One of our favorite holidays at TomboyX is just around the corner- Mother's Day. With our mission being to empower women, there is no more suitable holiday to celebrate them than Mother's Day. Over the next two weeks, we will share stories of some badass moms and learn how motherhood has shaped their lives. You can get in on the action as well. Share your story or celebrate your mom using #TomboyXMom. We may feature you during Mother's Day weekend.
Monica Sastre—artist, creator, wife and proud mother of two young boys. She is living proof love and determination can overcome anything life throws at you, including raising two children with special needs.
Tell me about your family.
I am married to my best friend, James. We met working together in Miami. We made the big move to Seattle because of our shared love for the Pacific Northwest. My mother moved here a 1.5 years ago. She is a part of the support team of our 7 and 9-year-old boys. Both have autism.
Now that she is living with us, it's a blessing and a curse. I love my mother, but no one wants to live with their mom when they are an adult. It can be cramped, but I am so appreciative of her support. The boys need a lot of structure. Kids on autism strive on routine. It is important that we all communicate clearly and that we have a high level of patience. My mother has not always had the patience for children, but I am always testing and challenging her. It has been really good.
What are some of the day to day challenges you face that most parents would not even think about?
Most tasks have to be repeated multiple times. There is no, "clean your room." I have to walk with them to their room and say "Pick this up. Now pick that up. Now pick up your clothes." There is no auto pilot button for parenting them. They need constant reminders. Even with things that seem obvious for most kids, it's not for them. They are lost in their own world. From morning to night.
Tell me about your boys.
Sebastian is my older son. He was the easy baby, but when he hit two, it was the terrible twos. The terrible twos never ended. At 4-years-old, he was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. But that is just one part of Sebastian. He is obsessed with trains and loves to draw. I share my passion for music with him. He loves the Black Keys. His favorite album is "Turn Blue" on vinyl. Yes, I'm the hipster mom who bought a record player for my children.
Dylan (named after Bob) had his own quirks, but I didn't think twice about it because of Sebastian. Doctors asked us to get Dylan tested too. His symptoms are more obvious. He has sensory issues and avoids eye contact. I keep ear plugs on me at all times. He will get overloaded and scream and get upset. You have to stay calm and wait it out. Once we started going to a special-education program, he improved quickly. He became more approachable and friendly. It is amazing. Now he is very social and friendly. He loves to tell stories.
What kind of support system have you built?
Getting a diagnosis is the golden ticket. Without it, it's difficult to get the support from schools and community. I have built a family of people. I didn't know anyone here. I have made more good friends in 5 years here than ever back home.
Tell me about your creative process.
In 1992, I started writing in my journal. I have been writing since then. I have gone through 16-18 books documenting every aspect of my life. It is a lifelong piece of art. It's important to me to remember everything. I put thought into what I am writing. What I have become most passionate about is photography. I only want to focus on my work and portraits. After art school, the family came about. One thing I was afraid of was becoming a hot mess. I started making myself my canvas, so I could feel good about myself and be creative. I could also show my children that I was a whole person. Sacrificing everything for your children does not make you a good parent.
What have you learned about yourself from motherhood?
I am good with kids. I know, that sounds vague. I was never the girl who played with baby dolls, or wanted to babysit. But as soon as the babies came out, I was in bliss. I may lose my patience sometimes, but I love being around my boys. I never expected myself to be that person. My children have taught me to be a grown up.
What do you think we as a community can do to better our society for children in the future?
I don't think we emphasize kindness enough. Kindness is lacking in our society. Instill the desire for knowledge and self improvement. Never stop growing and being better person. And music. Music across the board.