I Asked Chronically Ill Moms for Parenting Advice. Here Are Their Top 25 Tips.
Parenting is hard. When you’re chronically ill it throws even more complications into the mix. I recently spoke with some chronic moms about what it’s like to parent when you’re sick. The consensus: It’s tough!
But… think about all the good you can teach your child. You have a unique perspective and can be a real-life role model. You can teach them how to overcome! How to be resilient, how to make the best of what life throws at them. You can teach them to be strong and independent. You can teach them that life isn’t always fair but that you can make the best of it. You can be a source of inspiration and of unconditional love.
One suggestion I took to heart is: There is no magic answer that will work for everyone. Take the suggestions that will work for you and forget those that don’t fit. And don’t let anyone make you feel bad because you do something differently than they do. Here’s some tricks that work for the moms I spoke to. I hope you find some that help you.
1. Be creative and explore together! You may not be able to be part of the high-energy activities, but you can still spend quality time playing with your kids. Try new hobbies and low-energy activities together and you’ll find something you both love.
2. Have a sick day box of fun. Include things like a book or coloring book, a small toy and a treat. Pull it out on the days that you’re really down.
3. Rotate toys. It keeps your play area cleaner and makes putting away the toys easier. Plus, everything will be new to them when you switch it up.
4. Involve the kids in activity selection. Have them make a list of things they can do (with or without you) when you’re having a rough day. It saves you from having to come up with ideas on the spot. You can just say “Mom is having a sick day. Check your list.”
5. Introduce 20 minute special time. Days fly by, it’s easy to get swept away. Reconnecting with your kids is so important. It shows them that you’re still there for them and that you love spending time with them. Schedule 20 minutes every day with each of your children and let them choose what you do. (From an approved list if you need a quiet activity).
1. Hire a housekeeper (if at all financially possible). Even if it’s just for the periods of time that are the most difficult for you, i.e. if you’re going through chemo. I get that this won’t be possible for many, but if you can, go for it.
2. Clean in bursts. Forget cleaning your whole house at once, and focus on getting some cleaning done each day. It means your whole house may never be clean at the same time, but it keeps cleaning more manageable.
3. Make a “dump it” basket. Have a basket by the stairs for items that need to be put away somewhere else. It will save multiple trips up and down the stairs. Have the kids gather their things from the baskets and put them away. Just make sure it gets emptied regularly or you’ll end up like me, with a basket of chaos that lives on your stairs… oops.
4. Teach them to put away their things. Take things off your plate and have them share in the responsibility of keeping the house clean.
5. Break cleaning down into 10 minute tasks. You may not have the energy to clean the whole kitchen, but could you handle unloading the dishwasher? Then take a break and come back to another task later.
1. Have routines in place. It helps you give less reminders. If you need to help your child remember a routine write it out for them, step by step. Then you can just say, “Is your morning routine done?” rather than giving multiple steps or reminders.
2. Meal prep whenever possible. If you can spend some time on your “good” days prepping or making freezer meals, it will make the bad days easier.
3. Break down your to do list into bite sized pieces. Large tasks can be overwhelming which can lead us to just say, “oh I can’t handle that right now.” But if you break it down into smaller tasks, you’ll have a better chance of getting it done and working slowly towards your larger goal.
4. Have an evolving to-do list. This is more for your mental health than to make you more effective. I make myself accountable for my to do list and get a little down when I don’t complete any of the tasks on it. But sometimes things come up that are out of my control, or other things come along that are higher priority. Cross off and switch up tasks, add on the last minute things that you had to attend to. This way at the end of the day or week, you can look back and see how you spent your time. You’ll have a greater sense of accomplishment.
5. Schedule around your bad days whenever possible. Obviously you don’t always know when a flare up is going to happen, but some times you know when you’re going to be feeling down, like after a treatment or a busy week. Don’t make plans and call in back up if you can.
1. Accept help! Be grateful and pay it forward in whatever way you can. Try to find some local moms so you can lean on each other. Take turns dropping off and picking up the kids, have rotating play dates, or just get together to vent!
2. Remember yourself! Take care of yourself to try and minimize the worst days.
3. Prioritize your time. Your energy is a depletable resource, so use it cautiously. Whenever you can, use it doing fun things with your kids.
4. Be honest and open. Tell your kids when you’re feeling extra yucky, and be honest about your feelings. Things like “I’m feeling sick again so we can’t go to the park. I’m sad too because I really wanted to play, but my illness won’t let us! Let’s play LEGO or watch a movie together instead.” Let them know you’re disappointed too.
5. Foster relationships and create a caregiver team. Encourage your children to be close to other family whenever possible. They need to know that their needs will be taken care of even if you are sick. They need someone they can talk to. At the height of my illness my mother took over caring for my kids as I could not. It broke my heart that my then-1-year-old cried for grandma in the night instead of mom. But I am so grateful that he has this bond with her.
1. You can be a great teacher to your kids! Show them how to carry on, show them what is really important in life. Teach them to make the best of whatever life throws at them!
2. Teach them to do things for themselves. We tend to underestimate what kids are capable of. Age appropriate chores like folding their laundry and rinsing their dishes will teach them to be more independent, help them gain self confidence and it also means less work for you!
3. Be consistent among caregivers. Especially if your kids are with someone else frequently. Same rules and consequences of breaking those rules apply no matter who’s in charge.
4. The phrase “I will be with you in a moment.” I need to use this one! If your house is like ours, everyone wants everything instantly. Teach them to wait their turn for you, just like they would in school.
5. Remember a deep breath and a sense of humor goes a long way!
One mom, Beth, suggests to look at life not as a victim, but to ask “how can we overcome this?” If you keep looking and stay hopeful you’ll figure out what works for your family. And remember, don’t let anyone else tell you you’re doing it wrong. Do your best, love your kids, and it’ll all work out somehow. You’ve got this.
Thanks again to the moms who helped with this! If you have any tips that work for your family feel free to share them in the comments below.
Getty photo by digitalskillet