‘The world wants to tell me who to be, but I won’t stay quiet anymore.’: Autistic mom of autistic kids talks identity

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“I don’t know that many fully understand how complicated it is to be both a parent to Autistic children…and Autistic myself.

selfie of a mom with autism
Courtesy of Tiffany Hammond

It’s a complex existence. This constant push and pull to be one more than the other. This need to shelve parts of yourself because the responsibility to care for another human falls squarely on your shoulders.

This requires that you must shield who you are for fear that one day the custody of your children may be in jeopardy because of this diagnosis.

You don’t fully fit with other parents. And you don’t fully fit with Autistic persons either. Neither can fully understand your experience. Both right and wrong at the same time.

You understand parents in a way those without children to care for never could. You understand being Autistic more than those who are not ever could.

But yet this community won’t allow you to be both. You cannot be both. You have to lean into one part of yourself or another. If you have perspectives that appear to favor the parent in you then that must mean you side with your parents. If you favor more nuanced discussions when it comes to the services and options offered to your children, then yup…you favor the parents.

moms selfie with her child
Courtesy of Tiffany Hammond

If you feel as though parents share too much and co-opt the identity of their children, then parents don’t want much to do with you…because now, ‘You don’t understand.’

Push. Pull. Take this side. No, that side. It’s wild how being in the middle can make you see things more clearly. How the arguments held by both these groups make little sense and yield very few results.

Don’t let these hashtags fool you. I’m not an Autism Mom/Parent. I’m not actually Autistic. I carry no banners. I occupy no sides. I don’t talk about symbols or push for ‘proper’ identifiers. All the feelings I have about ABA can’t be boiled down to three words…

I am a mother who happens to be Autistic, trying to navigate a world that wants to tell me who to be and that version of myself they have assigned to my person they attempt to beat into submission while simultaneously cutting me off from the rest of the world.

Who I am as both a mother and an Autistic matter. I will not demonize parents because I am one. I know the struggles they face. I will not demonize Autistic persons because I am one. I know the struggles they face.

I suck at being fragmented parts of myself, but it’s necessary for certain instances to shelve one part of who I am as a matter of survival and safety. But outside of that. I push for the acceptance of all that I am, whole. My experiences are valid.

I am building what I don’t see, and that is a space for those who live in the gray to feel safe, loved, cared for, and to cultivate a community that will fight for others and inspires others to do the same. I don’t often subscribe to groupthink. I won’t use hefty numbers to push efforts that leave so many out. I won’t bully another into silence because I have the weight of a million like-minded voices at my back.

I am marginalized within a marginalized group. I live a life that is governed by the majority; I’m not willing to allow my advocacy efforts to be run the same way. If I have to take on everyone by myself, then I will take on everyone, by myself, period.

But I am not really by myself…there’s a growing number of individuals who are not willing to be quiet anymore. A growing number of voices are finding their megaphones.

Once you realize that who you are, the whole isn’t rational nor up for debate or ridicule by another, you’ll notice that you feel freer in the positions you hold. You didn’t gain new perspectives. They were already there, you just didn’t allow yourself to sit deeply with them because you were trying to exist as separate parts of yourself within a broken community that’s hellbent on telling you who to be and what to feel.

You’ll realize you had voices all along, and I am just here to remind you of that fact.

And then sit back and watch the beauty and power of your blossom.

[Note: the first part of this is addressing the complexities of being both parent and Autistic. The rest can be applied to all those with multiple marginalized identities.]”

moms selfie with her child
Courtesy of Tiffany Hammond

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tiffany Hammond from Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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