Motherhood has dominated my conscious thought lately (especially mothering infants) since the birth of my fourth child last week. Mothering a newborn brings both exceptional joys and significant challenges for neurotypical and autistic mothers alike. I hadn’t thought about the challenges unique to women on the spectrum until I interviewed Lana Grant who has written a book on this topic and consults with autistic women. She will be sharing some of her advice with us next week. Since then I’ve read more about this special stage of life and learned how it uniquely impacts women on the spectrum.
Knowing You’re An Autistic Mother
Some autistic women have written that knowing about their own diagnosis helped them prepare for and cope with the challenges of new motherhood. On the other hand, those who weren’t aware they were on the spectrum struggled more with feelings of fatigue, isolation, and depression. Knowing about an autism diagnosis and how it specifically impacts an individual is useful for new mothers as well as in so many other areas of life. Autistic mothers of new babies who are aware of their diagnosis can better prepare for the sleepless, demanding road ahead full of sensory overload and possible post-partem depression.
The issues and suggestions below are from autistic mothers who have lived this beautiful challenge.
Autistic Mothers and Socialization/Communication
Some autistic mothers report difficulties with the social expectations of entering the motherhood identity. In her article “Motherhood: Autistic Parenting,” Cynthia Kim explains “Being a mom is an inherently social activity.” Moms are expected to socialize their toddlers, and with this expectation comes the pressure to join mom groups or set up regular playdates, which not all new moms are comfortable with. Additionally, teaching children social behaviors may be more difficult if the mom on the spectrum struggles with this herself. Mothers of school-aged children may also find it intimidating communicating with teachers or other education professionals. All of this stress can lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of confidence in parenting skills. But these issues plague moms both on and off the spectrum, and we parents tend to judge ourselves too harshly.
Some Suggestions for New Autistic Mothers
If your autistic daughter is planning on welcoming a new baby soon, consider discussing these tips with her or helping her try to implement them.
- Try to plan for breaks when possible. See if there is a family or community member who might be able to make regular visits so you can rest.
- Look for other autistic mothers to socialize with either through an organized group or anyone you may know or hear about. These women will better understand your experiences and may be able to offer you support neurotypical family and friends cannot.
- Look for parenting classes. Autistic mothers have said they could benefit from structured parenting coaching or mentorship programs.
- Find a parent advocate to help communicate with your child’s school.
- Develop routines that might be calming for both you and your baby, such as rocking in a chair, walking outside, swimming, or listening to music.
- Read what other women on the spectrum are saying about motherhood. A few suggestions are listed in the Resources section at the end of this post.
While many of the challenges of motherhood affect women both on and off the spectrum, understanding and being sensitive to the unique needs and struggles of the autistic mothers in your life will help them transition smoother into this wonderful role.
Resources for Autistic Mothers
https://musingsofanaspie.com/aspergers-and-motherhood/-This page has a listing of 6 different posts related to being a mother on the spectrum.
From Here to Maternity by Lana Grant