Challenges of Being a Mom with a Chronic Illness

Being a mom is hard. It’s exhausting, both physically and mentally, and is probably the most demanding job one can have.  When you are a mom that also battles a chronic illness (like an autoimmune disease) this “hard” hits a whole new level. 

I don’t talk about my chronic illness often as I’ve always felt that it does not define me, control me, or truly impact my day in a way that I feel is worth sharing. However, as I open up to the “world” via this blog, I want to open up about my experience as a mom with a chronic disease and how I balance my “normal”. 

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A little about my Autoimmune disease journey: 

My diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) hit me at the age of 9.  My mom noticed some changes in my body and I vividly remember the day that I could no longer walk down the stairs.  This change confused my 9 year old brain. The memory I have of standing at the top of the stairs thinking “this can’t be right” as I proceeded to sit and scoot down the stairs until I reached the bottom.

This was soon followed by me being unable to button my own pants, make a fist to hold on tightly to something, and using a fist to get up from the floor because my wrist was losing mobility and strength. As I sit and type this I have flashback memories of all the therapy, doctors appointments, blood draws, conversations, and sick days I had over the years. 

If you want me to go more into my experience as a 9 year old being diagnosed with arthritis, I would be happy to! Let me know in the comments.

How moms with chronic illness balance life with raising kids.

As we flash forward to today, I am back on medication for the first time in 10 years. 

You see, pregnancy did great things for my body in terms of my arthritis. Nursing did the same. But after my miscarriage in May my arthritis came back with a vengeance.  Even with my diet, it wasn’t enough. For the first time in 3 years my body was without the hormones of pregnancy or breastfeeding. My body was “getting back to normal”.  Unfortunately for me, my normal is not easy. 

READ: More about a plant-based diet and related nutrition articles

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my experience Parenting with chronic illness

Most days I don’t notice how my arthritis affects my parenting. The days where I do recognize it, well those days are harder to handle. Here are a few examples:

  • Little things like wiping butts (yup….) can be difficult and frustrating as I have very limited mobility in my wrists. 

  • When my kids run up to me to tackle and instead of opening my arms to catch them I have to protect myself by crossing my arms over my chest. 

  • Slow mornings where my body would rather stay in bed (mornings are typically hardest for people with arthritis) but I need and WANT to get up and care for the kiddos.

  • Holding a newborn, nursing, or doing anything where I have a child in the cradle position for any period of time causes my arms to stiffen. 

I don’t say these things for people to feel bad or sorry for me. I don’t say these things to complain. I share these things to bring light to the subject. To let other people know that being a mom and living with a chronic disease is challenging. Every disease brings its own set of challenges. Some are more physical than others. Some are more mental and emotional. 

When we (those with chronic illnesses or autoimmune diseases) struggle parenting our children due to our disease it can be very heartbreaking and takes a toll on us mentally.  We KNOW we can’t do everything the same as those without difficulties so when something as simple as holding your child feels difficult, it can cause us to beat ourselves up. And moms are hard enough on themselves as it is…

To the mom fighting a chronic illness, autoimmune disease, or ANY sort of medical condition, I see you and I understand what you are going through. I know the days can be long and your body can suck. I know there are times you feel alone and the struggle to parent is real. Not because you don’t love your kids and want to do everything you can for them, but because your body feels like it’s failing you. I SEE YOU. I SUPPORT YOU. I AM JUST LIKE YOU.


How you can helP a mom battling a chronic illness

If a mom/parent in your life struggles with an autoimmune disease or chronic illness, there are a few things you can do to help.  By making a note of these things, you can make a big difference. I will tell you, firsthand, that its difficult for us to ask for help. It’s challenging to admit that our body needs a break and that we just need time. But hopefully this article gives you some ideas to how you can help and moms fighting it, I hope this gives you a little peace to know that you aren’t alone.

lend a helping hand 

Carrying little ones can be exhausting for someone with chronic disease. For myself and my arthritis, carrying babies or even groceries can be hard as being in any one position for too long makes my body stiffen up.

By offering to carry the little one or groceries without us needing to ask is a true blessing. I personally find it difficult to ask for things like this because “I’m the mom and should be doing this.”  I am capable of many things and somedays I am totally fine. But on the day that I’m not, your kind gesture would be a true and very appreciated gesture. I’m saying this for all the moms who can use a little extra support in this area - we will happily take you up on the offer! 

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Cool off and sit down

As parents we are always go, go, go but standing for a long period of time can be hard for those with chronic disease. You can help by suggesting to find a place in the shade to sit, or even redirect the kiddos to a place or activity that is in a cooler place.  Oh and don’t forget to drink water. This is important for EVERYONE but especially those like me, with an inflammatory disease. 

Be patient

I don’t always want to be on-the-go. Some days I just don’t have the energy to socialize or take the kids out and about. It can be exhausting to me and when my body is exhausted so is my mind.  Some days we just want to sit in the AC and chill. Some days our bodies just NEED to rest. So when your friend or family members passes on an invitation, recognize that this may be a reason so please be understanding.  Heck, if you’re able to, offer to take the kids for a bit! You would be a real hero!

Build Your tribe

Building a community is so important for moms, no matter what. Remembering that the moms in your circle may have different challenges and to support them regardless - this creates lifelong friendships.

I invite you to share this with those in your circle - you never know who may need a little extra love and support. One of your own may be fighting a new diagnoses and this will be exactly what they need to read.

remember that you are not alone on this journey through life. Even though you may feel isolated in your diagnosis, conditions, challenges, etc, you aren’t. We are so blessed to be in the time where social media is so prevalent and there are online groups and meet ups for EVERYTHING. I hope you have or find a community you can vent to, who get you, and who can help lift you up when you need it.

If you struggle with arthritis like I do, there are a few groups I have found to be helpful:

I would love to hear about groups you are a part of! Any other arthritis mama’s out there?

Thank you guys for reading this! If you like posts like this, about chronic illness and my experience & tips, please comment (or hit that cute little heart below) and let me know!

 

WELCOME TO REALISTIC PLANT-BASED MAMA!

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Hi! I’m Megan and welcome to my blog! I am a mom of two boys who is passionate about sharing our real life experience of raising plant-based kids! READ MORE


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