The debate on mothers “having it all” continues. This is just one more example of a controversy where, as the mother of a son with autism, I feel I must watch from the sidelines.

To mothers raising children with special needs, especially those who are single moms like me, it seems to be a superfluous argument at best, and a ridiculous one at worst.

When your child has serious difficulties in life, you are forced to confront reality in ways that others aren’t. Some women talk about “the glass ceiling” holding them back, and I am sure it exists. But I’m fighting the autism ceiling, and from where I sit (usually in a waiting room, working on my laptop), it seems obvious that I will never be compensated financially or professionally for the thousands of hours I’ve spent over the last decade taking my son to treatments that have helped him communicate better. Would I be in a different and better place in my career if I had not taken this time to do what was best for him? Yes, certainly. Am I shedding tears over it? No. First of all, I don’t have time. Secondly, that’s how it goes. I feel lucky every day that my son gets therapy that helps him (and that he enjoys). Not every parent of a child with autism can say that. I’ve invested in him rather than in my career. The rewards I’ve gotten are that I’ve seen his life become easier. He can express himself much better now, and learn more.

From my vantage point in the waiting room, it seems obvious that those who take time off from their careers, for any reason, will not advance as quickly as those who don’t. Is that ideal? No, but it’s not an ideal world. If it were, there would be more effective treatments for autism available by now, and they would be cheaper. There would be government-subsidized respite care for all families who need it. The numbers of children diagnosed with autism would be going down, not up. And parents would not have to spend every remaining ounce of energy and sanity fighting bureaucracies to get appropriate care for their children.

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