Christmas can be one of the most joyous and happy times of the year, especially when you have children. The family traditions, the fun, colour, activities, delicious food and excitement of Santa coming and giving special gifts to those you love. But it can also be one of the hardest times of the year for those suffering from chronic health issues.
Juggling parenthood and chronic illness is always a fine line that require careful planning and consideration to cope with everything that comes with these roles. Managing commitments, pacing yourself and your energy levels, maintaining a household and all the comes with having children. All year sufferers walk this tightrope between doing everything that needs to be done and conserving enough energy to be a good parent. Throw in the festive season and all of a sudden that tightrope becomes narrower and much more unstable.
As parents we want to make our children happy and give them the best we can, of ourselves and of life’s experiences. Christmas is such a special time of year when the world stops to focus on one day of happiness, love and giving and so much energy goes into making the day perfect for your children and family but at what cost? There must be balance between the idealistic Christmas you want to have and the reality of your condition and what is possible.
Last Christmas I was recovering from surgery and wasn’t able to attend a lot of the Christmas events and activities I would normally attend, this year I am heading into major surgery 2 weeks before Christmas and again will miss out on many of the activities I enjoy. My son is 5 and last Christmas and this one coming are so important, he is at the age where he believes in the magic of Christmas and enjoys all the traditions we have crafted as a family. I absolutely love Christmas, it’s my most favourite time of the year and there is not a nook or cranny in my house that isn’t decorated or hiding a Christmas treasure. So to head into another Christmas where I will be laid up, unable to sit on the floor and play with the kids, bake Christmas goodies and run around being silly is taking its toll on me. I feel guilty as though I am letting my son down, I feel bad that everyone around me has to take on more to fill the gap of what I should be doing, I feel guilty and sad.
I thought about this and tried to understand what the root if the issue was, and for me it is twofold. Firstly, I worry that these precious years where he is so young and remembers Christmas so fondly that he may look back and resent me for being ill and not being able to do everything with him that he would like. Secondly, that damm parental guilt, where we beat ourselves up and blame ourselves no matter how hard we are trying. My house is decorated, gifts have been bought and wrapped, we have made Christmas treats together as a family, we have trimmed the tree together, sung Christmas carols and every night I create elaborate scenarios for our Elf on the shelf, Elwood to get up to delight my son each morning. Although to be honest I think I enjoy creating the mischief as much as my son likes seeing the result of it.
I have surgery in 1 week and Christmas is in 3 weeks, in my quiet moments I get upset and feel guilty that my son won’t have his mum at 100% for Christmas and that weeks before it I have to be on hospital for 3 or 4 days instead of home with him creating more Christmas memories. So I have crammed in so much Christmas activity in the last week and the coming week that even Santa would be overwhelmed. I will bust myself until I can barely walk to make sure my son doesn’t see his mum in pain and struggling but instead remembers Christmas as fun and full of love and laughter. My priority is him having a bag full of memories to look back on fondly, to know him mum did everything she could to fill his life with fun and happy family traditions. If that means I need mummy time out in the bath or shower where I can have a good cry and regain my strength then so be it, all year round my son is exposed to my chronic illness and pain, my one Christmas present I can give him is to be strong and power through it so all he remembers is the fun family time we had together. After all family time and being together is more important than any toy or gift you can receive and in the years to come the children will not remember the gifts they unwrapped but WILL remember the feelings and the experience of being together and having fun.
So this Christmas try and focus on the feelings and joy that the festive season brings, cherish your time with your family and friends, stop and appreciate the special moments with your children and remember to pace yourself.
May you all have a wonderful Christmas season and Christmas day filled with much joy, happiness, special memories, fun and laughter, and with no flare ups, pain or illness.