Dear Autism Mamas Across the Globe,
I cannot tell you how much division I have experienced over the years both as a professional and as a mother – and it’s always with women.
Why, though?! This breaks my heart.
I thought by 2020, with the “#metoo” movements, with women’s empowerment and such a fierce passion for uplifting one another, that the days of “you can’t sit with us” and “as IF!” were bygones.
That’s sadly not always the case.
I’m so fortunate to have had opportunities over the years to lead focus groups, facilitate support groups, moderate forums and present to both small and large audiences. Don’t get me wrong, I have been part of – and are still part of today – tribes of women who would do anything to support one another.
~ They listen to you when you come home from an emotionally charged IEP meeting.
~ They know you are tired from your child emptying the kitchen cabinets for the umpteenth time to line up the pots and pans (and dumping the cereal on the floor along with it, because hello sensory moment).
~ They celebrate with you when your son says a new word.
~ They scream for joy when your daughter makes a new friend and receives an invite to her new friend’s birthday celebration.
For sure, these doting mamas outnumber the mamas who exclude others in one way or another. However, I’m still seeing mamas out there whose judgmental comments or deliberate actions clearly say to a mother in need, “You can’t sit with us.”
I hate it.
Ok, hate is a strong word, but truly my friends, I hate it.
I have been invited to many groups where I have either bowed out gracefully, or felt as if I had no choice but to call someone out and went out with a bang. I’ll usually leave after sending a private message to a moderator unless the situation is really intense. In such cases, I will tastefully call someone on their garbage (essentially telling them to stick their opinion where the sun doesn’t shine), click “Leave Group” and breathe a sigh of relief.
I see so much judgment, it’s unreal.
“Hmmmm, she looks a little bloated in the belly. Have you put her on a special diet, and tried XYZ vitamins? Oh, you did? You must not have tested it long enough.”
“Oh, he’s enrolled in ABA? ABA is just terrible. Terrible!”
“I see, so you use sign language and visual supports? Are you encouraging REAL communication? You don’t want him to become dependent and take the easy way out.”
“You shouldn’t consider that private school for her, even temporarily. You’re excluding her. Our support group is all about inclusion only, so maybe this place isn’t right for you.”
“You’re giving him WHAT medication? He’s so young. You shouldn’t be putting him on anything.”
“We’re meeting at the bar – all autism mamas drink! Oh, wait, you don’t drink? Oh. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. (insert awkward silence).”
“If she REALLY loved her child …” (YES, THIS TOO IS A TRUE STORY.)
I have seen it ALL, and these are just examples.
Listen, I’m not an idiot and I recognize not everyone is going to sing kumbaya while holding hands. But please, can we be a little kinder, and a little less Judgy McJudgy with other mamas JUST. LIKE. US?
We are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Just like our children (or our adult children, in my case), we are using the tools from our toolbox in the moment the best way we know how.
Advice is welcomed, but bullying and preying on vulnerable women (JUST LIKE US!) cannot be tolerated.
There’s also room for you to be in more than tribe, mama! It’s ok to take part in many groups that you connect with on a different level or in different ways. Maybe you’ll have some overlap between groups, and introduce ladies to one another, maybe you won’t. It is ok – more than ok! – to run in different circles.
What isn’t ok, is closing that circle off to someone who desperately calls out for help or needs some direction? Why? Because I guarantee that you have been “that mom.” If your group is knowingly not the best fit, or perhaps inconvenient for whatever reason, please guide Crying, Haggered, I Haven’t Showered for Four Days, Am Living On My Child’s Gluten-Free Leftovers That He Refused to Try and I Have One Hour to Clean Before the Therapist Comes Mom to someone who can help her.
Be the difference.
Be the change.
I’m glad most women aren’t like this, but I hope this post reaches those who may have made a snide comment or two in their day.
Mamas, you’re allowed to have opinions, and can express them with grace and grit without hurting anyone. You’re also allowed to sit at other tables. But if you can’t find one, if you’ve been pushed away, or are simply seeking some advice and a friendly ear …
Pull up a chair. The Caffeinated Advocate has plenty of room. I also have coffee.
Dear Autism Mamas Across the Globe,