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A Message to My Fellow Moms

Mother’s Day 2020 is one we won’t forget. By now, we know things will look and feel different as with so many things in life during these long days of the pandemic. We’ll each have our story of how we muddled through the “lockdown” cooped up at home, craving our usual routines.

This will be the first Mother’s Day I am without my kids and my mom. It has been almost two months since I saw my daughter who is in supported living and my mom, who is out of state, died with no family at her side. With more time than anything else on hand, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a mom and hope that some piece of this resonates with you, my fellow moms.

I remember how excited I was when I learned, “it’s a girl!” My relationship with my mom was, as they say, a bit complicated, and I’d hoped that ours would be different. Her autism and ID diagnosis at the age of two seemed to dash those hopes, but only because I was looking at it through the narrow lens of convention and comparison. If there’s any lesson, we moms of kids with special needs learn the hard way, it’s that we need to let go of what “life was supposed to look like” and that “comparison is the thief of joy”. It only makes us feel worse.

One of the many misconceptions about those with autism is that they lack emotional connection with others. I’d hoped Carrie and I would be emotionally close - and we are. While I’ve never heard the words, “I love you mom”, all I need is to see the look in her eyes, her dimples pop when she sees me, to know in my bones that we are bonded by a fierce unconditional love that is expressed in unconventional and noncomparative ways.

Looking back, even in the many rough grooves, a foundation of faith that things would get better was forming and would be the base to which I would go back time and time again. It helped me forge ahead, yes because there is no choice really, as we like to proclaim to those who tell us that they don’t know how we do it, but also because this is what having faith means after all, doesn’t it? To believe in something you can’t quite see or grasp.

When you tell the story of Mother’s Day 2020, what will you remember? Our brain’s negativity bias (to keep us safe) will ingrain the difficult memories so we will need to consciously call to mind the flip side of the coin. It was so hard and . . .

We keep hearing about the “new normal” but what does that mean exactly? I think it means, as with all experiences in life, that we will adapt to our ever-changing environment. That’s what we humans have done for millennia. For us moms, it’s what we did when we received our child’s diagnosis. We may have experienced a range of emotions including shock, sadness, relief. Did you feel wobbly and weak, filled with questions and worries about the future? I know I did. We didn’t leap from that point to acceptance and confidence. Indeed. We took one shaky step forward and then another and another.

Because that is what we moms do. We will move forward with intelligence, courage, and love. This means first reminding ourselves of our own imperfections and need for support. In order to become strong, we must first be vulnerable. In order to build resilience, we must first experience hardship. Asking for and accepting support is a sign of humility and strength. Helping others is known to have emotional benefits for the giver as well as the receiver. We will get through this as we have so many other challenges.

Now more than ever, we need each other. There is strength in our numbers and our unwavering dedication to our families. What unites us is our shared humanity. The challenge before us is to draw on the difficulties of this experience and learn from it, to keep perspective, and find meaning.

I leave you with a “Mom’s 3Rs” and I don’t mean Reading, wRiting and ‘Rithmetic.

Remember your worth.

I too am deserving of the same care and compassion I give to others.

Reach out to others.

I’m here for you. Lean on me.

Receive graciously.

Thanks for being there. It means so much to me.

In partnership and peace,

Your fellow mom, Lynn

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