The following situations are based on my experiences. Please contact your doctor for any medical advice regarding your personal circumstance.
Okay, to all the sick moms out there… We’ve talked about my journey and trying to be a good mom and wife. Now it’s time to face the tough stuff. We both know that there will be difficult days. Here are a few tips that have helped me get through mine, with a toddler in tow:
- Let Go of Perfection: No one is perfect and there’s no point to try to reach an unattainable goal. Your family and friends will remember you for the wonderful things you do every day, not for your perfectly dusted shelves or elaborately executed parties. Creating realistic expectations should help relieve some stress.
- Make Adjustments: If you’re experiencing too much pain to hold your child, pack a stroller for outings or plan for snuggles on the couch so they can have quality bonding time with you. Running around at the park may not be an option, but sitting on a chair in the backyard and letting your child chase bubbles could be a suitable alternative. Learning flexibility is a valuable skill for kids and adults alike.
- Plan for Relaxation: Being a stay at home mom with a busy toddler is far from relaxing. We typically run all morning until nap time. Then we run again as soon as those resting hours are over. I’ve learned the value of quiet time (puzzles, coloring, snuggles and reading, an episode of Daniel Tiger, etc.). I’ve also learned the importance of ending active play before I’m totally exhausted…you never know when there will be a meltdown when you’re trying to pack up and leave the park; always have a little energy reserved!
- Say No: If it doesn’t bring your family joy, say no. I’m learning that it’s okay to say no to playdates, to volunteering, to one more activity, and so on. I’m all about enriching my daughter’s life, but learning to respect my limitations is a work in progress. I’ve found putting my energy toward things that truly build my family up, is far more beneficial to everyone than trying to do everything.
- Don’t Overdo It: My biggest mistake is going full steam when I have a good day. I think of all the things I haven’t done or worry about how long I’ll feel well and try to check off as many things from my to do list as possible. This seems to lead to a crash from which it takes days to recover from. Slow and steady…
Ask for Help on the Tough Days
- Rely on Your Family & Friends: It’s difficult for me to ask for help. I try to get everything done during the day, so my husband can come home from work and focus on our family and relax. However, we are all here to pitch in and lend a hand. Plus, it’s good for our daughter to see a shared distribution of housework. As an added bonus, she’s learning to be a fantastic little helper, too!
- Be Honest: Let your spouse, kids, family, friends, etc. know when you need help. Be specific. Set clear expectations for your child when you’re having a hard day.
- It’s Okay to Step Back: Sometimes it feels like I’m a spectator of my family. I watch my husband cook dinner with my daughter and hear their laughter at the table while I take a few minutes to rest. Although it’s disappointing that I can’t be involved in every moment of every day, I’ve learned to appreciate what a wonderful dad my husband is and I know my daughter cherishes the special bonding time with him.
- Ignore Your Mom Guilt: There have been plenty of family playdates where my husband does most of the child chasing, trips to the bathroom, etc. At first I felt guilty and like I appeared uninvolved. I’m learning that it really shouldn’t matter what people think of our family dynamic. We know what we need and we do what needs to be done. Yes, it may look like I’m sitting on the sidelines while my husband does all the work; lucky me that I married a man who’s ready to step up when I need him.
Doctors – When Childcare Isn’t an Option
- Toys: Tests, diagnosis, and treatments can be challenging enough without toting a baby or toddler along. If you don’t have a friend or family member to watch your kiddo, remember to pack enough quiet toys to keep them busy. My daughter loves bringing a few items from her doctor set to play with her doll during my appointments. The Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Play Sets and Water WOW books have been wonderful. My mom ordered two great toddler magazines that my daughter loves looking at (National Geographic Little Kids & Highlights High Five). They’re filled with short articles, wonderful photos, and even look-and-find games. These make great car distractions, too.
- Snacks: Since most doctor offices don’t allow food, the good old snack trick won’t apply here. I always bring a protein snack for my daughter to eat on the walk in to the doctor’s office and we plan for a fun snack afterwards.
- Make It Work: Ignore any judgey looks from fellow patients or staff when you let your kiddo watch a video or play on your phone. I always help my daughter choose quiet games so it doesn’t disrupt anyone else, but other than that, a little media time is more than acceptable to help an appointment go as smoothly as possible.
- Talk to Them: My daughter is fascinated by doctors. I suspect this is partially due to my frequent appointments when she was young. I always explained what was going on, in toddler terms, to let her know what the nurses and doctors were doing and that the purpose was to help mommy feel healthy and strong.
- Worry: Whether you lift your worries up to a higher power or write notes in a journal, it’s important to find a release. I’m a list-maker, which makes it easy to go from over-planning into pointless worry. I’m sure most chronically sick moms think about how their sickness will impact their children. Since there’s nothing we can do other than manage our chronic illness the best that we can, it’s important to not dwell on this. I’d like my daughter to grow up being a kind and compassionate person who is both strong and flexible. I’d also like to think we would have raised her that way if I was a healthy mom.
- Find Support: Finding a support group can be tricky. Finding the time to participate in one while raising a family can be even more difficult. If you’re unable to get out of the house to attend a group, try to find time to talk to a friend or family member who is a good listener and can relate. Try not to go overboard with online searches. While there is an abundant amount of information on the internet, it can be overwhelming and downright depressing, too.
- Do Your Best: I think Dr. Seuss said it well, “Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” My goal is to give my daughter all the love and security that she needs to grow up and be a great citizen and a happy adult, someone I would want for a neighbor. Sick moms, try not to feel inadequate. Every parent feels like they fall short; do your best and know that your best today may be different than what it will be tomorrow.
- Be Flexible: I mentioned this earlier. Planning for the future is difficult when you don’t know what tomorrow holds, let alone a year or a decade from now. Live your life, enjoy your good days. Be flexible and know that no matter how hard today is, there are sunnier days on the horizon.