Reprinted from http://god-livingwithchronicillness.com with the kind permission of Laurie Shoquist Miller.
Real Life As a Mom With Chronic Illness
Few would argue that parenting is the hardest job in the world, but when you add a chronic illness into the picture, it becomes difficult beyond words. Taking care of others is so much harder when you are sick yourself. In my attempt to be more transparent about my invisible illness, I want to be gut-level honest about what chronic pain and illness is like as a mom, so I decided to write once a day for a week about the realities of trying to be a good mother, wife, homemaker, and professional while dealing with daily pain and fibromyalgia. Do your days look anything like this?
Monday: Woke up after interrupted sleep, took daughter to school (while my husband took our son), and worked a full day today. I am exhausted after having to force one foot in front of the other all day. Had to stop for prescriptions and essentials on the way home. When I got home, the last thing I wanted to do is fix dinner, put laundry away, and clean the kitchen. My husband took the kids to practice. I made sure homework is done, lunches are made, and the kids are showered and ready for school the next day, then dropped into bed after putting one more load of laundry into the washer. Most days I just have to push through. I realized fairly soon into this illness that I was going to have to dig down deep to survive.
Tuesday: Another day of forcing myself to go to work. Tonight, I feel like the worst mother, wife, and person in the world. I am sure, very sure, that my kids are going to be scarred because they had a mom who was sick and didn’t fix them a fruit, veggie, protein, and carbohydrate at every meal. Tonight is one of those nights. I just crashed when I got home from work. My husband and kids arrived home from practice shortly thereafter. Thankfully, my husband was on dinner duty, that is, if you consider ice cream dinner food.
Wednesday: Another day at work, my last for the week, as I only work part-time to supplement our income. I am too tired to write anything else, but somehow I have to summon the strength to take the kids to an activity at our church. Thankfully, they serve dinner.
Thursday: Today is my day off, one of two this week. I never expect too much of myself on my first day off because I have learned that my body won’t cooperate and that if I do too much I won’t have enough energy for other things later this week. Thank goodness the kids are in school, and I can rest. I do still allow myself the luxury of feeling all the guilt that goes along with not getting anything done on a free day. So, I lay here trying to rest while the stress of the huge laundry pile and messy house grows. If I lay down long enough, neck and shoulder pain results from holding my head up while trying to read a book or type on the computer. Even resting hurts. My daughter wants me to take her to her school’s football game. I comply and keep trying to shake off the “worst mother of the world” feeling.
Friday: Tried to rest more today. I have not ever been and don’t want to be a complainer. No one likes a complainer, so I try not to talk too much about my pain, ever, except to my husband, who is beyond tired of hearing about it. I try to be strong. I still didn’t get anything done today. My son has an ear-ache, so we spent the productive hours of the day in the doctor’s office and at the store picking up prescriptions. When I got home, I was too exhausted to do anything else but rest.
Saturday: Today is Saturday, another day trying to get things done, but my head is killing me. Laundry and bills remain untouched. The house desperately needs cleaned before whatever is growing in the toilet takes over. My daughter has a soccer game and my son has a birthday party, at the same time, of course. My husband goes to soccer, and I go to the birthday party. When I get home, I have to go straight to bed because of pain and exhaustion. A few hours of activity requires that I rest for several hours, especially when I push through the first few days of the week.
Sunday: We are supposed to be in church. I really wanted to go, but the kids used my same excuses on me that I have used so many times before, “All my clothes are dirty!” and “I am too tired–I need to rest!” I didn’t have the physical and emotional energy to convince them otherwise. So now I am trying to do laundry. I hurt and want to just go back to bed, but we can’t possibly go into another week with the laundry not done and the house this messy. I did play a game with the kids. My daughter really misses the quality time we need together when I am too tired and in pain to do anything she considers fun. (Laying in bed while talking to mom is not fun. She is way past the days of pretending to be in a boat sailing to new lands, although that did work a few times.) We worked together and manage to clean up the house before the start of a new week.
Every day is hard when you are a mom with chronic pain and illness. Nothing is easy. It takes everything I have to keep going. Over time, I have learned not to plan things during the evenings on days I work. My kids know I will be there for their games, but not their practices. I have learned to loosen my expectations of myself and delegate responsibilities. My kids know we work together to do the laundry and clean the house. I have learned to schedule girl nights with my daughter on days I don’t work so that we can spend the quality time together that she needs. I have learned to pace myself and take one day at a time. Most importantly, I have learned to rely on God for the strength and courage to keep going, and I have found that He is faithful to encourage, strengthen, and help me every step of the way. I have learned that… “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
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Laurie Miller, RN BSN MS, is an author, nurse, wife, and mom who has lived with chronic pain and illness for 9 years. She enjoys reading, spending time with family, and blogging at God-Living with Chronic Illness. god-livingwithchronicillness.com.