I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t expect parenting to be easy, but I also didn’t think I was going to be doing it with a chronic illness. I was pregnant with my second when I was diagnosed with Budd Chiari Syndrome and my older son had just turned three. I noticed the easy things starting to get harder. I spent more days in bed. My energy levels plummeted right along with my appetite and I started questioning my ability to be a mom. How was I going to keep up now?
Parenting with a chronic illness in a way, is just like parenting without one. The goal is the same. Make sure everyone is healthy and happy. But now do it with both feet stuck in concrete, one hand tied behind your back. That might be a little over the top but some days it really does feel like you are giving 110-percent and the world is just out to get you. I wish I could say it didn’t have to be that hard or that there’s a magic fix because not much is easy about parenting to begin with. However, there are a few things I’ve learned that can help take some of the pressure off. Check it out…
Menu Planning and Meal Prep
A lot of people these days have turned to meal prep, mostly as a way to manage healthy eating habits and sometimes as a way to budget. For me, it’s been a saving grace. As a mom, it can be hard to feed and please so many different people. Add a chronic illness into the mix that makes you sick to your stomach, and it’s even worse!
I suggest taking a few days to plan a menu for the following week. Prep ahead as much as you can as this will help cut down on the time spent on your feet in the kitchen.
Practice Self Care
You can’t take care of anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first. Most moms struggle with this a lot, but it is important to take time for yourself. You can do things like read a book, soak in a hot bath, or just go out on a solo shopping trip. Another easy thing to do would be to set aside some time every day to meditate or indulge in a “self care Sunday” routine. Whatever it is, choose something that makes you happy and will help you relax because self care is so important.
Just Show Up
Our children love us just the way we are. Sometimes we forget this. The day I took my boys to the pool and got in the water too was the day I realized, I was the only one who cared what I looked like in a bathing suit. They just cared that I was swimming WITH them. Your presence is a present no one else can give them.
People who struggle with a chronic illness often don’t feel like themselves or at least not their best selves. This is a daily struggle and can sometimes stop us from taking part in our own life. Don’t let that happen! The best thing you can do for your kids is to just show up.
Talk to Your Kids
It’s important to have an open line of communication with your kids. It’s okay to tell them that you’re having a rough day and that mommy isn’t feeling her best today. This will help them understand why they might not be getting 100-percent from your or why you’re having a more low key day. It also teaches them a lesson early on that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s even more so open to be honest about that.
When it comes to having a chronic illness, trust me, there will be days where you just have to say no or not today, even if you don’t want to. Give them a chance to understand why. Let them know that if they have questions, they can ask them. That transparency goes a long way!
Order Your Groceries Online
Most people dread going to the grocery store because it’s just one of the tedious tasks that we all have to do on a weekly basis, but nobody really wants to. It’s exhausting, there’s long lines, and not to mention the crowds of people on the weekends. When you’re a mom with a chronic illness, you have even less time to head to the grocery store. One of the biggest saving graces lately is curbside pick up or delivery.
Shopping online from the comfort of your own home is so much more ideal. It gives you time to think about what to order, plus every time you do it, the process gets a little easier as you can reorder previously ordered items. If you can have it delivered it’s an even better time saver!
Always Have a Back Up Plan
You can be the world’s most organized mother and have the whole day (heck the whole week) planned out to a tee and then bam! You’re suffering from a painful flare up. Everything falls apart. Chronic illness doesn’t fit perfectly into those plans so it’s necessary to always have a back up, just in case. It might not happen often, but it’s good to always have someone that you can rely on to help when needed.
For example, have a neighbor who can take the kids to school or walk them to the bus stop. Maybe a friend or family member who can pick them up from school and watch them for an hour? Keep meals in the freezer for those times when you need a quick meal in a pinch and always have activities on hand that the kids can do if you’re not feeling up to taking them anywhere.
Ask and Accept Help
A lot of us are bad at asking for help, even myself. My friends and family will attest to this! Even if I don’t always accept their help, knowing that they are there is such a weight off my shoulders. When they ask if you need help with something, remember that they didn’t have to ask. They want to help. If you need it, just say yes. There’s no shame in asking for help or accepting help from others. It will not only benefit you, but it benefits your kids as well!
Contain the Craziness
Let’s face it — every house has some craziness. When I had young boys, one of the tricks I used to keep things contained and under control on days when I wasn’t feeling myself was to contain the craziness in one room. If I needed to lay down we were in my room and I would bring the boys to me or we would camp out in their room. This way everyone was together and it was easier to keep an eye on them. This way you aren’t having to chase kids all over the house and if you’re feeling unwell you can rest while they play.
A little goes a long way. This one is just as much for them as it is for you. Like we already talked about, there are going to be good days and bad days. On the days that aren’t so good, it might be handy to have children who are a little more independent. Start at a young age teaching them that they need to help out and that you can’t always do everything for them. The sooner they learn this the better. Start by letting them do certain things by themselves (obviously age appropriate). They’ll likely enjoy the feeling of being able to accomplish things on their own and it’ll teach them great skills for when they head off to school.
Keep Cleaning Easy
If you can hire a cleaning crew, do it! If not, keep it as easy as you can. Take things that don’t belong in a room out with you when you leave it. Purge! The less stuff to clean up the better. Use the dishwasher, clean as you cook, or heck, even invest in a robot vacuum! Another great idea is to designate chores and let the whole family help out.
Parenting with a chronic illness might feel impossible at times, but our children are our most precious gifts and are worth the fight. So hang in there! Know that you are not alone. Shake off the guilt. Keep things simple and remember that they love you no matter. You got this.