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What 'Mom Guilt' Says About My Chronic Pain Is Not What My Kids See

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Mom guilt is a powerful thing. It can tear your heart to shreds and sit on your shoulders like a six-ton elephant. Mom guilt can make you think you’ve ruined your kid’s childhood and possibly their lives.

A time of life when your children should remember as cheery smiles and rosy laughter, could be a time they’ll see darkness. What if all they recall is a tired, sub par mother who could barely get them out of the house? Mom guilt can make you believe you’re not playing with them enough or teaching them how to navigate this crazy world. Clearly they won’t be smart because you’re not in the kitchen experimenting with baking soda and vinegar. Instead of reveling in the sounds of their laughter and chaos, you shush them, crushing their little spirits. My gosh, they’ll grow up to be dysfunctional adults. Well… that’s all according to mom guilt.

Truthfully, I’m a mom battling occipital neuralgia and chronic pain.

One day, my occipital neuralgia was on a terror and I was having the resulting unbearable nausea on top of horrific pain. What felt like an electric knife was stabbing my head and dizziness prohibited standing.


At the time, my then 2 and 4-year-olds thought taking a shower with mom was super awesome. I also knew a shower was all I could muster up and they had energy to burn. So, I told them to grab a few toys, I sank to the shower floor and hung my head in shame. The mom guilt was eating up my heart and my self-worth was out the window. Faking a smile, I looked up at them, and that’s when I saw the joy in their eyes. It was a low moment for me, but for them, it was a memory made. We took that shower until the hot water ran out and they loved every second of it. They’ll never know my agony and guilt in that shower. But in that moment, their smiles reminded me I was just a mom with occipital neuralgia trying to do my best.

Just when my mom confidence and value is at rock bottom, I’ll get a classroom report that says my kid is the first one on scene to assist when someone gets hurt on the playground. At home, my little “doctor” runs to get bandaids without prompting when someone gets cut. That’s when I’m reminded of a huge positive that comes out of having a mom with chronic pain: empathy. I strongly believe empathy can’t be taught, it can only be learned. My kids got a hard-knocks lesson in the world of compassion and it’s turned them into empathetic little humans.

I don’t know what the future holds for them, but what I have come to understand is that having a mom with occipital neuralgia has taught them invaluable lessons. They’ve learned to fight to go forward, how to pull strength from the depths of their souls, how to smile through a painful time, how to accept people despite their flaws and limitations, how to help those in need and how to be a warrior no matter what card you’re dealt.

Occipital neuralgia may have changed how I do this mom thing, but at the same time, it taught my kids a lesson no classroom or app ever will.

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Originally published: August 3, 2017
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