Moms with Chronic IllnessEditor’s Note:  This post was written by Tiffany from Mommy Methodology.  To find out more about Tiffany, please visit her website here and her contributor page here at Our Small Hours.  Be sure to follow Mommy Methodology on social media:  Facebook, G+ and Pinterest.

3 Essential Skills for Moms With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness affects tens of millions of Americans, many of whom are moms.  I am one such mom.  Perhaps you are too.  It’s good to recognize we are not alone, that we are still good parents.  That’s right!  Our parenting strategies may differ from the norm, but we need to release ourselves from the guilt that tells us we aren’t successful.  We can positively simplify with 3 essential skills and happily succeed as moms with chronic illness.

I consider myself a veteran warrior of chronic illness.  I battled chronic illness for seventeen years before getting pregnant with my first child.  I learned to navigate through the pain, the fatigue, and function within my new normal.  Parenting with chronic illness is a whole new universe and I had to learn new navigational skills.  In the process, I discovered these new skills make me a better mom.

Put Your Health First

When we fly the friendly blue skies, we hear the flight attendant order, “In the event of an emergency and the oxygen masks release, place the mask over your own face first before the face of your child.”  This direction seems counter-intuitive.  We as parents want to protect our children at all costs.  Their well-being comes first, before our own.  However, logic dictates that in the event of such an aviation emergency if we don’t give ourselves oxygen first we will pass out, then we aren’t in a position to care for our child.  We recognize the importance of following the flight attendant’s direction.

That direction applies in other areas of our life as well.  It’s true that we need to give our children a sense of normal, this may at times require parenting through a degree of pain or fatigue, but we also recognize that if we don’t give ourselves the care we need, we can’t give our children the care they need.

To parent in harmony with caring for yourself first, you’ll need to accept that reality is different from what you anticipated.  On days when you are relatively symptom free, you’ll do well to limit yourself to prevent a debilitating flare-up.  Learn to simplify routines on a daily basis so that you can operate below maximum energy reserves.  In periods of flare, you’ll need to learn flexibility, to adjust how you accomplish tasks.  Have a bare bones routine on stand-by to implement during such times.  Is this frustrating? Beyond a doubt, yes!  Just remember, your parenting skills will suffer if you don’t monitor yourself.

 Real world application:

  • Let everyone stay in their pajamas if you don’t have to leave the house.
  • Make daily naps or quiet time mandatory.
  • Clean every other week. Alternately, clean one floor or section each week.
  • An unmade bed is not a health hazard; consider an unmade made whenever possible.
  • Use the shopping service at your grocery store so you only have to pick up groceries.
  • Familiarize yourself with online shopping.
  • Use gates at home, and strollers on the go to safely contain activity of little ones.

This video as seen on mollysfund.org hit home with me.  It shows two young mom’s, Nicole and Jaime talk about parenting with lupus.  It helps to clarify in a heartfelt way the daily struggle, frustration, and fear experienced when parenting with chronic illness.  You’ll also see the tools they implement to succeed each day. 

Communicate Honestly About Your Health

Communication is paramount.  Communicate with yourself. Be honest with yourself about the state of your health on any given day and what you’re capable of accomplishing.  Communicate with your loved ones. Tell them how you’re feeling in an age appropriate way.

Caution is in order here not to inadvertently place a burden of expectation on your child. If your child is 3 years or under, your presence along with their needs being met is sufficient. For a child between 4-6 years old, there is an awareness of how you feel, but not necessarily the maturity to understand the impact.  They may need reassurance that while your illness limits your activity, it doesn’t limit how much you love them.

For an older child, you’ll want to empower them with knowledge about your limitations.  As long as the knowledge doesn’t overwhelm them or give them anxiety about your health, it can actually allow them to let go of resentment they may place on you.  Aside from age appropriate chores, don’t place too much responsibility on their young shoulders.  Your child should remain just that, they are not the caregiver.

Real world application:

  • Before getting out of bed each day, determine which tasks you feel you can accomplish.
  • Tell your child how you feel and focus on what you CAN do with them rather than what you can’t.
  • Teach your child age appropriate chores.
  • Let your child do small acts of kindness for you like make a card, draw a picture, give you a pillow or blanket.
  • Have another adult on speed dial that can help you if needed rather than relying on your child.

Embrace Guiltless Fun

Mom guilt is universal.  If you’re a mom with chronic illness that guilt magnifies.  Your life is all about daily re-calibration and hoping your child doesn’t suffer the consequences.  Take it from me, our kids love us even if we need to rest more!  Our kids need us, even if we move more slowly!

Pace yourself and enjoy the moments.  Life is all about the moments and when illness forces you to slow down, you can actually enjoy the moments.  Learn to pace yourself and take advantage of the moments — guilt free.  Because in the process, you aren’t rushing your child through the day, the week, the month, the year, their childhood.  By pacing yourself you actually let them experience the wonderment of childhood.

In fact, my children seem to appreciate how my tolerance level increases as my energy wanes.  I’m less likely to sweat the small stuff. The result is they’re less likely to hear nagging for pulling the pillows off the couch and throwing them across the living room into the cat food bowl!

Real world application:

If you’re a mom facing the challenge of parenting with chronic illness, know that your challenges can affect your child for good. How?  You can teach them empathy, kindness, patience, honest communication, humor in adversity, how to value people over objects, all on a level they may not learn otherwise.  Remember, if we positively simplify with these 3 essential skills: putting our health first, honestly communicating, and having fun without guilt, then we can happily succeed as a mom with chronic illness!

Help for Moms with Chronic Illness