Spending Mother's Day as a Mother of an Autistic Child: A Few Ideas
As tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States I thought it would be a good time to stop and celebrate special needs mothers, all that we do and some special ways we can spend Mother’s Day! As the mother of 2 children with Autism some days are more bittersweet than others.
Mother’s Day is my favorite holiday of the year and happens to be the most bittersweet of them all to me. In my point of view, Mother’s Day is designed to not only celebrate what all I have given up for and devoted to my special needs children, it is also designed to help me appreciate every single accomplishment that my two children have made over the years. What an empowering day it is.
Being a Special Needs Mother
As I have said before, when you find out that your child is diagnosed with Autism (or any other special need for that matter) a lot of the times it feels like you boarded a plane to England and landed in Mongolia. You have no idea where you are, what you are doing or how to speak the language. You adapt over time, learn with your child (alongside the help of others) and do the very best job that you can. What some people underestimate is the amount of courage, sacrifice, love, fear, sadness, devastation and hope that being a special needs mother entails. What she must go through to get to a point of stability with her child is, in most cases, more than any other person will go through in their entire lives. That should be celebrated to the fullest in whatever way we see fit as a mother. To some moms, that is a day to herself, to others it is a day full of activities with your child/children. Whatever the case is for you, celebrate what you do! So, what are some ideal ways for a special needs mother to celebrate Mother’s Day?
Take a day for yourself
Yes, I said it! Let dad or grandpa take over for the day and take the day to simply unwind. In some mother’s eyes this is the perfect way to celebrate. Taking one day out of the year to focus on yourself is completely acceptable, especially with the lives we live. Take some time to relax in the bathtub or to read a book by yourself. Don’t clean a single thing or do any laundry if you can help it, just simply be “lazy.” Maybe sleep all day or drink some wine. Go get your nails or hair done or spend the whole day in your pajamas- whatever it takes to make you feel recharged and ready to face the world again, do it (within reason)!
Get back to nature
As somewhat of a “hippie” myself, I am always an advocate for getting out and being in nature. It is beneficial for our bodies, minds and souls. Per the University of Minnesota, “research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working. The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, or sad, or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that.”
Garden with your child
With that said, if the forecast allows in your area do some gardening with your child. Simply playing in the dirt can be recharging for most people, not just mothers. “Regardless of your age or culture, humans find nature pleasing. In one study cited in the book Healing Gardens, researchers found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed.” That is how it is for me as I grew up in the remote country, playing in the dirt every single day. I feel that as we grow some of us lose a little bit too much of the fun in us, getting outdoors and creating something with your children is always a way to boost your spirits if you are down; or to simply add beauty to your yard. Gardening also serves as a great sensory activity for Autistic children that crave tactile sensory input. There is never anything wrong with spending some time recharging with nature.
Paint and hide rocks in your neighborhood
If your child is small enough or cognitively “young enough” you can paint and hide rocks. Painting rocks is a fad nowadays, why not implement it into your Mother’s Day? It’s simple and easy fun for you and for others. You also get the benefit of getting out and hiding the rocks around your neighborhood for other children to find. What a fun time!
Go to your local Nature Preserve/Zoo or take a hike
Once again, getting back to nature can be reviving. Taking a walk through your local Nature Preserve or Zoo can be not only fun but educational as well. If you go to the local preserves or zoo it is likely they charge an entrance fee, which will benefit nature even more by giving back. If you do not have a Zoo or Nature Preserve in your area a simple hike in the local park trails can serve as a wonderful family bonding moment and benefit your family with some added exercise.
Create a painting with your child
Go to your nearest store and buy a couple of canvases and paint and makes yourselves mother/kid paintings that you can hang together on the wall. I have done this several times for Mother’s Day and still have the paintings hung on my walls. They range from nature paintings to self-portraits, all the way to abstract paintings that we just threw together. Not only will this serve as bonding time with your child/teen it will give you a memory to look back on later on down the road.
Get together as a family and have dinner
To many families Mother’s Day is a generational holiday. We include all the mothers in our families in our celebrations throughout the day. We may call every mother we know or take gifts around to the ones that are extra special in our lives. Why not get everybody together and have a family dinner? What a great way to celebrate all generations with a group of people that are unlikely to overstimulate your child!
We deserve a day
Whatever your given choice of activities is this Mother’s Day, make sure to take some time to celebrate all that you do for your child and your family every single day. The stress we feel as special needs mothers has been compared to that of combat soldiers. Researchers have looked into this extensively. Is has been found “that a hormone associated with stress was extremely low [in mothers of children with Autism], consistent with people experiencing chronic stress such as soldiers in combat.” It is also reported that the, “mothers of children with high levels of behavior problems have the most pronounced physiological profile of chronic stress, but the long-term effect on their physical health is not yet known. Such hormone levels have been associated with chronic health problems and can affect glucose regulation, immune functioning and mental activity, researchers say.”
Per Disabilityscoop.com, “mothers of those with Autism reported spending at least two hours more each day caregiving than mothers of children without disabilities. On any given day these moms were also twice as likely to be tired and three times as likely to have experienced a stressful event. Despite all of this, mothers of an individual with Autism were just as likely to have positive experiences each day, and volunteer or support their peers as those whose children have no developmental disability, researchers found.” Basically, outlining our amazing abilities to multitask and function on nothing but stress, hormones and coffee.
They go on to reference Leann Smith, a developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who worked on the above referenced studies. She says, “On a day-to-day basis, the mothers in our studies experience more stressful events and have less time for themselves compared to the average American mother. We need to find more ways to be supportive of these families.” Isn’t that the truth. We, as families and as mothers need more support. That is why Mother’s Day is so important to so many special needs mothers out there. We deserve a day to just do what makes us happy; whether that be a day by ourselves or a day surrounded by our children or other loved ones- just make sure you celebrate the day to the fullest and with as little overstimulation to our children as possible.