Mother's with chronic pain often doubt their parenting skills because of their pain conditions. It keeps you from running and playing with your kids; you can't even begin to try and keep up with them. Many days are spent resting in bed or on the couch. Maybe ten minutes of activity here or there but you can often feel inadequate as a mother. The truth is, you shouldn't. The mere fact that you are asking yourself if you are a good mother makes you a good mother. You're willing to take an honest look at yourself. You’re willing to evaluate what is going on in your relationship with your children and you have a desire to make sure you’re there and present with them to the best of your ability. That's a leg up on all the women in this world who feel fine each and every day but rather than feel gratitude for this gift with their children they take it for granted and lose precious time each and every day with their kids.
Yes, you have to severely limit what you physically do but physical activity is not what we cherish most about our parents as we get older. It’s the words, the time and the love that our parents have shown us. This isn’t attached to physical movement; it comes from deep within you, the part of you that can't be touched by pain. You may still tend to second guess yourself in the day to day activities of your children but you should know that they will know how much you love them and how hard you’ve tried to do everything you can for them.
In order to insure that your children grow up knowing everything you’re doing for them there are a few things you should do, or more accurately, you shouldn’t do. As a mother living and raising a family with a chronic pain condition, there are three major things that should never be done.
Keep Your Kids at a Distance
Even if all you can do is lie in bed and put on a movie, invite them in, curl up next to them and watch a movie. Kids have a tendency to blame themselves if parents are distant with them. All they know is that their mother is never there. If you don’t take an interest in being around them they will internalize it and inevitably feel that it has something to do with them and not the pain condition. Make sure your children know how much you want to be around them regardless of what you're doing.
Let Your Health Suffer
Your attitude toward your life and health are evident to your kids. If you complain and whine and just have a horrible attitude about your condition this teaches your kids how to think about their lives and health. One of the most important lessons we can give our children about life is in how we act in our own. Actions speak louder than words. The greatest gift you can give your children is to love and care for their mother. You are the only one they will ever have and they will learn how to care for themselves through you.
- Go to your doctor’s appointments. Communicate with your health team about exactly what is going on and what your needs are. If they won’t help you in the way you need, find one who will. Don’t give up until you do. You’re teaching your kids about what to do to make sure they are taking good care of their health.
- Rest when your body needs it. It may be difficult for your kids to understand why mom can’t go to the store today when they want to look for a must have toy or take off on a whim for some other fun thing but they’ll figure it out quickly and help you when you need it. They’ll learn to ask how you’re doing on a daily basis and understand when you need to rest as long as you communicate openly with them.
- Take care of your emotional and spiritual needs. Your health is more than just the physical. Illness so often begins with emotions. If you live a life where you’re angry, stressed out, feeling guilty, have high anxiety or depression you’re health will continue to suffer and worsen. Your children will see this. More important, they’ll feel it. Talk to your doctors, talk to your family, talk to a therapist. Do whatever it takes to take care of you.
Shut Your Kids out From Your Condition
Children have an amazing ability to understand what is going on around them and most importantly to those they love. Talk to your kids; let them know what your condition is and what your physical capabilities are. Be positive, concentrate on what you can do with them rather than what you can't. Come up with a way for you to communicate how you are feeling on a daily basis with your kids. One way is to come up with a color system. Make colored magnets that you put on the refrigerator and let everyone know that they should check the color to see how you’re feeling before they barge in on you.
- Red is an extremely bad day. This is when you’ll be in bed that day. You’re not up for talking or dealing with anything stressful. You just need to rest.
- Yellow is for when you’re not at your best but you’ll be able to get out of bed that day. Communication is okay but keep anything stressful or challenging at a minimum. There probably won’t be a lot of running around.
- Green is when you’re doing well. Your kids can have their best quality time with you on these days. Just remember to take it easy so you don’t overdo it and wind up having a red day tomorrow.
Just remember, you are an amazing mother, capable of amazing feats and strengths because of your condition. You have the ability to see life through a different lens. You can see the little things in life that can mean so much more in the long run. You can show gratitude for the things that many others take for granted. This is no small feat.
You are raising children who will learn through you to be loving and empathetic to all human beings regardless of their physical abilities. This is a life lesson you are uniquely suited to teach. You have the opportunity to have a relationship with your kids that many don’t. Take this chance to really talk to your kids, be fully present with them and show them with your time and words how much you care and love them.
You may have limitations on your physical abilities, but that does not mean you must have limitations on your love toward your children. Yes, it can be difficult and at times seem impossible to bear, but the days will continue to slip by and time continues to move forward. Don't let the days with your children slip through your fingers. They grow up too fast. Show them how to be loving and caring in spite of what may be happening in their lives and with their health. Teach them how to be fully responsible for their lives. Teach them what it means to take responsibility for their health. They’ll watch you and learn from you.
You are a survivor not a sufferer. I don't want any mother dealing with chronic pain to wake up one day and regret how they weren't there enough for their children, that they didn't listen enough or talk enough. Regardless of how old your children are, take time today to show them how much you love them.