Having a chronic illness sucks, of course it does. And having a chronic illness when you have small children just adds a whole new dimension of sucking. And guilt, so much guilt. On bad days it’s easy to be overwhelmed by those feelings but what if we tried to look at it a different way? What if there were positive attributes that my children were actually gaining because I have a chronic illness? So I sat down, put on my positive pants, and decided to think about what good things my children were actually learning from me. Here are seven things that I came up with.
On the days that I feel like I’m running on empty, which let’s be honest is most of them, it can take a while to get up or get where I’m needed. It can feel like I’m wading through treacle and even the smallest of of tasks can take monumental effort. On those days I like to think that I’m teaching my children that not everything comes easily and sometimes you just have to wait. Fingers crossed I’m raising the most patient children in the world now!
Take it Slow
For me it’s primarily the joints in my feet that are currently affected by Psoriatic Arthritis and when I’m suffering from a flare up I can barely walk. Even at the moment when my condition is under control I can no longer walk at the speed I used to. But that’s OK right?! We’re bombarded with the idea that we need to do everything, see everything, be everything as quickly as possible. Fast food, fast fashion, you get the idea. Well, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing that my children receive a ‘slow down’ message from me to help balance it out. Yes, walking anywhere with me can take a long time but there’s chance to talk, enjoy the journey, and really take in our surroundings.
Compassion and Lack of Judgement
I don’t hide my struggle from my children. One, because it would be almost impossible to and I would be wasting precious energy if I tried and Two, I like to think that it teaches them compassion. The problem with an invisible illness is that it is, by definition, invisible. By seeing my struggle with pain and mobility I hope that my girls grow to learn that everybody is fighting their own battles, whether they can see it or not, and to not be too quick to judge.
This is a tough one especially since my children are under five, they still need me to do a lot for them and when I’m in flare I can find simple tasks difficult. I’ve noticed in my four year old though that she’s actually becoming quite independent. I guess that I’m not teaching her as much patience as I thought (see my first point) and instead she’s teaching herself how to do it. Things like dressing herself, packing her bag for school, making a drink, are all tasks she’s mastered in the last few months. When my limited movement forces me to take a back seat the girls actually help each other and accomplish a lot themselves (under my supervision of course).
Asking for Help
As an adult asking for help is hard. Somewhere along the line it gets seen as a sign of weakness but in all honesty everyone needs a little help sometimes. Suffering with a chronic illness means I have had to ask for help with visible tasks. So, for example, getting out of the chair or opening a container. My children regularly see me ask their Daddy or other family members for help and I hope that, rather than see me as weak, they see that others are always willing to help and it’s OK to ask.
Perseverance and Resilience
Every day my children see me struggle to get up, to keep up, only to keep on going. They know that things can take a little longer but that you shouldn’t let things keep you from your goal. They’ve seen first hand the difficulties that life can throw at you and yet (I hope) that they also see the triumphs, the victory and joy felt when those difficulties are overcome.
Appreciating the Simple Things
During the week my husband is at work so it’s just me and the children. On bad days (or most days really) grand adventures are out of the picture. I just can’t do it. But what I can do is turn a simple trip to the shop for milk into a grand adventure. We walk slowly, we hunt for bugs, my eldest has starting spotting shapes in the clouds, we tell stories, and the girls jump in muddy puddles. Before I know it half the day is gone and I have two happy girls. Or we stay in and bake, or they draw, or if things are really bad I make them a den and we have a movie afternoon.
So there we have it. Seven ways in which I think having a chronic illness has made me a better parent. What do you think of my list? Let’s keep the positivity going. Are there any ways that you think having a chronic illness has made you a better parent?