Once you become a parent you always put someone else’s needs above your own, it’s hardwired into us to become caregivers and put the needs and wellbeing of our children ahead of our own. It’s exactly how it should be, our kids need us and by making the choice to have children we commit to doing this. But what happens when the rose-coloured glasses view of parenting wears off and the reality of being a parent with a chronic illness or pain kicks in? Well to be blunt, sometimes it sucks and it can be brutal.
I look at other parents who can do it all, who have amazing children and beautifully kept homes, who juggle it all and make it look easy. I know when you scratch the surface everyone has their issues or secrets, no-one is perfect and no-one’s family is either. But sometimes I think how much easier it would be if I could do everything I do without having to struggle, without having to take pain killers and wait for them to kick in before I can start my day or do things with my child. Every time I have this thought I quite literally go into a day-dream where I see myself giving myself a slap and saying ‘quit dreaming and start accepting woman!’ I mean that’s not my reality nor will it ever be so why keep dreaming and longing for something that won’t happen when you can be much happier accepting your reality and owning it?
So that is what I do, I own it, I wear my chronic illness like a great big flashing neon badge of honour, my scars are my battle wounds for fights I have survived (and not necessarily won), my pain reminds me I am alive to feel anything at all and my tiredness reminds me I have lived and gotten through another day. Don’t get me wrong, I have my bad days where I wallow and have a pity party for one, but I don’t unpack my bags and stay at the party, I am cordial guest who stays for a drink or two then moves onto the next party, the real one that makes you know you’re alive! That’s the party you want to stay at and strive to get back to each day. Our kids need us, they need strong parents who keep fighting, can keep smiling and pushing on despite the odds and adversity and I promise you if you do this your kids will think you are their superhero, they might not right now but in time when you keep showing up, staying present, staying engaged and above all, keep loving them no matter what, then that’s the best thing you can do for them.
My son is my world and he knows mummy is sick sometimes, he knows mummy has pain and can’t do the things he wants me to do with him sometimes (like running) but what he also knows is how much he is loved. He knows I will do whatever I can with him, my husband and I try to give him as many great experiences as I physically am able. We go camping when I am well enough, we play games, we go for drives on days I am not as mobile, we read books and we laugh as much as possible. He is growing up to be gentle and kind and understanding. He asks questions and offers kind and sweet gestures like fetching pillows or asking daddy to let him buy flowers for me on occasion.
I’d like to think the silver lining of having a parent with a chronic condition is we are raising children who will know strength and determination, who will know how much they are loved, how hard their parents fought to give them a loving and nurturing childhood, who will grow to be strong, caring, empathetic and kind adults and perhaps, just perhaps kids who might change the world for the better as a result of this journey.