Autism Mom's American Dream
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
For years, I was content with society’s norm with the structured employment system, but in November 2004, autism unexpectedly greeted me at my door. I wasn’t prepared, but what parent is ever prepared to hear the word autism in the same sentence as their child’s name? I was devastated and confused, and at that point my views of the American dream were no longer aligned with societies.
Since childhood I was given the criteria for the road map to success which started with going to college and ended with a great paying job. From there the sky was the limit. I was on target with surpassing these standards, but nowhere along my journey did anyone mention autism, a life-changing condition not just for the person who has it but for everyone in the home. Where was the map for this detour?
Initially I was in denial but quick to intervene with hopes that this diagnosis would just resolve spontaneously. Early intervention was critical, so naturally I did everything on my end to ensure my child received all the necessary resources to prevail. I strongly believed that I was the key to unlocking the mystery of my child's mind.
My son needed me. I made a drastic life-changing decision to become a stay-at-home mom because I was the most impactful person in my son’s life. However, there was only one thing holding me back. I needed an income.
The hardcore reality of my financial obligations was overwhelming, and I realized that I couldn’t abruptly stop working. Out of desperation, I did what I believe any mother would do; I tried to make a way. Resorting to selling makeup, jewelry, toys, energy plans, insurance, you name it I did it, but I never made enough to even go part time. The grueling long hours in the emergency room depleted the energy required to successfully dedicate to a home-based business which guaranteed no income.
While evaluating my life, I noticed a disturbing pattern. I was dedicating irreplaceable time and energy to places of employment, spending the most precious hours in my life traveling and working at jobs that didn’t value my presence and cared nothing about my health, my wealth, or the wellbeing of my autistic child. I hated those evenings when I left for work at 5:45 in the evening to get to work by 7:00. My children’s faces were so sad as they pulled on my coat begging me not to go, but instead to stay with them so we could have fun. This was the time when most families were preparing dinner and spending quality time with their kids. The look on their faces made me melt inside as the tears from my heart was drawn to theirs, but this was my responsibility as a single mom. I was the sole provider for my family.
The workforce was faceless and operated around the clock, fueled by policies and procedures with no recognition of emotions. There are unrealistic expectations of employees to assume their positions as orderly robots void of feelings. I loved my job, but truthfully, I was more drained from trying to stay within the acceptable boundaries of the workplace than I was from doing my actual job. On the flipside, autism had a face that appreciated me and needed me, but life caught me off guard and trapped me between a rock and a hard place. This scenario left me half-baked on the inside, meaning I just didn't feel complete.
Being a mom has always been my favorite thing to do. A job that offered no income yet reaped the most benefits. Trapped as a slave in the workplace of modern-day society left me with no escape. No one ever mentioned that this merry-go-round of life was a nonstop ride with no breaks in between. I felt cheated and caught up in a system that trained my mind to believe that there was only one method of survival, with no alternative route.
Years drifted by as time ticked away like my heart, not skipping a beat. As my children aged, my son’s window of opportunity was slowly closing. My vision to become a stay-at-home mom to assist in molding his future was fading. I was numb to society’s view of the norm because there was nothing normal about it. I wanted to help my child full time to reach his maximal potential, but society seemed to be set up for failure for single moms with special needs children. I had to choose between my family’s livelihood or rhythmically going through the motions of life, wearing a plastered-on smile in the workplace to meet the acceptable workplace standards and my personal financial needs.
Although I had the innate ability to lift the spirits in any gloomy room, and possessed many other skills with no official training, I also had a college degree and a profession that I perceived as my only opportunity to make it in life. My personal reality was slowly killing me inside. My appearance was deceiving to the countless compliments of my flawless smile. These compliments rolled off me like rain on oily skin. Some would call it insensitive, and maybe I was just that, but behind the scenes was a mountain of undetectable sadness that was tearing me apart deep from within.
Why do so many base happiness on perceived success from life accomplishments and materialistic things? The problem I have with external assumptions is the beliefs of others falsely become their truth and my misconception. I was considered to be one of the “lucky” ones who were successful. According to the views of others, I had exceeded “The American Dream,” but material things never mattered to me. Aren’t I part of society? Don’t I have any input on what my American dream should look like? My American dream was simple, and it didn’t seem like much to ask. I just wanted to be a full-time mom helping my child to overcome this disability. I began to feel like a failure. I could provide my children with all the things that cost money, but time was the one thing I could not sufficiently provide.
So many people in the world are trapped in a box of social and emotional immunity, wearing rose-colored shades; believing that all that glitters is gold; without ever taking a second glance to see if the shine is authentic or is it simply a glare from the sun. They’re sadly blinded by what stares them directly in their eyes. Some just don't get it but it's not their fault; they’re merely humans.
Although my facade was discreet, why couldn’t anyone see the tears falling behind my smile. Why didn't anyone dig deeper or ask how the game of life was affecting me? Maybe because I was always considered to be the strong one, but even the strongest people have moments of weakness. I just wanted to yell, “I’m not strong, I’m weak, and I’m falling apart inside! Somebody, please help me!” Instead, I silently prayed that someone or anyone would take a more in-depth look into my eyes which was indeed the window to my soul. My eyes screamed for attention as to say, “Look at me! Can’t you see me drowning in my tears?” I was so fragile that if anyone would have taken a moment to look the slightest bit deeper, I would have spun into an emotional frenzy and burst into tears. My smile was always to blame for misrepresenting my truth, which dismissed the emotional support I yearned for.
Could it be depression? Possibly, but I refused to claim that diagnosis. Besides, I couldn’t be depressed as a health care professional, people depended on me. Another misconception. Depression doesn’t discriminate based on one's profession, and it certainly doesn't mean incompetent, but what would people think if they found out how I was really feeling? So many people in the world battle silent depression as I believe I did.
As time crept by, one day I looked up and my son was twelve, and my daughter was ten. That’s when the real craziness began. Where did the time go? My American dream had vanished, and I was now faced with new and unfamiliar challenges that left me even more half-baked inside. Little did I know our lives would never be the same. Although autism has always been challenging, this was the point where the real journey of autism, bullying, and spiritual warfare had a stronghold on my life.
Fast-forwarding to April 2019, a time when I unexpectedly became unemployed with no income. I was forced into survival mode. I didn’t know what I was going to do but guess what; I survived. I was forced to think of creative ways to make life work for me. The only thing I did differently was changed my mindset and put all my faith and trust in God, and honestly, everything else just fell in place.
Like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, she always had the power to go home if she just believed. Before discovering the power of faith, she went through a unique yet memorable journey as I did. In hindsight, as I reflect on my unique journey, I too always had the power to change my life situation at any point along the way, even to become a stay-at-home mom. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it took a traumatic event in my life that backed me in a corner and forced me to put all my faith and trust in God. That is when I realized that I had the ability to survive and make all my dreams come true, even dreams that seemed impossible. What is impossible for man, is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
Come along on my journey and experience my emotional whirlwind in my new book, “No Cross-No Crown, A Journey Through Autism, Bullying and Spiritual Warfare.”
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5-6