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The Guilt and Fear I Experience as a Mother With Chronic Illness

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Being a mother is the hardest job in the world, let alone being a mother who is sick. And I’m not talking about a regular flu or cold, but the constant chronic battle many mothers struggle with on a daily basis.

One of the worst things is when one of your kids gets sick. As a parent with chronic illness, your struggle is doubled. You need to care for them during this time when they are fragile and weak, when they need you the most, when the cuddles need to be doubled, but at the same time you have to avoid catching whatever they have because the fact is you can’t afford to become any sicker or lose more of your functions.

And during this conundrum, you find the emotional burden of guilt weighing you down. The guilt that always has a front seat in your journey now takes the wheel. Every scenario runs through your head. “Should I try to avoid them and just provide them with what’s necessary? But how could I do that to my kids when they need me the most? What kind of mother am I?”

Another scenario: “I will just cuddle them and try to wash my hands and maybe wear a mask.” But then your risk of catching whatever they have is high, and anxiety hits.

The constant cycle of guilt and fear starts as soon as one of the kids say, “Mommy, I don’t feel well.”

I find it even harder to explain to my daughter why I can’t let her sleep next to me because even if I can wear a mask during the day, I can’t possibly sleep with it. Then I end up spending the night crying and feeling terrible for being “less of a mom.”

A friend once told me something that sometimes I find reassuring: during a plane crash, the instructions are to put on your oxygen mask before helping others, namely your kids, so I need to take good care of myself in order to take care of my kids.

I hate that I can’t attend any of the events at school or any birthday parties, being unable to risk getting any sicker. I used to think less of myself, especially as a parent. But at the end of the day, it’s the quality of time – not the quantity – that matters.

I find myself going back and forth on what to do. I keep telling myself how bad of a mother I am and how selfish I am. I keep beating myself down, but then I remember how bad my kids feel when I’m sick and at the hospital. It’s much worse than the lack of cuddles when they are sick, because at the end of the day my kids don’t remember that I wasn’t able to cuddle, but they do remember that I was doing my best to be with them – that despite my own sickness and fighting my own battles, I fight for them, too.

Sometimes we need to go easy on ourselves as parents, because the struggles we face daily are enough to beat us down. We don’t need any more shackles to hold us back. So if you’re a parent struggling with a chronic illness and you find yourself in that situation, remember: take it easy on yourself. You’re not a bad parent and you’re not selfish. You are doing this because you love your kids so much and are trying to stay less sick as much as you can because you can’t afford to stay away from them.

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Thinkstock photo via Creatas Images.

Originally published: March 24, 2017
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