I recently wrote an article for Autism Spectrum News about managing burnout as an autistic parent. The article received one comment: “this is why I chose not to have children.” At first, I felt anger, how dare this person say something like this about my article, are they saying I shouldn’t have had kids or that disabled people shouldn’t have kids? The longer I reflected and sat with that comment, the more I realized it wasn’t personal.
When I am at my lowest points, I also wonder if I should have had kids. It can be a real struggle for me sometimes. As an autistic parent, I particularly have difficulty with the noise, mess, required social engagements, the added responsibility of being a parent to my already taxed and overburdened nervous system, the guilt I feel when I can’t do something… I have such high expectations of myself as a parent so it is disheartening to never quite meet them.
For many late-discovered autistics, our discovery journey involves learning how to unmask and embrace the fact that we have been autistic all along. I learned I was autistic when I was already a parent. I was already responsible for two little humans and I couldn’t unmask in all the ways I desperately needed to. So my journey has been a bit different than late-discovered autistic non-parents.
What I do know is that my life would’ve been hard regardless of being a parent or not. Being a parent is just hard in different ways. My primary work these days has been to figure out ways to accommodate myself while also parenting two kids. I hold space for grief over the ways I cannot show up for my kids due to being disabled.
As I lean into learning how to live as an autistic person, I am learning that it’s ok to be imperfect. That being an autistic parent doesn’t make me less than an allistic one. I just have different needs and challenges. I am open and honest about my limitations and try to model what it is like to give yourself grace.