Parenting is hard. Parenting with an illness definitely adds a layer of challenges. However, be it an illness, financial, or work, we all have “shit” that can contribute to the difficulty of being a parent. I became a mother 13 years ago. I had all these visions and expectations of the mother I wanted to be. For the first 6 weeks of being a mother, I felt like a rock star and was keeping up with everything that my daughter and our household needed. I felt amazing and was beyond happy, and then I tripped and unknowingly my world changed forever. My ankle began to throb and the pain was so much more than it should have been. I struggled along for months without hiring a caregiver for my daughter. It was not in my plan to need help before I went back to work after my one-year maternity leave. I was so angry and disappointed in myself. By the time my daughter Leah was 6 months, we did decide to hire a caregiver. I was thankful that we could afford to do so, but at the same time, it did not bring me happiness. It has taken me years to figure out how best to parent with an illness and accept my new reality. In fairness, I did not even know I had a genetic pain condition until 4 years ago, after the birth of my third child. Having doctors think that my pain was psychosomatic certainly did not help to alleviate my struggle as a mother.
Parenting with an illness is constantly changing based on my health and the needs of my growing three children. With the help of my devoted husband, he has taught me that our kids are so much more capable than we think. It is ok if I cannot provide simple tasks for my kids. Parenting with an illness has allowed for creativity, efficiency, flexibility, and humour. My children have learned what I can and cannot do for them. They often come home from school and see me on the couch covered with ice, heat, and my TENS machine. They grab a nutritious snack and join me on the couch and tell me all about their day. My 5-year-old son grabs a stool to reach the yogurt on the top shelf of the fridge. This is all considered normal in our home. Being creative is the cornerstone for survival in our household. Sometimes this saddens me and other times it makes me thankful that my children are becoming such capable, compassionate, and empathetic people.
Parenting with an illness has allowed me to celebrate and smile at any feat; whether big or small, that we accomplish as a family. The fact that my middle son, Daniel who is 9 years old climbs into my bed to tuck me in every night is the best feeling of all. I know he loves me even though I cannot make the walk to his bedroom. My imagination has become a powerful tool in contributing to my happiness. My youngest child, Benjamin, and I listen to many songs together. One of our favorites is “A Whole New World” from the movie Aladdin. We sing loudly and happily to all the magical places that “our magic carpet” will take us. It is such a powerful bonding experience. Of all my children, being not well is the hardest for me to accept and witness how it affects my eldest daughter, Leah. We miss out on so many things that all mothers and daughters should experience, and although she is blessed with incredible aunts and grandmothers, it is not the same as a mother. Honesty, validation, empathy, and adaptability are the foundations of our relationship. My daughter knows that I love her and will support her unconditionally. Being in tune and expressing our emotions as a family in a safe environment is imperative to our growth and well-being.
The physical and mundane tasks are not what makes you a good parent. Being present, slowing down, laughing, and smiling with your kids is what they will always cherish. All parents have their struggles and some days or weeks are certainly more balanced than others. Please remember it is ok to ask for help or take a step back for yourself as we all know it takes a “village” to raise children. We are all doing the best we can. Let’s support each other and as I always say to my daughter “nothing is impossible, so keep reaching for the stars.”
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I'm a trained dietitian, mama to 3, and passionate foodie. My goal is to share nutritious, gorgeous, and creative recipes that can be made in under 20 minutes while incorporating evidence-based nutrition and mindful eating.
Shelby I smiled, laughed and cried as I read your piece on parenting with an illness. I am so proud of you and wish you only the best
Shelby I smiled, laughed and cried as I read your piece on Parenting with an Illness. I am so very proud of you
Thank you! Love you.