It makes sense that you’d tell yourself you can be OK once your child is. It’s like the unofficial mantra of Special Needs Moms, right behind, “I need to live forever.” The truth is, if we aren’t OK, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to help our children.
You are listening to episode 70 of The Autism Mom Coach, I’ll Be Okay Once My Child is Okay. I used to tell myself this all of the time. And I really believed that this was the order of operations but it’s not. It is actually a recipe for burnout. Stay tuned to find out why and what you can do about it.
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.
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Alright, let’s get to today’s episode. I’ll be okay once my child is okay. How often have you had this thought or some derivative of it? A lot. It’s like the unofficial mantra of special needs moms right behind, I need to live forever. Of course, I know this from my own personal experience. I told myself this for years and I believed it. I believed it was my duty to do more and more for my kid and less and less for myself so that I could make sure he was okay. And then once he was okay, I would be just fine.
And I know that I am not alone. I hear this all of the time in consultation calls and from the moms that I coach. In fact, that is why so many of them come to me. They are in so much pain because they have hinged their happiness, their peace and their general well-being on their child. If their child is doing well, whatever that means to this particular mom then they feel good. And if their child is not doing well, again, whatever this means to that particular mom, then neither are they.
This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, when we do this we are outsourcing responsibility for our own emotions and we are making our children responsible for our happiness or our misery. Essentially they have to act or be a certain way for us to feel happy or to not feel disappointed, afraid or sad. Have you ever been on the receiving end of this where another person, say a parent is staking their emotions on you so that you then believe that you have to be a certain way in order to please them or for them to not be disappointed, afraid or worried?
Most likely you have had this experience and you have not enjoyed it and for good reason. Just like you are not responsible for say your mother or mother-in-law’s happiness, your child is not responsible for yours either.
Second, when we tell ourselves that we will be okay once our child is okay, this inevitably results in us trying to do more things for our child and then filling our time with worrying about our child and catastrophizing.
Third, when we believe our child is responsible for our happiness and we have devoted all of our time, energy and resources to them, this means we are probably falling way short of taking care of ourselves. We neglect ourselves and then we say it’s because of our children. So essentially we’re kind of blaming our children for our own self-neglect. That is what happens when we make them responsible for our happiness.
Then as a result of all of this, putting our kids in charge of our emotions, pouring all of our time and resources into them while neglecting our own needs, we have less capacity for our children and the ups and downs of Autism parenting. So we snap at our kids, we yell, we scream, we feel guilty, we shame ourselves. Then we try to do better, to do more and more, rinse and repeat. And the worst part, it is never ending. That is because okay is not a destination, it is a moving target.
I’ll be okay once he talks, once he stops eloping, once he sleeps through the night, once she is potty trained and learns to read and write, once she makes a friend, once he stops melting down in school or in public. Once she finishes middle school or high school or puberty or goes to a party or realizes that today is her birthday, on and on and on. Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder with a wide range of manifestations. There are going to be moments of progress and there are also going to be times where you just feel like you are hitting the wall.
When you are associating your personal happiness with your child’s constant progress or catching up to their peers or achieving and maintaining whatever goals, milestones or life skills that are important to you. You create a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows for yourself. Couple this with the fact that you are taking less than optimal care of your own mental health, physical health and emotional wellness, this is the perfect recipe for a never ending cycle of burnout.
In other words if you are staking your emotional wellbeing on whether you believe your child is okay in any particular moment whatever that means for you, then you will never be okay. And this is of no service to you or your child. It’s a lose/lose.
So here are my suggestions. First, lose the phrase, ‘I’ll be okay when my child is okay’. It’s not true and it’s not helpful and replace it with more empowering phrases that shift responsibility for your emotions and wellbeing from your child to you and remind you of how important your wellness is to your child.
Here are a few suggestions. I am responsible for my own wellbeing. I am my child’s greatest resource. I take care of myself so that I can take care of my child, so that I can show up as the parent I want to be, so that I can ride the roller-coaster. And then finally, I can be okay even if my child is struggling because they will. Autism or not, they will have the human experience. And yes, Autism may make it more challenging. No doubt, but your ability to be okay when they are struggling, that is what makes you the solid object.
This is what I talk about in my program is that one of our responsibilities is to figure out how we can be okay when our children are struggling, how we can be okay when life is not stacking up to what our expectations are. Your ability to be able to figure that out, to be able to manage your mind, to regulate your nervous system, to be okay. That is what makes you the most powerful parent that you can be because you can’t control your kid, we have all tried, but you can control yourself.
And so if this is something that you are interested in, if you want to be the solid object in your child’s life, if you want to figure out how to be okay even when they are struggling, sign up for a consultation for my one-on-one program. I would love to work with you. You can do that by going to the show notes or to my website under Work With Me. Alright, that is it for this week. I will talk to 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.