In our previous post we talked about perfectionism and the need to accept and forgive ourselves for making mistakes. This post will focus on how mothers specifically tend to crumble under the pressure to be everyone’s caretaker, often at their own expense, and how they can focus on their own mental and emotional health.
In Pakistan, and indeed around the world, women are told from an early age that they are meant to be the nurturers and healers of society. Many women can find it very intimidating to ask for help for fear of judgement and backlash from society. You might also be dealing with some mommy guilt, wondering if you’re a good enough mother for your autistic child. All this pressure can put women at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. An anxious mother can in turn pass her anxiety onto her children by modeling such anxious behaviour to them. It is thus paramount that women take the time out for self care; it is beneficial not only to them but also to the whole family. Below are a few helpful practices to look after your personal mental health.
1. Mindfulness: Being mindful means staying in the present moment. Instead of mentally living in the future (which causes anxiety) or living in the past (which causes depression) recognise that there is only ever this present moment. Meditating can help you stay grounded in the present reality and provide relief from obsessive overthinking.
2. Respond, don’t react: All children, and autistic children especially, need their parents to be solid pillars of strength during meltdowns and tantrums. This can of course be very challenging. A good strategy is to remember to respond to the situation, not react to it. Take a step back if it is safe to do so and ground yourself so that you can get your wits together and can de-escalate the situation instead of making it worse. Remember, your child’s behaviour is not a personal attack on you or your parenting.
3. Multitasking: Research shows that multitasking is much less efficient than focusing on one or two tasks at a time. When you have a child with a disability, it can seem like a constant rush of appointments and therapies. You might be tempted to squeeze in as many appointments as you can in a short time period, but this can lead to overwhelm for you and your child. Ask yourself if you really need to do it all right now and try your best to delegate tasks. Remember that you also have other children that need your attention, so don’t feel guilty for saying no.
4. Guilt: Remember that self care is not selfish. It is the equivalent of putting your oxygen mask on first so that you can help others. You are not useful to anybody, not even yourself, if you are exhausted and cranky. Looking after yourself is in everyone’s self interest and is the most selfless thing you can do.