AT HOME WITH
For some of us, it is white toes in the sand, a cool breeze and the smell of the ocean that defines our happy place. For others, it is the brisk mountain air, a nice soak in a hot tub and the starry sky above that they picture. We all dream of that ultimate vacation. The place where our worries disappear and our mind is free from the daily grind. The place where stress is minimal and our cares float away in the clouds. The place where the weight on our shoulders is left behind, and our bodies can feel the load lifted. Oh, that happy place. The space that recharges our batteries and reconnects us with who we are, why we are and how we got there.
My vacation home is a large two-story house on the water of the white sand beaches of Florida. It’s large enough for my friends and their families, brothers, parents and all of my extended family to come and experience. It’s filled with oversized beds, plush couches, fireplaces, big open windows so we can hear the ocean and all of the food, drinks and wine that we could want. It has decks that wrap around the house and have cozy reclining seating so that we can sit out in the sun and soak ourselves with the vitamin D our bodies long for. It has no internet, and technology is not allowed inside its parameters. It’s heavenly. Oh, and it’s obviously not real (shakes head and wakes up from the daydream).
While this place is an obvious fantasy, it’s a frequent escape that I take in my mind. One that helps to re-center and refocus when I am feeling overwhelmed and tired from the rocky road of life. I recently typed “Autism Mom” into Facebook’s search as a way to stay connected with the mamas I work with on a daily basis. The first 20 articles were referencing the latest research on “autism moms have stress similar to combat soldiers.” Wow. That is powerful research and I do not doubt it one bit. I have had mothers who surrender with complete openness and an outpouring of tears with this one question: “How can I help you?” I have others whose walls are so firmly and strongly built they respond with the ever so traditional, “I’m fine. Or I will be. I just need my son to get the help he needs,” while their truthful eyes gaze at me with the hidden truth of exhaustion.
This article outlines that mothers of adolescents and adults impacted by autism struggle with the following: fatigue, chronic health problems and lack of time and ability to engage in leisure time. Moreover, it defined the amount of time mothers of those impacted by ASD as significantly less than mothers of those who are not impacted by ASD. They also reported more interruptions in work (one out of four days) than other mothers (one in 10 days) for issues related to their child in school or daycare settings. Overall, the findings suggest that mothers of children impacted by autism have less time for themselves compared to the average American mother. The bottom line in this research is spot on--we need to find more ways to be supportive of these families. We, as a community, friend, fellow parent, colleague, or neighbor, need to reach out and help these families find their happy place. We may not always be able to offer them a stay in a vacation home, but we can certainly do our part in helping aid in self-preservation of the parents who are experiencing similar stress to those who have engaged in combat.
Here are my ideas to help:
- Offer to watch your neighbor or friends child for 20 minutes while mom or dad takes a few moments to sit in silence and breath.
- If you see a mom in the community struggling with a child, stop judging, giving unwarranted advice and offer genuine help or a pat on the back for the parent doing the best job they can.
- Learn.Learn as much as you can about ASD.Learn about the sensory issues. The struggle with eye contact. The poignant struggle the parent experiences in wishing that everyone could understand their child.How ASD drives an almost-innate need for routine.
If you see any mom or dad who is struggling in your friendship circle or church group or even an acquaintance, invite them out for coffee or over to your house for a nonjudgmental play date. Learn about what they are experiencing and offer your genuine listening ear to their daily struggles. Be the person you would need if you were in their shoes. Help them take a trip to that perfect vacation home, even if it is just for 15 minutes in their mind.