In recent years, there has been a beautiful push to create an environment where moms feel safe sharing that things are hard. Across Facebook and Instagram, photos and stories of moms crying in a locked bathroom or sitting in their car, allowing themselves to feel all of their emotions, are more and more common. The resounding sentiment has been that it’s okay to be honest and truthful about the beautiful, chaotic, exhausting, and absolutely incredible experience of raising children. Not for a second is anyone saying they aren’t grateful, that they don’t recognize others would and often are doing everything they can to become a parent themselves, and that it isn’t a burden but a blessing.
In recent years, you don’t have to look hard to find a niche where you can find other moms making similar choices, whether it comes to feeding, sleep, or more! Exhausted mom memes and relatable reels abound. Every day, the idea that it’s okay to be honest about our different motherhood experiences grows and it’s both wonderful and necessary. The knowledge that always parading around shouting #blessed is not realistic is well overdue.
But (because this is obviously leading somewhere, right?) it doesn’t seem to extend to every mom.
As a mother of a child with a disability, I don’t feel like this applies to me. I feel like I need to always be on, never complain, accept and do and keep going and going and going, and never once say that this is HARD. I’ve seen other mothers of autistic children be torn apart in comment sections when they’ve attempted to breach the line between being positive and an unbreakable caregiver who only sees the good, and an honest mom who’s tired and scared and defeated. Who’s sad and who feels guilty about that sadness, and more upset at herself over it than anyone else could ever be with her (try as they might, in those dreaded comment sections).
I’m feeling conflicted about sharing here when it comes to autism. On the one hand, I don’t feel right sharing about the more difficult moments, as I haven’t quite figured out how to share from my perspective and experience as a mother without including the details that are personal and belong to my son. On the other hand, looking over my feed, I hate that any parent of an autistic individual would come across these little squares and see outings and highlights and the many moments of joy we’re blessed with, and not see the whole picture either. The reality is that this is a rollercoaster. Just as there are highs, there are also lows, and right now, in this space, those lows look like silence. They look like days without posts or stories, weeks without meaningful words to share. I want this space to be about community and empowerment. I want it to be a visual journal where I share what I’m learning (often as I’m learning it) and how our family is really not so different. How my journey through motherhood is still accessible and relatable. It’s about advocacy and AAC and autism. About books and family adventures and all the little things that come together to form our day-to-day. To celebrate the achievements without acknowledging the struggles seems deceitful, but to share the struggles seems questionable too.
There is so much isolation when you have a child with a diagnosis, that you really start to believe no one gets it. But how could they when you don’t share? The pages that openly discuss elopement and sensory struggles among other topics, bring me such comfort and peace, knowing there are other parents navigating the same challenges. A place where we can share referrals or programs, tips that have worked or simply be there for one another. I want to provide the same here, but how do I do that in a way that’s respectful to Y, but still acknowledges my experience as well?
Over the past few months, I’ve shared countless family adventures and books I’ve been reading. I’ve shared my favourite nail polish colours and how I’ve been refreshing the arrangement of our play area daily. I’ve shared mugs and memes, toddler escapades, and even managed a post on AAC before #AACAwarenessMonth was up.
Know what I haven’t shared? New challenges we’re facing that keep me up at night. I didn’t think it was anyone’s business, and worse, that I would be attacked for complaining when others have it so much worse. Or how about, how dare I say it’s hard on me when it’s a million times harder on Y?
I haven’t shared that.
But maybe it’s time to share the harder moments too. How can I advocate for better provincial support for my child when one look at the life I share makes it look like we don’t need that much help at all? How can I reach out to other parents on their pages when they share their experiences and say that I can relate or that I appreciate their honesty and vulnerability, when if they look at my page they’ll essentially see one large #blessed billboard?
I’m still not sure how to approach this, but I know that I need to. I’m still not sure how much I’ll share but I know it won’t ever be from Y’s perspective – simply because I can’t and I personally feel it’s wrong to even attempt to. My page won’t suddenly become about hardship and struggle, because that isn’t truthful either. We are so blessed and there is so much good every single moment of every single day, even when it’s hard to see. What does this mean? It means I’m going to start sharing more about elopement, in the hopes of increasing awareness of the concept and hopefully to feel less isolated in this challenge and learn together. I’m going to start sharing lessons we’ve learned when we’ve encountered challenges out and about – lessons that wouldn’t make sense unless you also know what exactly the difficulty was. I have spent the last 7 years doing everything I can to ensure Y has every single opportunity, service, and door open to him. That he is never lacking and that whatever he needs to meet challenges or thrive is offered to him, as much as possible. That he is surrounded by knowledgeable, loving, supportive, and capable people, who have his best interests at the forefront of their actions and whose ability to help him navigate challenges, reach goals, and thrive is excellent. I will continue to do this and more for him, every day of my life. It’s just time that I start to do the same for myself as well.