As autism parents, we are really hard on ourselves. There’s so much pressure from day to day and week to week, and we judge ourselves when we fail to meet and overcome these challenges.
Honestly, what grade would you give yourself as a parent right now? I would bet that even though just about everyone who really knows you would give you an A, you wouldn’t. Even on my best days, I see myself as maybe a C-plus parent. Typically, it’s hard to not think I’m a big F and failing our kids.
I admit it. I’m exhausted. The last two years have burned us out with all of our medical and personal struggles. Most evenings and weekends, we hardly feel like doing anything at all. I feel like the least-engaged parent in the world.
It can sneak up on you. You look around in your state of stunned exhaustion and think, how did I end up here? How did I let things get like this? And it’s not a far trip at all from those questions to, “I’m a failure at this” and “I am ashamed of myself.”
But think about the people most dear to you. When they make mistakes, fail, do things that disappoint you, or show their thousand flaws and foibles, what do you do? To them you try to extend kindness, compassion, and grace.
Extend this to yourself, too. Please.
Brené Brown says, “Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.”
But instead of this narrow view of ourselves where we withdraw from others and community, we can zoom out and see we’re all in this together.
Not feeling good about yourself is one of the most common traits we share. This is why we talk this out with other autism parents. We learn that we’re not alone in how we feel. We get listeners who understand what we’re going through. And we get affirmation that we’re doing the best we can.
We all have the same goal: to do the best we can to help our children overcome their challenges. But we need each other to achieve that goal.
If you think you’re somehow ‘worse’ than other parents, if you think you’re a failure, you’re not. Yes, all this can be very hard, but know that you’re not alone.
As I’ve said before, reach out to other parents. Know that your success is tied to theirs.
We cheer for each other. We empathize with each other. Through thick and thin, we are a community. We can each be instruments of kindness, compassion, and grace to each other. Community makes us both a force to be reckoned with for our children and a source of comfort to each other.
Get on social media and blogs and reach out. If you don’t know where to start, ask me. Look for people you connect with and contact them.
Social media has given us the opportunity to find friends and allies unlike any other time in history. And every time I’ve connected with them, I’ve found people willing to extend grace and comfort to me in ways I struggle mightily to do for myself.
You’re doing your best. Give yourself an A. Most of all, extend kindness, compassion, and grace to yourself.