like that, maybe two. The truth is I’m still figuring it out.
When I was a kid I taught myself how to juggle. Three limes, my hands are small and they fit perfectly. I could keep all three limes up for about a minute and then they would come crashing down. Little did I know those limes were going to become a metaphor for my life in my 40s. I can get the limes up —keeping them up that’s the trick. I can get the laundry done while meeting a dead line and listening to my son over the baby monitor working with his behavioral therapist. But the thing is, there’s always more laundry. As with so many other tasks involved in mothering, there is no DONE pile. It’s a treadmill and occasionally I get a few steps behind. If I could find a way to not care when I get behind, that would be great. I don’t think I’m wire that way.
I heard a speaker recently, Dr. Michael Beckwith, and he said you should find gratitude on a consistent basis for the things you least want to do. He said that when you go to do your dishes you should give thanks, which struck me as funny. He said once you get your head into that mindset you can’t help but remember that there are people on this earth who would be thrilled to have dishes to wash. That punched me in the gut. Sometimes I get so into this drama of being a working from home mom on the treadmill, that I forget how lucky I am. Every night when my child goes to bed, I’m home. He may have to come into my office and give me a kiss while I’m working on the computer, but I’m here and he knows it! I don’t have to drive away from a day care center and long for Saturday so I can be with my child. I get to be there when he wakes up, when he eats lunch, when he suddenly breaks out in a rash after lunch. I am so grateful for this time with my son. I’m grateful that autism gave me the courage to make it happen. And (this week anyway) I’m grateful for my dirty dishes, every single one of them!