Parenting is for sure the hardest job on the planet! Add a chronic pain illness like Fibromyalgia to the mix and you have a possible disaster just waiting to happen. I have been a mother for 22 years; now you might think that is a long time, but I still feel like I don’t know what I am doing. This article is to help us both feel a little better about ourselves and let go of some of the guilt. These are the top four lessons I have learned as a parent.
You cannot be everything to everyone all the time. This means that you can’t always be “supermom” cleaning, organizing, etc. Sometimes you have to let something go. I don’t know how many times people say to me, “how do you do it” when they find out I work full-time, have kids, and go to school! I always say, “Well, my house is a mess!” Don’t get me wrong; deep down it bugs the hell out of me that my house is not as clean as I would like it. However, if it comes down to playing a game with my kid or doing the dishes…..I think we all know what choice we should make.
Let your child be independent, in fact, teach them how. I used to do EVERYTHING for my kids, in fact, my nine-year-old still expects me to do things he is totally capable of doing. Teaching them how to make themselves something to eat safely, how to do simple chores is something that will help you and empower them. Trust me, on a flare day when you can barely move, you will thank me for this piece of advice. This lesson is all about thinking ahead and preparing, both for you and your child. An example of something my son can do is get his clothes ready for the next day. He knows he needs to clean out his own lunch box and not leave it for me to do. This isn’t perfect, but we are still working on it. Good news, last night he put his pile of laundry away without me even asking- success!!
Talk to your child about your illness. This might seem daunting and you might not know where to start. It really does depend on your child’s age. However, one thing I noticed is that my nine-year-old understood so much more than I thought he did. He said to me that my illness prevents him from enjoying certain things. So I asked him what he thought it prevented me from doing. He was so thoughtful about his answer; he knew that it put me in pain and made it hard for me to do the fun stuff we always want to do. When I am in a lot of pain, I try not to complain about it, but I do let him know this is a bad day. If I snap at him, I remind him that it’s me, not him.
This last lesson is one I found on accident, but might just be the best one. I promise to always tell my kids the truth! Talking to them by asking them open-ended questions helps to minimize the one-word answers. I remind them how their actions might make someone else feel. This isn’t about making your chronic illness easier, but now that I have older children I am reaping the rewards of these actions. Creating an atmosphere where my kids feel comfortable talking to me about anything (even scary things) gives me peace of mind! My kids know that no matter what they can come to us, especially if they need help.
As I said, parenting is the hardest job on the planet! Having a chronic illness means you need to make more time for yourself. If you remember that you can’t be everything to everyone, you teach your child to be independent, talk to your child about your illness and be honest with your child then you are doing the best you can! I would love to hear what you have learned as a parent with a chronic illness, please share in the comments below.
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