I’ll be the first to admit that, for a long time, I delighted in being my child’s “person.” As a working mom, I was racked with mom guilt and the fear that he might not bond with me. So, the fact that I became his voice, confidant, and comforter was extremely validating. Maybe you can relate.
While there were lots of upsides to being my child’s “person,” the truth is there were many downsides too. That’s why, if you find yourself overcompensating, over-fixing, and overdoing for your child, no matter how many other responsibilities or helping hands you might have, it’s time to reevaluate your role as your child’s one and only.
Join me this week as I show you how to create separation between where your child ends and you begin. I’m urging you to start identifying where you might be able to pull back from being your child’s “person,” what this looked like for me on my Autism parenting journey, and my top tips for allowing your child to step up.
You are listening to episode 71 of The Autism Mom Coach, Being Your Child’s “Person.”
Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach podcast, I am your host, Lisa Candera. I am a lawyer, a life coach, and most importantly, I am the full-time single mother of a teenager with Autism and other comorbid diagnoses. I know what it is like to wonder if you are doing enough or the right things for your child and to live in fear of their future.
I also know that constantly fueling yourself with fear and anxiety is not sustainable for you or of any benefit to your child. That is why in this podcast I will share practical strategies and tools you can use to shift from a chronic state of fight, flight to some calm and ease. You are your child’s greatest resource, let’s take care of you.
Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing well. I’m recording this episode in mid-June because I am trying to pack in as many episodes as possible before my son returns home. But I have noticed that in his absence the theme of the last few episodes really could be what I wish I knew then. So I hope that this is helpful for you no matter where you are in your Autism parenting journey.
This week I’m going to talk about, I wish I knew before that considering myself my child’s person had some potential downsides, at least for me and maybe for you too, which is why I’m going to share this. I really loved referring to myself as my child’s person. I loved being his voice, his confidante, his comforter. And I’m a bit ashamed to say it was validating for me. After my son was born I returned to work full-time at a law firm with billable hour requirements. I left the house at 7:30 in the morning and I returned around 6:30 each evening.
In the meantime my son was at home with his father. They were bonding over things like gardening, going on drives, visiting grandparents, going to museums and all sorts of fun things. Not that there weren’t challenges during these times because there certainly were but my perception was that I was not getting in this good bonding time. And I had a lot of working mom guilt and fear about this, especially following Ben’s diagnosis, I feared that he would not bond with me.
So the fact that he did, the fact that I was his person. This delighted me. And there was a lot of upside to being able to read a child who did not speak or who spoke very unintelligibly for the first few years of his life. But with the good there are some potential downsides and that’s what I want to share with you because I know I’m not alone.
I see it all of the time in the moms who come to me. They are burned out and they are overwhelmed because they are the everything to their child with Autism. No matter how many other children they have or responsibilities they have or helping hands that are available, they are the person. So here are some of the downsides I see to being your child’s person.
First, it could lead to you overcompensating. If you believe that you are your child’s one and only or you are their preferred person, this might lead to you doing a lot more for them than necessary or just because you want to please them. This may look like saying yes to every request on the AAC device. This may look like not setting boundaries. This might look like tying their shoes even if they can sort of do it themselves. This may look like you sitting next to them on the couch for hours just because they prefer it. You are their person, you are their one and only so you believe you have to do it all.
Second, it can lead to your child being overly dependent on you and reliant on you and only you for everything, including self-soothing, including regulating their own emotions, including interacting with other people. This means that they will rely on you for these things even if they can do it themselves, even if dad is right there, even if you are on a call with your boss, in the shower or fast asleep.
Finally, when you believe that you are your child’s person this can also lead to you believing that you are the only person you can trust with your child. So this looks like not letting your partner take them to the doctor or make their lunches or take them to the park because they might do it wrong. This looks like not allowing willing family members and friends to watch your child so that you can go out on a date night or out with friends or take a walk.
This looks like always being the mom who hosts the playdates or the parties or the sleepovers because you do not think another parent, even a parent with an Autistic child would understand how to manage your child or that your child not having everything to their specifications would be too much for them or you to bear.
Again, I think it is great when we are bonded with our kids and that we get them, but not at the expense of them being overly dependent on us or learning how to rely on themselves and developing life skills including the skill of being exposed to other people and adapting to other ways of being. It is also not beneficial for us to tell ourselves that we are their only person because that belief will result in us not allowing others to help us.
I want to give you an example of what this looks like. For years my son used me as his whoopy. I was his person. I understood his anxiety and I believed it was my responsibility to fix it. And in all of my attempts to make him feel better and to stop his anxiety, I was confirming to him and to myself, this was a problem for me to solve. He would actually ask me to fix it and I couldn’t, not for lack of trying. I imagined that this was really confusing to him because I had fixed so many things for him before throughout his life.
I was always his comforter. I always helped him self-soothe. I always helped him regulate himself but now I couldn’t. He had to come to terms with the fact that his anxiety was his to manage. And I had to let go of the idea that I was supposed to fix it for him, two really hard pills to swallow. That is why I am urging you, if you find yourself overcompensating, over-fixing and overdoing it, it might be time to reevaluate your role as your child’s person.
Start to identify areas where you can pull back a bit allowing your child and others to step up. It could be as simple as having your child clean up their toys, letting them choose their clothes or permitting dad to take them to the playdate or to the birthday party or to the doctor’s appointment. Give it a try. Stretch yourself a bit. Allow your child to stretch. You are still bonded to your child. You still understand them the best. You are still their person but you are your own person and so are they.
If this is something that you struggle with, if you are an over-compensator or an over-fixer or an over-doer and you want some help creating boundaries and more separation between where your child ends and you begin, I can help you with this in my one-on-one program. You can get started by scheduling a consultation on my website theautismmomcoach.com under Work With Me. I hope to talk to you soon. Alright, that is it for this week’s episode. I will see you next week.
Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you are ready to apply the principles you are learning in these episodes to your life, it is time to schedule a consultation call with me. Podcasts are great but the ahas are fleeting. Real change comes from application and implementation and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. To schedule your consultation, go to my website, theautismmomcoach.com, Work With Me and take the first step to taking better care of yourself so that you can show up as the parent you want to be for your child with Autism.