What autism moms mean when they say, ‘I’m tired’

What autism moms really mean when they say, 'I'm tired!'

Every human being knows what it means to be tired. Life is hard, work is taxing, parenting is exhausting. We all get what it means to be tired on some level. But, when an autism mom says she’s “tired,” there’s a whole lot more to it — and few people understand that whole lot more. Let me try to explain it…


What, “I’m tired!” really means for autism moms

I’m an autism mom.

I’m tired.

I mean, I’m scraping-at-the-bottom-depths-of-the-center-of-the-earth tired.

I’m often-visiting-crazy-town tired.

I’m feeling-like-I-can’t-go-on tired.

You see, for autism moms, “tired” encompasses a whole lot more than feeling like you need to sleep. It’s a never-ending stint in exhaustion. Full-body, full-emotion, full-soul exhaustion. It can affect every fiber of our being.



Why are we so tired?

  1. To be an autism mom means to be on call 24/7/365. Kids with autism need more from their parents.
  2. To be an autism mom means a lot of calls, emails, and notes home from school to field and troubleshoot.
  3. To be an autism mom means hours upon hours of school meetings, often as the one and only person truly looking out for your child’s best interests in a room full of opponents — like playing tug of war and everyone is on the other side of the rope, except you.
  4. To be an autism mom means laying in bed at night, every night, worrying about your child’s future.
  5. To be an autism mom means trying to reconcile the world’s expectations of your child with their actual capabilities.
  6. To be an autism mom means accepting a never-ending quest, a burning compulsion, to find that thing that might make life a little easier for your child.
  7. To be an autism mom means often feeling overwhelmed with sadness that your child is burdened with these struggles.
  8. To be an autism mom is to live every moment under tactical alert, waiting for the next emergency, waiting for the next shoe (in a never-ending supply of shoes) to drop.
  9. To be an autism mom is to work hard and diligently to craft moments of joy, success, and celebration.
  10. To be an autism mom is to truly love unconditionally, with your whole heart and the whole of your being.

Are there good times in life parenting a child with autism? Of course! Ab-so-friggin-loutely! There’s lots of joy in raising a child with autism… but there’s also a never-ending, underlying exhaustion. An exhaustion few people know, unless they’re an autism mom, too.

Share your thoughts.

  • Yes to everything you wrote! I am so tired and most people cannot understand. Thank you for writing this.

  • Yes! Exactly. I liken it to the chronic fatigue I live with due to fibromyalgia. It IS exhausting being an autism mom/grandma and the worst part is when you are so utterly tired…and you lay down only to be met with insomnia.
    Thank you for sharing with everyone that has no idea.

  • Wow so true! Thankful to have an amazing hubby and sure this is true for an autism dad too!

  • I think there’s a higher chance to develop your own anxiety and depression in an unpredictable environment with “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Feeling like you did the wrong thing or made a wrong choice when the shoe does drop. Grief that you cannot make everything better or save your children. All of those feelings can come with being a tired autism mom.

  • This article was nice.Its good to know there’s moms out here who understand. To be honest I’m at my wits end. It so hard for me as a single mom with two jobs and an autistic 11year old. Especially when I am sick right now I have a cold and my voice is going out and trying to explain homework to my kid when I can barely speak is just really awful. I’m so angry right now and T I R E D I could cry. I just want to quit I’m tired of being a mom. I need a break from all the work, demands , cleaning, appointments, paperwork, homework, meetings, phone calls,…..ugh????

    • Take the break you need! I am just getting over 4 weeks of illness myself. This week I just wiped out most of my work calendar, postponed appointments and rested. I finally realized it was the only way I was going to get well again. You have to find the balance between doing enough and not doing so much that it does more harm than good. And, if you can hire anything out (like cleaning your house a couple times a month), do it. You can’t give to your kids and be the mom you want to be if your cup is empty.

  • Sitting up with a child who might have autism but your too afraid to find out for sure because you would lose hope that she may never outgrow her odd behaviors.

  • I am the great grandma of a 9 year old boy who has autism and I’m tired so I know how his Mom feels. We are a four generation household, so we are all involved in his care. Yes it is a 24/7/365 job. There are good days, great days and totally melt down days. Everything in this article is 100% right. Those in the outside world need to be more compassionate to these families that have the challenge of parenting theses sweet kids. Everyone involved in his life have to be on the same page so he can succeed in life. That doesn’t work all the time but his Mom stays one top of it. God bless these Mamas.????????

    • As an autism mom your always on edge even if your child is asleep you can still hear the random sounds and outburst they have made during the day we love them but its very exhausting

  • Thank you for this. My daughter is now 20 and it’s as if people somehow expect her to ‘outgrow’ her high-functioning (and often not so high functioning) autism. I find the challenges now to be greater than when she was younger and somewhat protected by her school system. The world can often be so cruel to her.

  • I feel “tired” all the time…relentlessly. I am a divorced mom of two children with autism, and my ex-husband is not at all involved in their lives. Some days are so hard that I just feel like giving up. I sometimes ask God why this had to be our lives, and the prospect of an Un certain future just adds to the stress.

    • Hi Leslie, I’m so sorry that you’re so deep in the muck right now. When days are hard I make sure to find a few minutes to myself and I practice gratitude — just noting one thing I’m thankful for that day. Research shows that circle back to the positive and what is good helps us mentally and emotionally deal with the hard stuff.

  • This made me cry for many reasons….1 because its all true and it feels good knowing I’m not the only autistic mom who feels this way but also, because the hardestart I have with being an autistic mom is the World around us don’t understand, even family, I feel like everyone always looks at him like he’s “weird” and thinks I’m not being a parent. They don’t understand they learn different than us, they have outburst, getting out of routine is not easy for them, and they have their quirks, like my son is obsessed with signs, especially stop signs. I feel like everyone is always trying to avoid him and my heart breaks… He’s only 4 and it makes me sad thinking he might go his whole life with people trying to avoid him or make fun of him. If they would educate themselves and really get to know the person, they are simple amazing and extremely smart!

    • I cried too. You are not alone. My family doesn’t understand either. My mom used to think I should spank him but I always knew in my heart that it wasn’t right. SO glad I didn’t take her advice. Please know that you are not alone. Sending you lots of love.

  • hmm.. I read this and quickly discovered it’s not about autistic moms. This wasn’t helpful but I can see that a neurotypical person would think a mom of an autistic child suffers lol. Try being autistic.

  • It’s not just autism mom. I’m an autism dad, and I have twins that are nonverbal and well, just a train wreck of undirected energy expenditure. Few understand. And I’m doing it alone. No help from their mother. No child support. Minimal physical assistance from state-funded respite programs. It did not used to be like this. There used to be more support available. I know, I was one of the people hired to provide that kind of support. You’re right, but it’s not just moms

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I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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