From the moment we become mothers, constant exhaustion tends to become our new normal. From the newborn stage—with lack of sleep and hormonal chaos—to trying to keep up with our toddlers’ energizer-bunny level of constant energy, motherhood is tiring! Even as they progressively grow, the list seems to double in length with the added carpool, schoolwork, and a multiplicity of other extracurricular activities. Exhaustion is just part of the routine.
But what happens when you add a chronic illness to the already mile-long laundry list of things you need to accomplish in a mother’s day-to-day life? You get a burnt-out mom.
Everything that is difficult about being a parent gets multiplied. How rough your symptoms are often determines whether or not you will be able to accomplish anything (other than keeping your kiddos alive for another day of inevitable exhaustion). It is a balancing act, to say the least. Even on the good days, there are still so many obstacles standing in the way of what you would like to be doing with your time rather than laying on the floor in pain.
This has been a constant in my life for quite some time now. I struggle with several heart complications that leave me absolutely debilitated most days, even with medications and taking every precaution possible. Chronic illness is defined as a long-term health condition that requires ongoing medical attention, limits activities of daily living, or both.
Life with a chronic illness is full of uncertainty. It means having to adjust to the demands of the illness. Plans get canceled, laundry can pile up, and most days feel like surviving instead of thriving. It has changed the way I see myself, the way I live, and the way I relate to others. But not everything has to be negative when parenting with a chronic illness. I have spent more one on one time with my kids on their level reading and snuggling than I ever would have if not for the daily struggle of staying upright.
It took me a long time to realize that just because I can’t accomplish everything the same way as moms who are not fighting a chronic illness doesn’t mean that I am failing as a mom. It’s a battle to not give in to the guilt I feel when I can’t run in the backyard with my girls or go on a backpacking adventure for the weekend. Truth is, I have learned a lot over the past few years, and in looking back at the hard days, I realize that I was still giving everything I had to be a good mother. And in the long run, isn’t that what matters? Trying your hardest no matter the level of fatigue and amount of pain you are in, you have done your very best today and that is all you can ask of yourself. When you are having a day where you are struggling to hold your head up and the weight of the world seems heavier than normal, take a look at some tips that have helped me keep sane on the hardest of days.
- Be Positive
Find the good in every day. As much as that might sound like a motivational poster, I can’t
stress enough how much of a difference it makes! Instead of “why can’t I be like other moms” or “I could accomplish so much if it weren’t for all this pain”, focus on what you have accomplished. “I was able to read a book and soak in the sunshine while letting the kids play in the backyard.” Take the time to see each and every small blessing in your day-to-day life and start making a list of all your mom wins no matter how small! Getting the kids to brush their teeth without a colossal meltdown is a WIN! Not having to bribe them to leave a store without screaming? Also a win!
2. Take Time For Yourself
Did you know that mama bunnies leave their little ones and keep a distance from their burrow to protect their babies? Predators can smell the mother much easier, so the mama leaving the burrow helps to protect her babies and keep them safe! Am I telling you to leave/abandon your kids? NO, but taking time for yourself is such an important part of being a loving and nurturing parent. When a plane goes down, you need oxygen before helping those around you! The same thing applies to parenting. If your cup is completely empty and you are burnt out, you won’t have the energy or the mental stamina needed to take care of your little ones.
3. Simplify Your Day
My third and final tip is to simplify any and all aspects of your everyday life. Take time to meal prep simple foods for your kiddos to have throughout the day. Freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or mass cook quesadillas for the week and mix them up by adding some ham. Make healthy snacks accessible and within your kiddos’ reach. Find simple activities you can do while laying next to your kids. Make pillow forts and play shadow puppets with a flashlight. Do puzzles or take out your baking sheets to stick letter magnets to. Let your kids use their imagination and explore the backyard. Try to find a simple solution that lets you adapt to the needs of your chronic illness.