health

Fibro Friday – Parenting When Chronically Ill

Happy Fibro Friday! I hope that you all had a healthy, restful and restorative week. As I briefly mentioned in a previous post, this time of year can be difficult for fibro warriors because of the temperature changes. For that reason, as well as others, I hope you all are continuing to take good care of yourselves.

Recently, I was asked a question that I’d been asked before, but this time, I thought more carefully about my response. The question referred to how I manage being a parent as a chronically ill person. When I’d been asked this question in the past, I simply mentioned that I do the best I can, and I rely heavily on my support team. This is still true, but it’s not a full explanation of what it’s like to be a parent (and, in my case, a divorced mother that is not supported in any way by my former spouse) when your health is less than stellar on a daily basis.

To put it bluntly, my parenting experience has been tremendously frustrating and, on many days, heartbreaking. I feel frustrated with myself because I want to have more energy to do all of the things that my child enjoys. I also get angry with myself because I can’t always remember everything that needs to be done, so I end up having to scramble to take care of the things that I need to do for her. I’ve cried countless times over how overwhelming this entire experience has been, and how I could be a much better mother if I simply wasn’t so sleepy, or achy, or forgetful, or overwhelmed. There are a lot of moments that leave me feeling like a failure.

I have to constantly remind myself that I’m doing the best that I can, and I don’t believe myself 75% of the time, because my “best” isn’t as good as it could be if my health was better. Many days, I check in with my support system (family and friends) who assure me that I’m doing a good job. But, I still don’t believe it. It’s hard to believe these things when comparing yourself to others who have demanding schedules yet still seem to always have the time and energy that their children require.

It’s key to remember that comparison is the thief of joy. So when the comparisons come to mind, I try to remember what I’m doing right. On many days, the list is disappointingly brief. Sometimes, the only thing I may have done right during a day is give a hug in the morning. But even that is worth noting. I communicate with my child and ask plainly what I should improve to become a better mom, but “nothing” is always the answer I receive.

I’m already a better mom, even when I don’t feel like I am.

I took some time to recall how my own mother suffered from chronic migraines while I was growing up, and even when I couldn’t talk to her (during those moments when she needed to lay down in a quiet, dark, cool room until she felt better), I never thought that she was failing at being a parent. I always knew that she loved me, regardless of how unavailable she was when she was unwell. So during those times when I can’t believe myself, I choose to believe my child, and I also choose to believe my younger self, who never felt that her mom was a failure simply because she was sick.

So to answer the question, parenting as a chronically ill person is the worst thing I could ever have experienced. It’s also one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had, and it forced me to appreciate those moments when I get it right. It’s a difficult path but it’s been amazing for me to learn that the role of parent isn’t about metrics or checking off all of the tasks on a to-do list. Sometimes, it’s just a hug, or texting a funny GIF, or putting on a song and dancing together (before the exhaustion takes over). It’s showing your child how to do a chore for themselves, or allowing your child to help you with the things that you have to do around the home so that you have help and good company. It’s not about doing all of the things, but how you do the things.

It’s complicated, but it’s my life. And my only choice is to work with it as best as I can, just as I’ve done with everything else I’ve experienced this life.

That’s it for today. If this post wasn’t as informative or cheery as my Fibro Friday posts usually are, just be assured that I’ll be back to the normal scheduled topics next week. But this was on my mind, and I felt like I needed to share it. Also, I hope that this post can offer a little encouragement to the other fibro parents out there, that are trying to convince themselves that they are doing a good job. You are, even when you don’t feel like it.

Take care, and have a great weekend.

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