This fellow autism mom and Instagram friend is someone I met through social media when I was advertising my book on a neighborhood website, Nextdoor. She was interested in purchasing my first book, Trey the Chef, to build her son’s book collection. She was so gracious and sweet that we quickly built a friendship and stayed in touch. She has supported me with my business in ways some of my friends/family have not and for that I am appreciative. I am equally happy for her to see that her business, NotMad. Motivated is flourishing and that she has recently added a newsletter to send to her customers. I know she inspires me so I wanted to interview her so that she can be an inspiration to others.
1) I know you have your own online business, “Not Mad. Motivated.”
a. What inspired you to come up with the idea for this company?
I started saying “I ain’t mad. I’m motivated.” many years before I started the company. The phrase was born out of the need for me to see pass my circumstances. I was in an abusive relationship and I did not know how to leave it. My fears kept me “paralyzed” but my faith kept me determined. “Not mad; motivated. was my way of saying that I won’t give up. It was my way of saying that I refuse to let my current situations control what my future will hold.
From the very first time that I said the phrase, I wanted to build a business from it; I believed that many people would be able to relate. However, it was not until my youngest son was diagnosed with autism, in 2017, that I actually took steps to do so. I wasn’t surprised by his diagnosis but it still affected me mentally and emotionally. I started losing my passion for my full-time (paid) work as a Statistical Programmer. My work can be very demanding, especially when there are approaching deadlines. I knew that I did not want my time dictated by a career that was no longer fulfilling. I knew that my three sons, especially my autistic son, needed and deserved more of my time and attention. I started Not Mad. Motivated., LLC to 1) build an income stream that would eventually allow me to increase the time I can spend with my family, 2) spread a message of hope, regardless of circumstances, and 3) establish methods to create more supportive communities and bridge them together.
b. How do you balance being a business owner and a mom?
Overall, work-life balance is something that I work on daily. My business has taken the backseat several times in the last 2-3 years because it has to compete with not only my family life but also my career. This year, my goal is to plan better and get my children to do the same. I truly believe that planning is essential to maximize my day, week, and month. When I think about it, I am expected to work 8 hours per day, Monday through Friday. If I actually slept the recommended 8 hours per night, I would be left with 8 hours to do everything else. That is a huge expectation!
I have opportunities to create better balance by planning weekly meals with my sons. This allows me to save time during the week by not worrying about “what’s for dinner?” every day. It also allows me to spend time with my sons while teaching them the value of planning. Another opportunity to create balance is making sure that my sons are being responsible for their chores. When they are completing their tasks, they give me time to finish my work tasks. Instead of me working and still having housework to complete, the tasks can be done simultaneously, giving us space for more quality time.
2) What are your lessons learned being an autism mom?
One of my biggest lessons from having an autistic child to “celebrate often”. This will be a recurring theme in my blog as I feel that it is important to find, even the smallest, moments to celebrate. There are many hard times with my son; sometimes several in a day. So, finding moments to celebrate makes the harder times a little easier. I also try to keep my “Not Mad. Motivated” mindset when dealing with those hard times. What lessons can I learn from this difficult moment? These lessons, in themselves, are reasons to celebrate.
3) I think self-care is important in being a mom, especially a mom of an autistic child. What do you do to practice self-care?
Having a cup of hot tea with my feet up after my sons have gone to bed is a regular for me. It is a small act but it gives me time to breathe and relax.
A few times a year, I take a day off of work while my sons are in school. That way I get about 6 hours of me time! I might take myself out to a movie, a nice lunch, or I might take a much-needed nap. I would also consider prayer a form of self-care; It may sound unusual, but it makes sense to me. I do plan to practice more self-care in the future.
4) What sensory issues does your son have, if any? How do you help manage his sensory issues?
My son always wants something string-like to manipulate with his fingers. It doesn’t seem too terrible but if he is ‘desperate’ to get his hands on something he will resort to using random hair. It is also a habit that keeps him distracted from paying attention as much as he could. To help manage, I try to redirect him. I might grab a favorite toy or play some of his favorite music. It is hard for him to resist the Gigglebellies!
He also has a thing with licking his hands. I am not sure if he is seeking oral stimulation or if it is an act that satisfies a need for his hands. To help manage, I remind him to not lick his hands and I will lotion up his hands in case they feel dry.
He seems to enjoy loud sounds and he loves tight hugs and jumping.
5) It has been said that when having an autistic child, it is important to have ‘dates’ and spend quality time alone with your neurotypical child/children so they don’t feel neglected. Have you tried this with your sons? Do you have a hard time balancing the time evenly between all your children?
Balancing time between my children has been difficult. My middle son (age 9) was only 19 months old when my youngest son was born, so he did not have a lot of time to be the baby. He is the one that I have the most concerns about as far as attention. He loves history. One thing that I do to spend quality time with him is to watch some of his history shows with him. To be honest, I have learned a lot just hanging out with him.
I do try to spend one on one time, but I need to do a better job at building the time into my daily schedule. You know, treat it like a meeting that I can’t miss. As a matter of fact, I am adding alarms to my phone right now for dedicated time for them, even if it is just five minutes.
6) How involved are you in the autism community? How do you give back to those families impacted by autism?
It is hard for me to measure my own involvement in the autism community because I know that I want to be more involved.
One thing that I like to do is to buy books by autistic authors. I feel like it is important to “hear” their voices and support their talents, creativity, and desire to support themselves. I like to “double down” on support by gifting some of these books to my son’s classroom. I feel like autistic authors can serve as examples to the younger generations and I love the idea of the book being a bridge between them.
I also like to buy books written by parents of autistic children, because us parents have to support one another! I am actually in the process of starting a Facebook group called “Creative Parents of Autistic Children”. My goal is to have a place where parents can showcase and promote their works of art (written, visual, crafting, etc.) that they create as a stress-relief hobby or as a business to supplement their income.
As far as my son’s classroom, I heavily promoted and donated to Donor Choose projects to help get much needed tools and materials. I also helped his class extend the number of specials that they had in school. Previously, they only had physical education but I asked about them having music as a special. Then, they started going to art and outdoor education.
7) What is your opinion on the vaccination-related injury debate about the possible link between certain vaccinations and autism?
This is a hard one. My son’s autism is thought to be a symptom of a rare disease called PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome, which was determined through genetic testing. He has a gene that is coded incorrectly to STOP the production of Arginine (an amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins). Having this knowledge made me believe that his autism was present before his birth. However, I do understand that there are events that can change a person’s DNA. Maybe his PTEN gene was damaged after getting vaccinated. Or maybe it was damaged before he was born. I really don’t know. There could be a possible link but I don’t know enough of the science to be certain of it.
Side note: You can read about PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome here.
Macrocephaly (large head size) is found in 94% of measured patients with PHTS and can be a helpful screening tool to identify patients for PTEN testing. In most patients, large head size is caused by overgrowth of brain tissue. The head shape also tends to be longer than wide (dolicocephaly).
Autism and other developmental disorders, such as intellectual disability and developmental delays, have been observed in patients with PHTS. In previous case series, up to 17% of children presenting with macrocephaly and an autism spectrum disorder alone were found to have an underlying PTEN mutation.
8) If you could accomplish everything you set out to accomplish, what do you want to be your legacy?
I want my legacy to be one of empowerment, compassion, and support through faith.
I want to make the Not Mad Motivated mindset contagious. I want people to know that they are not powerless despite the circumstances that they find themselves in “today”. When people achieve their dreams, I want them to have compassion for the next person who hasn’t even started dreaming. When we can encompass our lives in faith, we know that our success is not threatened by the success of others. That’s how we begin building communities of support.
To check out more on her company, please visit NotMad.Motivated so that you can view her blogs and merchandise.
In addition, since we are talking about legacy, let’s consider what legacy we all are leaving behind in the wake of the tragedy of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the other passengers of that helicopter that crashed on January 26th. Time is not promised to us so if there is something we want to do; we need to act like there is no tomorrow. I have had some close calls with death, which leads me to believe that I need to live a fuller life and really take more risks to accomplish my goals. I can’t wait on tomorrow or next year or the next decade to “take this bull by the horns.” I need to seize the moment and really put my energy into building my platform in order to help the most vulnerable; children. I encourage all of you to discover the passions inside of you so that you can make the next move. I will leave you with an inspiring quote from Kobe: The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.”
That’s the plan Kobe, that’s the plan…