Mother’s Day on the Autism Spectrum: A true story and a crazy good recipe.
By Rebecca Miller
It’s Mother’s Day. Again.
What’s your mom going to do this Mother’s Day, Brain?
The same thing moms always do, Pinky, put her needs LAST.
Yep, Mother’s Day. *sigh*
For those of us on the autism spectrum, either personally or professionally, Mother’s Day is a blend of happy/icky. Happy because we love our kids. Icky because we can’t fully participate in the Mother’s Day rituals.
You know those rituals. Mass attending, corsage wearing, fancy breakfast, pretty presents, spa pampering, mimosa sipping Mom Moments brought to you by Jared.
Instead, we do the same thing we always do, Pinky. Take care of our kids.
Our immediate family may have good intentions. We might get an invite out, some cold eggs served up, or have friends or family over, but it’s not entirely living up to the idealized ritual that has been shoved down our throat since our inception. Not participating brings on the Mom Guilt — not that we don’t have enough, but now it’s served alongside a piece of Angel Food cake complete with a strawberry compote.
Seriously. We still have to take care of our kids, and let’s face it: No one can take care of them or meet their needs as we do.
Still, we fall victim to a bit of guilt or envy, consciously or unconsciously. Mother’s Day commercials bombard us. Our grocery stores are pushing flowers and sweets at the front of the door with ads of Don’t Forget Mom! It sucks bad enough for our sisters who lost children or their own mothers, but it is a bit of a bitter pill for us ASD moms. Yeah, I’m calling this out. Not for pity, but for normalizing — it is OK to feel that pang of resentment.
Stupid massage commercials. Bite me, Jared.
Oh wait, here comes our social circle. Cue the chorus of our neurotypical mom friends (if we still have them). Just get a babysitter! Leave them with your parents! Live a little! Omigod, MIMOSAS. You NEVER DO ANYTHING FUN. Join Heather and me, Jasmine, and her sister, and maybe we can invite blah blah blah blah…tuned out, white noise now.
Good intentions. But in your mind–
We know better than to let our guard down. I know I’m not the only ASD mom who decided to live a little, and right when the appetizer was on the table, RING RING. Or if I dared have a cocktail, RING RING.
RING RING RING RING easier to keep on doing our THING.
One year, I was hoping beyond hope to be acknowledged for Mother’s Day. I had one Mother’s Day outing when my son Max was still in a carrier. After that, I was either a waitress or a massage therapist. I took care of moms by either plying them with alcohol at a casino or providing a body wrap/scrub/massage treatment that made them feel special all while holding my breath waiting for the RING RING from my 39th babysitter who couldn’t handle my kid.
Later in life, I became a nurse, and weirdly enough, I had a Mother’s Day off. I didn’t know what to do with myself. For realz. I looked at the calendar, and I had THE ENTIRE DAY OFF.
What do you do? How do you join the rest of the world?
The rituals were enticing me and confusing me. In the past, I’d celebrated my achievement by purchasing frozen waffles, fancy OJ, berries, and cream with the plan to watch my favorite movie, The Hours. This was my personal ritual because I could eat the waffles cold, share the berries, and if I was lucky, the orange juice was all mine, but never, ever had this ritual been performed on Mother’s Day itself.
Looking at the calendar, I had a fantasy. My son would acknowledge my day.
Granted, this would require an insane amount of coaching and reminding. I was a single parent, and my family had ghosted me along with any friends I had in my circle. Max was too hard, too dangerous, too much work, too loud, I wasn’t available, fill in the blank.
I was on my own, as always.
My son was around 14 years of age. Max’s memory had improved over the years. He finally could recount the events of his day at school, which was AMAZING. He could even tell me what they had for lunch. This was a HUGE deal. It provided me some hope that maybe through coaching and reminding, he would remember Mother’s Day on his own.
In the meantime, I was bombarded with Jared and friends. I saw the Infinity Diamond pendant ad, the ads for celebrating mom, the phone calls, or the surprise adult child arrival Folgers commercial B.S. Wrap my head in cellophane and shove a white stick up my bum — I’m a sucker. I fell for the sentiment. I wanted a card. I wanted breakfast.
I wanted a necklace, dammit.
Going out to eat crossed my mind, but Max was sensory sensitive, and going to a crowded restaurant was like juggling flaming swords while riding a unicycle that was on fire, so going out to eat was a hard pass. Big nope.
Warm food. Oh, warm food. What was it like?
I put it out of my mind. Warm food and silverware weren’t going to happen. I wasn’t asking for much, just an acknowledgment. Maybe a hand-drawn card? I considered enlisting his teachers but abstained. I started my sales pitch. I started with logic.
We talked about Mother’s Day and its origins. Then, I did a storyboard for him. He asked about the rationale. I discussed the tradition, and he was all about it. He got excited. I was the one person who never wavered in her love. There were times when witness protection came to mind, but my love remained. His dedication to the cause reinforced my belief that my boy loved me. I knew this deeply. No doubt at all. Never.
The night before Mother’s Day, I fell asleep with a sense of deep resolve.
The following day, I tentatively poked my head into my kitchen and emerged. Slowly, I entered to make a cup of coffee. My son breezed into the kitchen, and it was apparent that he had totally forgotten and made it a regular day. Cereal for breakfast, IPad, PS3, anything but ME.
I made my waffles and went to my room, and I cried.
Then, I made a vow to create a Sensory Friendly Mothers Day BRUNCH for moms on the spectrum.
I’d love to expound on this, but I’ll refrain. It seems self-serving, but it was a smash. I did it for two years in a row, then COVID hit, and our sponsor dried up, and to be honest, being a nurse during COVID and spending two years juggling flaming swords on a unicycle that was on fire, I really don’t have the bandwidth to try to make this a go. I might be able to next year, but here is my offering for this year.
ATTENTION AUTISM MOMS. Look, you need to recognize your day. Really. I know some of you have great days, and some of you are resonating with my post. Regardless, I want to share with you my FAVE recipe that I used at the brunch and some encouragement on how you could make your day better.
Disclaimer. This is a dish that I poached from All Recipes — it is meant to serve multiple people. Oh, and use fresh blueberries. I was the cheapo and got frozen, and it was SOGGY CITY. But I still ate it.
Bread? Cream cheese? Sugar?
Brought to you by KARAN1946. It serves ten people but did someone say bread, sugar, cream cheese? JUST ME, thanks! This recipe will also suck a couple of hours out of your life between shopping and cooking. Also, it has to sit in the fridge for at least eight hours.
- 12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 12 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 tablespoon butter
Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and syrup. Pour over the bread cube. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour over the baked french toast.
I could give you the calories but JUST EAT IT.
Do Richard Simmons later.
NOW: My low energy output super realistic recommendation.
Pickup the following: Eggo waffles, Naked OJ, berries, and yogurt in a cup or berries and Cool Whip.
Select fave movie and set it up on a DVD player or other device.
Pop in waffles. Eat when you can. Hide the OJ and berries. Plan to eat the berries in the bathroom so you can really savor them in the 30 seconds you have to yourself.
Watch a movie when you can. If you fall asleep during the film, it still counts.
Here are some additional tips on celebrating Mother’s Day as a mom on the autism spectrum.
- Make yourself an excellent breakfast. You might have to eat it cold. You might have to eat it in stages. Please, make breakfast. Put the cheese in the eggs, make the French toast, or pour a bowl of Captain Crunch. Just EAT.
- Give yourself a moment even though you know the consequence — IE: Skip the chores, the dishes, the laundry — yeah, it will be double later, but just REST a moment.
- Nap. I know — the kiddo is occupied, or maybe ASLEEP wait, what? TEMPTING to get something done….nope on a ROPE. NAP. Got an eloper? Set those alarms, girlfriend, and I know you won’t nap nap, but BREATHE. (Been there, done that).
- Make yourself a card and get yourself a gift. It sounds stupid, but who else is going to do it? Get yourself a card that says YEAH BAD A** MAMA and a gift just for you. Remember you? It doesn’t have to be Chanel — sounds goofy, but something like hand cream. A nail file. A lip balm. YOURS ONLY.
- Got support? Do something for yourself. Yeah, I know. GUILT, right? You’ll be checking your phone, feeling on edge, feeling like this is somehow felonious — NORMAL. Maybe you even forgot what to do when you are alone? GUILTY. It’s ok. Sit in your car in front of Target and be weird. Maybe you can actually go inside and walk around. Or go to a bookstore. Or maybe just…sit in your car.
- Honor yourself the best way you know how.
Being a mom is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs. It’s also seriously underpaid. We want to live to be 100 to ensure our ASD kid is cared for and a million worries run through our brains. Today, on Mother’s Day, I urge you to take a moment. Look in the mirror and breathe for a second. Don’t start judging how your eyebrows have run together or anything else. Remember the following:
- You are doing a great job.
- You do not have to feel guilty for not participating in a holiday that was created out of the blue with good intentions and inspires us to purchase cards and mimosas.
- You are doing a great job.
- I know you are sad and lonely right now because deep down, you want the eggs, a massage, some roses, gifts, a homemade ashtray, and a trip to IHOP. I dig it. I AM you. I see you.
- It’s ok to grieve this loss. Do NOT feel guilty about this.
- You are doing a great job.
You are amazing.
Happy Mother’s Day, Warrior Mom!