An Autism parent is many things, including sleep-deprived, emotionally and physically exhausted, but not lazy or irresponsible.
It’s easy to peek in the front window and see piles of dirty laundry, and toys all over the floor. You might see stacks of unpaid bills on the table, or a sink full of dirty dishes. There may even see a kid running around with little if any clothing on. You might see these things and assume the worst.
Often times, however, the reality is much different than it appears on the surface.
Over the years, I’ve been very open, honest, and transparent about the struggles my family faces. I know full well that I open myself up to the judgemental eyes of the public. I do this because I know I’m not alone. Other parents find comfort in knowing they aren’t the only ones struggling. I know this helps because I hear from parents all the time. They tell me they’re so grateful for all the you’re not alone reminders.
At the same time it also help others to better understand that things aren’t always as they appear. I would hope that these very personal insights would open hearts and minds. Often times they do and people learn something.
Unfortunately, sometimes people still focus on my failures and seem to ignore all the things that I’ve managed to accomplish despite all the challenges or obstacles.
In the Twitter discussion from the other day, I used an example of juggling to help put this into perspective.
All parents have to be able to juggle things and for the sake of argument, let’s just refer to those things as plates.
We all have to keep as many of those plates in the air as we can and try to limit the number of broken plates that end up on the floor.
Having to juggle everything in general, isn’t easy for any parent. When you’re an Autism and/or Special Needs parent, however, the number of plates we have to keep in the air dramatically increases. Not only that but there’s an endless stream of new plates flying at us from all directions, all hours of the day and night. We have to try and keep all those plates from hitting the floor as well.
I don’t like using the word impossible very often but I’ve no qualms about saying that it’s impossible to keep every single plate in the air for any length of time. We have to constantly triage and re-triage each plate, in real-time, as we’re juggling them.
We have to quickly decide if each new plate, hurled in our direction is important enough to keep in the air, and if necessary, which of the plates already in the air can be sacrificed to make room for a more important one.
It’s not easy and sometimes we drop plates that, ideally wouldn’t or shouldn’t be dropped. Plates will be missed and they will shatter on the floor, not because we’re terrible or irresponsible parents but because we’re human. Broken plates are going to happen.
When someone peeks in your window, only to judge you for all the plates they see shattered on the floor, they’re failing to see the hundreds or thousands of plates that haven’t.
We feel guilty for every single broken plate because we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else ever could be. Judgment can be demoralizing and it only adds to the guilt we already feel. Frankly, we don’t need anyone’s help to feel guilty because we do just fine on our own.