As an adult on the spectrum, I have often struggled with handling transitions or a sudden step up in responsibility at various points in life. My biggest challenge was in handling a transition to parenthood. While things were rosy and going smoothly in married life, everything changed for me when I became a parent of a newborn. On one level, I was happy at becoming a dad, but on another, I was unconsciously consumed by anxiety and insecurity, and this played a part in making the quality-of-life experience poor for myself and people around me. To be specific, the anxiety drove me towards seeking familiarity at all costs, sometimes forgetting the needs of people around me and losing situational awareness. For example, all through the period of 3 months or so before our child was born, we needed to prepare the home, take care of finances, and shop for the right things in preparation for a newborn’s arrival. But I was so overwhelmed with so many thoughts crossing my mind, that it was hard to focus on practical things which needed to actually get done. The consequence of this was lack of action on any front and going into paralysis mode. I stuck to doing things I already knew how to get done, which were doable in autopilot mode with ease.
On top of that, my lack of efficiency in picking up new skills in childcare quickly enough, difficulty offering emotional support to my spouse, inflexible thinking and challenges managing my own emotions/impulses better played a big role in diluting the quality of my experience. Growing up, I paid less attention to external surroundings around me, and my attention has primarily been focused within myself. This makes it hard to think quickly on my feet to come up with creative solutions when faced with various daily crises with a newborn. A crisis could be a baby having a fever or a tantrum, which needs tending. Many times I react to a crisis by freezing and just staring blank with no action, or dropping something I am holding. In addition, I have a need to drift into my own dream world now and then and mentally switch off at times, which is almost impossible to do when being a new parent.
After a lot of introspection later in life, I realized that I must be more aware of planning for transitions ahead of time before they arrive. For me, transition planning for parenthood involved talking to a trusted person openly about my insecurities and worries upfront, taking some baby steps with starting various tasks I perceived as outside of my comfort zone, being open to failure more, and visualizing what success looks like for me by writing the desired outcome explicitly. For instance, a task outside my comfort zone included setting up a baby crib, as my mechanical skills are not that good. I handled it by being open about it and partnering with others to get it done. I also learned to communicate more openly about my challenges upfront rather than masking it with family and friends. I also added some breaks throughout my day, which involved deep breathing sessions, outdoor walks, a drive to finish some shopping, or just listening to some good music.
In addition, I have noticed that managing the quality of sleep is important for a new parent. For me, there seems to be some correlation between the ability to transition gradually between sleep to wakefulness (instead of abrupt transitions) and the ability to transition well between one way of living to another in daily life. When I fall asleep, I do a specific practice of self-inquiry accompanied by deep breathing that I learned from a spiritual teacher, which helps me declutter my mind and start my next day with increased levels of executive functioning to handle my challenges and responsibilities much better.
All of these techniques have worked well in my journey towards becoming a happy parent now.