As parents, we all have that “so called” guilt with parenting. It comes naturally once the baby is conceived and when the test comes back “pregnant”. You run through your head of all the drinks and unsafe pregnancy foods you consumed before you found out. Then once the baby is here and you go back to work, it springs into full fledge Mom Guilt. I am sure stay at home moms experience this same kind of guilt in different way, but I can only speak to being a working mom.
This Mom Guilt tends to be magnified when you have a special needs child. When my son was diagnosed with “Autism Spectrum Disorder” he was about 2 ½ years old. It was right before Thanksgiving in 2008 and my daughter had just been born mid-September. His preschool teachers called us into this special meeting to discuss our son, so we knew something was serious. They urged us to get “testing” because his behaviors were leaning toward something being wrong… they wouldn’t tell us what.
Back in 2008, Autism was still not as prevalently known. My husband, Michael and I really had no clue except for what you saw in movies… the severe cases. So, we were thinking there was no way our son had any “special needs”… I think this is where denial came into play.
We really didn’t want to acknowledge the key signs that specialists told us. His inability to connect with other children, his wanting to play by himself, his OCD nature on odd things, his severe sensory issues to wind and sounds, his complete frustration about so many things. We were convinced they were all quirks and he would grow out of it. In the back of my mind, I did think something was not right… especially after our daughter was born. We saw such a vast difference in the two of our children. Not just that it was a boy or girl, but so many of the milestones were different.
Back to Mom Guilt. Once I heard the words your son is Autistic, I think I froze and was in complete shock. I will never forget that day. I had to take time off work to make it to the appointment. Michael and I were there together with both the children. Afterwards, I had to go back to work and I just sat in my car and cried. I can’t remember what Michael and I discussed between the appointment and that evening because I think was just feeling so GUILTY… like I had done this to my son. I had even read articles about Autism coming from the Mother’s side and this did not help my situation.
I am writing about guilt because most of the moms I socialize with now discuss feeling guilty about many things – not giving in, not being there all the time, missing school events, etc.
The Mom Guilt associated with a special needs child is at a different level. My son really doesn’t care about what other kids do, so missing a school event and not coming to a game or practice does not really affect him. Instead it’s the guilt I feel that he does not have any real buddies to hang out with after school. That he is not invited to parties. The guilt that he is reading at a much lower level and knowing how difficult his road will be going into Middle School next year. The guilt that I cannot protect him from the social prejudice of his disorder. Sure, we all talk about acceptance and they preach it at school and everywhere we go, but there is a feeling of pity we get around us… Like “I am so sorry you must deal with this.” Even this, makes me feel guilty.
Then there is guilt because your special needs child is so demanding that you are taking from your other normal functioning child and affecting her childhood. My only saving grace is my daughter is truly an angel sent from above. It’s almost like she was sent for my son. She is what we call the “healer” in our home.
I feel guilty because my son has extreme mood swings and behavioral issues that when I punish him for those poor behaviors it hurts. My husband, Michael, always reminds me it’s the way he is wired and he is not doing things on purpose.
I write this to connect with other mothers on this same crazy journey to say you are not alone in feeling the guilt while raising a son or daughter with ASD. I am still growing and learning through the process because there are no guides. Every child is unique and the disease is unique to each child as well. I do believe he was given to us as a gift now, so that guilt is finally gone. I know there are reasons children come into your life… most of the time it’s to teach you instead of the other way around.
What I have found helps me now is just telling my son how much I love him even when he is pissing me off and being a jerk. I tell him, “I love you very much with my whole heart but you are not making me very unhappy at the moment.” I also make sure to kiss him goodnight and hug him and let him know “tomorrow is new day and we can begin again and that I love him.” Also, I try to connect more with what is interesting to him – fire alarms are the current obsession. Just these few actions helps tremendously and free me of the expectations I was putting on myself with raising a son with ASD. It also helps to have an awesome husband who is my rock.
Day by day is what we go by.
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