In Conversation With... Stacey Leigh
We are delighted to share an interview with Stacey Leigh. Stacey is probably the cutest adult ever!!!! She is also an advocate for positive mental health and real life body positivity. Stacey is a mother of two children, one of which has been diagnosed as being on the Autistic spectrum. Stacey candidly shares her experience as a mother of a child with additional needs alongside mothering her teenage daughter, being a wife and a woman in her own right (not necessarily in that order!).
Stacey is like a ray of sunshine on our timelines, we hope this post brightens up your day too!
Please tell us your name and what you do?
I’m Stacey Leigh, I used to work as a Social Worker and left that role to work and support women in a Women’s Refuge. When I had my youngest I decided to not go back due to my son being diagnosed with Autism. I now run Mothering Autism on Instagram which provides a support network for parents/carers of those who are pre/post a diagnosis of Autism. I also discuss a lot about Mental Health.
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have two major blessings, my oldest Reika who is now a teenager 13 and Jacob who is 4 years old.
You are an advocate for body positivity. What does body positivity mean to you beyond social media?
Everything to me. I’ve been on every diet possible, even eating soup or shakes daily instead of food. I was worried to see people I hadn’t seen in a while if I had put on any weight. My weight controlled my life and I didn’t even realise. I felt I would be more accepted if I was slim. There was a point where I would make myself sick. It all changed when my daughter asked me why I wasn’t eating dinner with her at the table. How can I teach my daughter about self love if I don’t practice it? From that day on I vowed to myself that I would work on my inside, my thoughts the way and the way I spoke to myself. Being able to accept your body is about accepting who you are flaws and all forget what society is trying to force on you.
We are socialised to believe that slim is ‘normal’ and sadly it is still common for people to be fat shamed. How did you ‘lean in’ to the vulnerability that comes with challenging deeply entrenched (bull shit) values?
Society values are just that, bull shit! I tried for years to be what society told me I needed to be, the right size, how to dress and how to act - its all bull! We are bombarded with slim models, even the plus size clothing a lot of the time is modelled by someone that isn't actually plus size. I’ve been called fat, been told if I lose weight I would be perfect! We need to start seeing more people of all sizes on TV, on adverts in newspapers, articles etc.. The World needs to understand that we are all different but until that happens keep loving you for you!
Please could you tell us why you no longer blog and vlog?
Truthfully they're many reasons, social climbing, dark side of vlogging, what it can do to your mental health is major! I like to live freely and not be controlled by trends, and numbers and for me thats what it felt like. With my son’s diagnosis of Autism I grew and the things I cared before just wasn’t important to me anymore. I didn’t relate to a lot of what people was writing about. I want to support people, I don’t want to be friends or do collabs to get more followers. This was just my take, Ive met some amazing real and raw bloggers and bloggers that I love.
Please share three Instagram accounts that make you smile and why?
Lauren from @this_girl_is_enough I love her! I can relate a lot to her childhood and the way she showers people with love and support makes me so happy!
Of course my girl Candice @candicebrathwaite one word QUEEN! Again I relate to Candice a lot, I love her rawness and straight to the point attitude and she just Slays!
And then lastly is Callie Thorpe @calliethorpe this babe is an inspiration to me, callie and Gabi @gabifresh really helped my self love journey and really played a part in me loving who I am. I love everything about them.
We love the way you challenge and increase our knowledge of autism by sharing your experiences of caring for your son. Please could you share some of the unique joys you experience due to your son’s diagnosis?
Thank you! This boy has changed our lives, he continues to bring so much joy into our lives. Before Jacob I was a different person,Jacob has taught us a whole new world we didn't know existed. Jacob’s Autism diagnosis has taught me compassion and empathy on a whole different level then I ever thought I would understand.
What has caring for a child with higher level needs taught you about yourself?
Patience, I lacked this so much I needed everything to be done now and quickly. Jacob has opened my eyes to things I took for granted, just being able for my son to say mum we waited 4 years and that made my whole World. He’s taught me acceptance and the real definition of Love without using any words. Jacob has humbled me, having a previous child who hit every milestones Autism made me so humble fighting for Jacob’s needs. Also one fit does not fit all when it comes to parenting, I’ve learnt that children with special needs sometimes needs special parenting and I know not everyone will agree with this but this is what I feel. I could go on and on so I will stop with this one, children/adults with special needs are people and their lives are just important than mine and your’s. Im so happy I was chosen to be his mum.
Do you think your experience of parenting a child on the autistic spectrum is more challenging because of your families ethnicity? If yes please tell us why?
Yes being a mix-race mum its difficult to balance appearing too strong while fighting for my sons needs but then also being deemed vulnerable enough to receive support Jacob needs. I also found it hard it hard to express how I was feeling while battling with depression and anxiety due to the stereotype of my ethnicity. I had to appear strong and just handle it. But I learnt I had to drop my ego and express and feel exactly how I was feeling.
How do you ensure that your daughter is not overshadowed by the higher level care her brother requires?
This is something we struggled with at first, but now we make sure Reika has quality time with just us when Jacob goes to bed or one of us take her to the cinema or my in-laws have Jacob over night once in a while so Reika gets the time she needs. We also speak very openly in our home and allow Reika to express how she feels.
Stacey how do you make time for yourself? We hear so much about self care it can sometimes feel like another thing on the list. How do you make sure you are looking after yourself?
To be honest its hard, peoples self care will be different to mine. My self care is once the kids are in bed I need at least 30mins to an hour alone reading a book or just watching trashy tv. I love my children to bits so love their company but just having that time for a bath or to drink tea or some rum and coke without a million things to do is so important to me and so needed. Also meeting a friend who just gets it for a coffee.
What do you and your husband/ partner do for fun?
Quality time! Our lives are so hectic we feed from each others energy so we always make sure were connected. Evenings are always our time to cook for each other, watch films or find new restaurants to eat in - so exciting right! lol But seriously we live such a simple life and we love it. Some fav things to do together is travelling, seeing different cultures, food, going on spa day’s which don’t happen often but we appreciate just us time as we give our everything to our children we need that time for each other too.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you could hardly breathe and why?
DAMN! Ok my cousin came to visit us for dinner recently and we were all outside in the garden having great conversations when I fell back on my chair, my whole dress was over my face lol honestly we did not stop laughing for a whole hour! Even the kids couldn't stop laughing lol
Thank you so much Stacey <3