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The Hidden Gem in Parenting With Chronic Pain

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Being a mother with a chronic illness and being in chronic pain isn’t easy. It’s a battle some can’t even fathom. There are days when waves of sadness and guilt wash over you to the point where you feel like you’re drowning because you can’t be like the other moms. Each day is not a given. You can’t just decide, “Hey, let’s go to the park!” without actually asking yourself if you really can, and if you can, how will that impact the rest of your day, tomorrow or even the week? It means missing school functions, outings and at times not even being able to make your children a meal. It means having them tell you goodnight at your bed because you can’t walk down the hall to tuck them in tonight. Missing out leaves you at home or in the hospital just wishing you could be like the other moms. You want your children to have the world and especially a mother that can be there.

For me, like most with a chronic illness, I have good days and bad. I have high-functioning days and I have bedridden days. I don’t always know when those will hit so it’s a motherhood filled with contingency plans. Something as simple as going bowling with my girls meant the next day I was bedridden with severe pain. Some would find all of this depressing but I’d like to say…it’s worth it. I can’t always push through the pain and illness to participate but I make every effort to do so. It’s amazing to see my girls grow right before my eyes. Witnessing their joy and hearing them laugh is my favorite thing in this world. But today I will say I experienced something far sweeter. I realized what a benefit my illness has been for them. I know that sounds a little strange and far-fetched, but it’s true.

My 9-year-old daughter had a field trip today. She has asked me multiple times to go on her field trips and in the past it really hasn’t been doable. But this field trip I signed up for and hoped for the best. First thing this morning she crawled into bed with me to cuddle and without any prompting asked me, “Mommy, my field trip today has a lot of walking. Are you sure you can go? I don’t want it to hurt you.” I told her I was OK to go and gave her a huge hug. In that moment, I realized my 9-year-old was putting me and my well-being above her own wants. She was being selfless, empathetic and compassionate.

It made me think back about my girls’ behaviors and who they are with others. My 7-year-old is the friend who, when she sees that someone needs help or a Band-Aid, she has a loving hand on their back and gently guides them to what they need. My 9-year-old wants to keep everyone safe and has even pulled the arm-out mom move on her friends and little sister to keep them from accidentally jumping in traffic. When a friend loses a loved one, my girls are the first to want to give them a hug and make sure they are OK. They are truly loving and caring little people and that’s sometimes a rarity, even with adults.

Yes, they’re still kids and have their moments. Especially if they’re told no, they can’t have ice cream, but I have to say, there’s no real tantrums or freaking out. It’s more of just a disappointment and they move on. More so than anything they’re compassionate kids. If they’re playing loud in the house and I say I can’t handle it, they stop and give me big hugs and then go play quieter. If Mommy can’t go for a bike ride, it’s more hugs and maybe a board game. My illness has helped them be more adaptable, compassionate and understanding of how their actions can affect others. I know I’m biased about my girls but I can say I haven’t seen that a lot in many other 7- and 9-year-olds.

I know without a doubt my illness has helped my girls become the loving and caring little people that they are. There are times I feel guilt and sadness for not getting to be like the other moms, but that doesn’t make me any less of a mom. I can be proud of who my girls are becoming. They are amazing and I wish the world had more people like them.

So today was the field trip and I barely made it through it. I was able to keep up with the group and have fun with my oldest. It was a great outing. It’s also been spirit week at the girls’ school all week which required me to do crazy hair one day and turning them into Harley Quinn and Unikitty the next (including making a Unkitty head that’s happy on one side and angry on the other).

two children dressed as harley quinn and unikitty

Am I exhausted and in pain now? Of course. Will I be unable to do some things tonight and tomorrow? Yep. But I want you to know…it was worth it.

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Originally published: April 28, 2017
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