Five Tips To Help You Enjoy Being A Parent When You Have Chronic Illness
You can still be a great parent and role model, even when you have chronic illness or fatigue.
Being a parent can be very challenging in any situation, but it is especially difficult when you also have a chronic illness.
Many people who have a chronic health condition find that it completely takes over life. Symptoms like fatigue, pain, inflammation, or loss of mobility can impact every aspect of your daily life. From restricting your independence through to creating strained relationships.
So, when you also have the additional responsibility of caring for children, life can become extraordinarily difficult.
With this in mind, here are five tips to help you enjoy life as a parent, even in the midst of chronic illness...
1 - Focus on the Positive
It can be so easy to slip into questions about life and illness- like 'why me?' or 'what did I do to deserve this?' But there is no real answer - and asking questions like this is simply a waste of your precious time and valuable energy.
Likewise, constantly comparing your situation to that of other people is simply demoralising, It is effectively placing your attention on the 'what if' scenario - over and over again. It is counterproductive to good health because you are inadvertently creating unnecessary stress. Let it go.
Focus on the positive aspects of your own life instead. Become more present to the everyday joys in life - a smile, a moment of deep connection with your child, or the simplicity of spending time playing together. You cannot be fully present and dwell on your illness at the same time...
2 - Bridge the gap between energy levels
One of the biggest issues that many parents struggle with is the contrast between energy levels. At one end of the spectrum you may have one or more children with infinite amounts of energy - bouncing around all day. At the other, perhaps you are struggling just to get around the house, or even to get out of bed.
The answer to this scenario is to attempt to bridge the gap between these two opposites.
First, consistently provide opportunities for your child to let off steam. Go to a playground where they can meet up with other children, or a group where they can run around in a safe space. Encourage them to participate in activities which do not require huge amounts of effort on your part. This will usually result in them requiring less intense physical interaction from you when you are at home together.
Simultaneously, be aware of protecting your own energy levels. You have a set amount of energy to use each day - when it's gone, it gone. So use it wisely, and consciously prioritise the activities you want to participate in
3 - Get plenty of support
A lack of support can make parenting feel so much more difficult a task. So take every opportunity to get some backup to help you.
Support falls into two main types - emotional support for you, and practical support for getting through each week.
Emotional support is essential to help you maintain your long term optimal well-being. Isolation and ongoing stress are well known to negatively impact both mental and physical health. Whereas having a solid support network is associated with greater levels of emotional resilience and an increased capacity for coping well.
Regarding practical support, here are a few things to consider: A childminder or sitter can allow you take some time out for yourself and recharge your energy. Having someone who can help you with supervision at the play park, or whilst out shopping, can make the experience less stressful. Joining a play group can give you the opportunity to share your day with other people, reduce isolation, and give a purpose to our day.
4 - Organisation is the key to success
Parenting usually includes an inherent necessity to go with the flow, because you never know how your child is going to react, when they will have a tantrum, whether they will feel tired and cranky. So, as any parent knows, the best laid plans often have to be changes at the last minute, and flexibility is vital.
But there are certain things in your life which you can do to help make your life easier, and which can reduce unnecessary pressure on you, allowing you to get through each day more easily.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Batch produce food, and freeze it - so that on days when you don't feel well, you don't need to worry about cooking
- Keep a play box for days when you don't feel well - have a collection of games, colouring pads and pencils, dvd's, and other pastimes which will occupy your child, and which don't require significant participation by you
- Keep a handy list next to the phone - of people you can call on to help you if you need it
- Pace your activities carefully - don't overdo the activities on any single day - you may pay for it later...
- Don't sweat the small stuff - let go of any guilt and expectations to keep everything in order. Is dusting or cleaning really that important, or would you prefer to spend time with your lovely son or daughter instead?
5 - Prioritise self-care
In order to look after anyone else effectively, you need to prioritise your own health first. This isn't selfish or self-centred. It is an essential component for being a great parent.
First, make sure that you get adequate time to rest so that you can carry on doing a great job. If this requires someone to come round and help you, then so be it. Most people love to feel useful, and are happy to help, so don't be afraid to reach out for support.
Next, make sure that you keep doing the things that you love. Often, when we are struggling to get through life with lots of responsibilities, the first thing we let go of is our own interests and hobbies - the things which bring us joy. But when we do this, we are inadvertently dismissing our own needs, and denying who we inherently are. this can eventually lead to sadness or depression.
By looking after yourself well, you are presenting a shining example of how you can have an illness, and still be a confident, emotionally secure, and happy person. When you do this you take parenting to a whole new level - where you are the role mode, showing them how to cope well with the challenges of life.