If You Aren’t a Parent (Or Even If You Are) Keep Your Parenting Opinions to Yourself

This editorial is a response to this article.

I really need to take a moment to speak up for moms, and for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) here.

I hate these clickbait articles that are just glorified mom-shaming for sport. In light of my current avalanche of responsibilities, gratuitously overflowing plate, and conversely meager amounts of acknowledgement, motherhood during lockdown is RIPE and OVERDUE for commentary.

So, you read this article and maybe (if you’re not a mom) you think, ‘FOR SHAAAMMMMEEE!’ This woman adopted a son, she should be able to solve all his problems and make him happy while making all her other kids and partner happy, definitely putting herself last (that’s a given) and if she ISN’T ABLE TO DO ALL THESE THINGS, according to the judgement of the court of public opinion – let’s write an article for the sole purpose of shaming her! Even though SHE ADOPTED A CHILD AND SOUGHT MEDICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENT TO SUPPORT HIS SPECIAL NEEDS FOR 2+ YEARS! (How many special needs children do you think the majority of the critics of this article have adopted?)

So, as a mom, and someone who has lived with a partner with ASD – I believe I have relevant experience with which to attest to the fire-hose-like geyser of unforeseen challenges, compromises, hurt, and trauma that come along with ASD. In fact, it recently caused the slow collapse of my relationship, in spite of individual counseling, couples counseling, extensive reading of: studies, literature, biographies, and self help books related to ASD. Does this mean I am a failure?

If I can’t make the relationship work with the man I love the most in this world, after giving all of my heart, hard work, understanding, patience, and time to invest in this relationship and family – is someone going to write an article about me and call ME a failure? Is my partner a failure? Or is there just a better fit for us somewhere out there that might better suit us IS IT NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS?

From the ASD-related research we read, difficulty reading people’s intentions, inferring socio-emotional context, challenges with interpersonal boundaries, and limited ability to understand the long terms consequences of actions, can put children with ASD at higher risk for being victimized and for victimizing others both physically and emotionally. ( Victimization and Perpetration Experiences of Adults With Autism )

Kids with ASD can face myriad challenges with communication & interpersonal boundaries – which means they are at higher risk for being bullied, experiencing and perpetrating sexual abuse, violence, and subsequently experiencing the long term effects of PTSD that is rarely diagnosed and so often goes untreated.

The mom in this article, she’s not only responsible for her adopted autistic son’s care, special needs, and well being – but ALSO those of the gaggle of other children she has, and maybe if she’s lucky she might even get to take care of HERSELF at the end of the day! Probably not though.

I’m not defending this lady, she looks like she has a kid collection; and kids are not pets! Don’t adopt a kid (especially if they have special needs) if you don’t understand what autism is, what it looks like in your home and family, and can’t commit to supplementing the developmental resources that are essential for a successful transition. Sure, fair.

But I am SO SICK of what seems to have become the cultural past-time of of BLAMING THE MOM for everything that goes wrong with a kid! Most people blame moms for any and all problems related to their children, and that fucking sucks.

Do we get a parade every time we do something awesome? For the self sacrifice? For always putting ourselves last? No! And god forbid we should misstep, maybe take a nap and forget to remind our kid to do his online homework, WE HEAR ABOUT IT FROM EVERYONE! Everyone feels entitled to criticize mothers, especially people who AREN’T PARENTS!

I’m speaking at a women’s panel tomorrow about working in IT, as a mother, during COVID-19. All I keep thinking is…

I’m going to cry.

I won’t be able to help myself. It’s fine day to day when I let the sheer weight of responsibility on my shoulders be the momentum that pushes me through the day – but if I have to stop and actually acknowledge HOW OVERWHELMED and CHRONICALLY EXHAUSTED I am and HOW FUCKING INSANE IT IS TO ASSUME MOMS CAN SHOULDER THIS.

It. Is. Impossible. We will never be able to please everyone. We are not gods, so when will people learn to shut their mouths and give us a fucking break! The least you can do is just NOT PUBLICLY SHAME US WHEN YOU HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT OUR PARENTING. If you think this is all soooooooo easy I would love a month long vacation to Hawaii so you can COME ON OVER AND TRY TO DO WHAT I DO.

The sheer insanity of expecting mothers to triple our normal responsibility by expecting us to work full time, while being a perfect super mom, AND while trying to keep them on task for online school work they’re expected to do during a pandemic ALL THE WHILE swallowing the ever increasing level of stress that we aren’t allowed to talk about… I just… I just can’t.

I won’t lie at this panel. I have already brief the coordinator that I will probably cry, and it will be an ugly cry. We are all sooooo monumentally overwhelmed just please, for once, try to keep your opinions to yourself, and help the moms you know SURVIVE with their sanity INTACT. It’s the least you can do for the people who made you.

To the people who believed they are so singularly fortunate as to have been blessed with the ability to always know what is best for other people’s lives and families, why not turn that critical lens back on yourself? Why are you investing more energy into breaking moms down than you are into lifting them up? If we as a community spent half as much time praising and encouraging mothers as we do giving them advice as to how to parent differently, what would that community look like? What would that WORLD look like?

There exists no person so entirely flawless, inculpable, and perfect to maintain footing in that moral high ground without the putrid stench of hypocrisy. So… bite that tongue as hard as you have to and mind your business.

Ash Strayer

Funny, in spite of ovaries.

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