I’m a single “mom” to my nephew. He is 23 and is on the Autism spectrum. He’s been living with me full-time since 2010, and part-time prior to that since he was 7. I work full-time as an office manager for a small industrial business in Ohio where I’ve been employed for nearly 33 years. I love my job and love the people I work with, so it’s safe to say I’ll be here until retirement or the place closes! I’m an avid techie… love computers, tablets, surfing the net, graphic design, website design… anything creative. I love crafting, cooking, beauty products, and traveling!
CONNECT WITH CHRISTINE
Q. How did motherhood change you?
Christine Well, I became a mother somewhat later in life. I didn’t give birth to my nephew, but I do “mother” him. He came to live with me because after he was diagnosed with Autism, he was having a lot of difficulty in school, and he his mother was struggling to manage him and his Autism, and it just became too much. Our family was concerned that he would end up getting in with a bad crowd (he lived in the inner-city area of a large city) so after discussions with his mother, he came to live with me in the suburbs. I homeschooled him for three years until he graduated. I think him living with me changed me for the better because my entire life revolves around him. I am a much more patient person. I consider his needs before anything and have learned to take on challenges I never dreamed I would.
Q. Are you a conventional or unconventional mother?
Christine I would have to say unconventional. My nephew’s Autism dictates that we adapt to his social issues, so I’ve learned to do things with him in different ways. For example, he was struggling in school, so we got him enrolled in a cyber school where he was schooled at home via an online curriculum. So, by becoming his “teacher” not only did he receive his high school education, I received my own second high school education. He had one particular course in the history of the 1960’s, and the text book they supplied was terrible! It was all text and was very dry and boring. So, after reading through each lesson, I searched on the Discovery Education website and found hour long documentaries on each topic, so he was able to learn the information that way. Both my parents were teachers and neither one agreed with my methods, but he did very well in the class and learned the material!
Q. What is the hardest part of being a mother based on your experience?
Christine Patience! It can be amazingly frustrating at times dealing with my nephew’s Autism “quirks,” and staying patient through it all can be a real challenge.
Q. Is Motherhood different than you imagined? Is your reality better than what you imagined?
Christine Well, I never wanted to have kids of my own, so I had no preconceived ideas! LOL, I do find myself to be a very natural mother, which is rather ironic since I never wanted to be a mother at all! But his needs and were far more important, so I did what was needed.
Q. Who is your ‘mom’ role model?
Christine My mom, who I still have with me, thank goodness. And my grandmother too. We are a large, loud Italian family and I think my grandmother would be proud of the mother I’ve become. I see both my mother and my grandmother in things I do and say almost daily! Sometimes I reply to something my nephew asks, and I swear it’s something my mother said to my brothers and I any number of times!
Q. What do you do for ‘me time’?
Christine I get a fair amount of ‘me time.’ Being that my nephew is 23 years old, he is fairly self-sufficient. He doesn’t drive and can’t cook, so those two things are something that always needs to be addressed, but with a little planning, I can do just about anything. I do belong to a business organization for secretaries, and we meet every other month, so do that and have a solid circle of friends that I have dinner with regularly. I am also able to spend real quality time with my boyfriend as well. Fortunately, he’s very understanding about my nephew and has been a great role model for him as well.
Q. Share a family tradition you do with your kids.
Christine I would say it is Christmas. We gave up having a huge family dinner on Christmas day, but instead we do a huge family breakfast instead and my nephew loves it! It’s something we look forward to every year.
Q. What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as a mother?
Christine Unfortunately, I haven’t taught my nephew to support himself. If something were to happen to me, he would be completely lost. I think we’ve babied him because we felt sorry for him. I have been taking steps to teach him to be more independent and to find something to “do” with his life. He’s reluctant because he is used to being spoiled, but as he’s becoming more mature, he does understand more and is learning more.
Q. What’s the one thing you wish you could do differently as a mother?
Christine I wish I didn’t have to struggle financially as much as I do. My entire life revolves around making sure bills are paid, food is in the house, and he is taken care of. One thing being easier would be terrific.
Q. As a mother, what do you feel you miss out on the most?
Christine Honest, I don’t think I miss out on anything. We manage to work together pretty well, so he’s happy, and I’m happy. I do as much as I want outside the home, but I do find I’d rather be home with him, so I don’t think I’m not doing anything that I want to.
Q. What is one thing you wish to teach your children?
Christine Kindness and respect. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Don’t let yourself get taken advantage of, but handle situations with courtesy and diplomacy. Don’t add to the problem.
Q. What is your biggest fear as a mother?
Christine I worry all the time about what might happen to my nephew if something would happen to me. My parents are 80 years old…. They can’t take care of him, and I absolutely would not have him go back to his mother. So, my alternative is to have my younger brother take care of him. That brother is the most like me so that he would be an appropriate choice. Now, if I knew I would live until 150 years old, I wouldn’t care, but that’s obviously not realistic.
Q. What word would your kid (s) use to describe you and why?
Christine I try to be fun and light with my nephew. My nephew doesn’t consider me his mother, I’m still his aunt, but he’s very literal, so his mother is his mother, and I’m his aunt… And he’s always thought of me as a big kid too. So, I think he would describe me as fun.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give a new or expectant mother?
Christine Well, I would just say not to worry so much, everything will work out. As I said in my favorite quote: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t waste worry lines and stress on minor things. Save it for the big things.
Q. What do you wish your kid (s) knew about you?
Christine Well, I mentioned that my nephew doesn’t look at me as his mother, but I wish he would realize what a huge thing it is that I took him in as my own, especially during the home-schooling time. After working each day for 8+ hours I went home and taught him lessons for another 2-3, and I was an Avon representative at the same time, to make some extra money. It was tiring and a huge struggle, but I did it for him. My family and friends understand, of course, but he just takes living with me in stride. BUT, maybe that means I’m doing something right since he’s that comfortable? I wouldn’t change a thing, but sometimes I wish he understood the significance.
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Mona Millhorn says
I am totally in awe of Christine!! I am Christine’s Aunt, and since she has become the mother figure in Frankie’s life; things have changed for the good for him. She is fun, and always has been!!! He is very happy living with his Aunt! She has done a wonderful job creating a loving nurturing home, and it really shows. Thank goodness she was willing to put herself last, so that she could help her nephew get an education and give him a happy stable home life. She is amazing!!!