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3 Lessons on Parenting While Living With a Chronic Illness

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When you’re a mom living with a chronic illness, you may have to have a slightly different approach to parenting. Sometimes that can mean a little extra TV time or a little more mess around the house. But most of all, I feel it means having a sense of humor! I’d love to share a few lessons I’ve learned over almost four years as a mom with fibromyalgia.

Lesson 1: Plan your activities well.

I love to do art with my two little boys (1 and 3 and a half years old). People who follow me on social media see plenty of pictures of our projects, and they may think I’m a fun, creative mom. And I am. But my little secret? That art project is probably the only productive thing we did that day. Especially if it was messy. And triple bonus points if it involved a bath. When you have fibromyalgia, you may have a limited supply of energy. Some days you might have more than others, but often once you use up that energy you’re done. Game over. So you need to be strategic! For instance, on days when you have to go to the grocery store (loading kids and supplies in and out of the car, sometimes for multiple stops), you might not also want to have the kids finger-paint a mural. Because they will likely also finger-paint themselves, each other, the floor, the table, the chairs and possibly the dog, if it stands still long enough. That will require a lot of energy to clean up! And if you already used up that energy by going to the grocery store? You see where I’m going with this…

Lesson 2: Exercise is beneficial… just not while the kids are awake!

I’m a huge proponent of including fitness in your life, especially if you are dealing with a chronic pain issue. Even if it’s just some stretches or a walk, some kind of movement every day can really help. I also love that I’m setting a great example for my kids by working out — and my oldest son gets very excited to “exercise with Mommy!”

But have you ever tried to exercise with a toddler? Or two of them?! You may think to yourself, “I think some gentle yoga would be nice. It’s good for the body and the mind. Nice and relaxing.” Nope. What can really happen is you trying to hold a yoga pose while your little one clings to your leg and your older one thinks you’re a tunnel to climb under, over and around! Or maybe you want to get in some ab work. So you find a spot to lay down on the floor because the kids are happily playing on the other side of the room. But as soon as you do your first crunch they will suddenly both be sitting on top of you. Literally, on top of you. Giving you kisses. Which is sweet, but I’ve found it can be better to save the fitness for when they are asleep!

Which brings me to the final point:

Lesson 3: Choose your battles.

I know, you are an adult and you can handle a lot of things. But the truth is, it’s like these tiny humans have superpowers. They know when you need to get something done and they do everything in their power to keep that from happening. They know when you’re in a hurry, and they can literally move so slowly that snails would do laps around them. If you give them a red cup, they may throw a fit because they want the blue one — until you get them the blue one, and they decide they want the red one after all. But with milk instead of water.

Stress can be a huge factor with any chronic illness. So choose your battles! Might it be easier to just get them that blue cup than to have a 10-minute argument over it? Yup. Is it really the end of the world if the shirt they insist on wearing doesn’t match the pants they want? Nope. Save your precious energy for those times you really need it — like when they want to go running around the parking lot at the store!

woman sitting with her two sons
Ashley and her sons.

Follow this journey on Happiness Through the Fog.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Fibromyalgia, a chronic illness with three main symptoms — widespread pain, chronic fatigue and cognitive trouble. Fibromyalgia is a complicated illness that’s not well understood. In the past, it was mischaracterized as a mental health disorder. Even today, some doctors wave off fibro symptoms as being “all in your head.” This isn’t the case. Read The Mighty’s comprehensive guide to fibromyalgia here. Click here to join our fibro community and connect with people who get it.

Originally published: March 15, 2016
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